Special Needs Viewing

Special family.jpg“Recently I went to the movies with my husband and we saw The Fault in our Stars. A must see if you ask me. This was one of the only movies we’ve ever seen that was 1- without our children and 2- not a special needs viewing.

When we went to look at the menu to see what we wanted we noticed we couldn’t see the menu. I looked around the theater and saw phones being used as lights. We never really had to do this before. Just one of the things I take for granted when seeing a special needs viewing. Next, the movie started, oh my ears!! The volume was so incredibly high I thought. Actually, it was the typical volume of a movie. I had been pampered at the Studio Movie Grill special needs viewings. The volume is perfect in those screenings.

If you haven’t been to a special needs viewing perhaps it is because you do not have a special needs child. I hope that if you have a special needs child you will go check out these unique screenings. The lights are lowered but not completely and the volume is not crazy loud. Children are encouraged to get up and move around if they need to and no one complains if a child makes noises or laughs. There is something really nice about not having to keep your child quiet so others are not offended.

During one of the special needs viewings I have heard feeding pumps, oxygen, suction machines, children making noises or stimming and all I thought was, these people get it. Unless you are a parent of a child labeled special needs you can not understand what it feels like to be somewhere and have your child be their self but by that I mean disrupt others who don’t understand.

Another perk to the special need viewing is the cost. Children with special needs and their siblings get in for free and adult pay a discounted rate. Without this program my family would not be able to see a movie. My husband and I have 8 children. Half of our children have special needs. Every week my children spend most of the day with a babysitter or at the hospital with me. The kids that don’t have appointments stay with the sitter and the ones who do have the appointments and therapies go with me. This is the one time we get to be together as a family and not worry about anything. It is one “normal” thing we get to do and for that I am so grateful. I can not adequately express how much it this program means to me.

Thank you so much Studio Movie Grill for creating non medical memories my family will always cherish.”

Be blessed

Ashlee Beck


Studio Movie Grill Supports the Walk to End Lupus Now

LFA logoTwo days before Thanksgiving 2012, I was just four weeks into my job at Studio Movie Grill when my boss and I went through one of the most insane bonding circumstances you could possibly ever appreciate but wish on no one.

Trying to prove myself as a new employee I had stayed in Dallas to work while my family had packed up the car and driven off to Chicago to have Thanksgiving with my sister and my friends had all scattered off to wherever their families were.  I had the most terrible migraine of my life, and I suffered through, taking Tylenol every few hours until 6pm when my workday was over and it was finally time to go home.

But I never made it home that night.  A feverish, nauseated, floaty feeling took over my body and I steered my car directly into the parking lot of the closest urgent care provider on my path.  I made my way to their front desk to check in, but before I could say anything, I broke into a cold sweat and collapsed.  They determined that the amount Tylenol I had consumed throughout the day while toughing things out was enough that I had accidentally poisoned myself.  How embarrassing!

The urgent care would not let me leave their office unless it was in an ambulance or the care of an adult with a car who would sign a release promising that he or she was taking me directly to the ER.  The only person I knew in town with a car that might even consider taking me to the ER was . . . my new boss.

Kind soul that she was, she came and signed me out, and patiently pulled over on the side of the road and waited as I got out of her car to vomit in the grass at least twice.  Once we made it to the Emergency Room, she didn’t just drop me off, but stayed by my side to see me through my predicament.

Luckily, I was able to vomit out most of what was poisoning me before the ER doctors got involved, but the question still remained about the cause of my immense and persistent pain as well as what to do about it.  To make me more comfortable, they administered IV morphine, which was not strong enough so they administered something even stronger. 

Once the pain was quelled enough that I could concentrate to answer their questions, the diagnostic process began, and the doctor decided to do a spinal tap to determine if I was a victim of a recent spinal meningitis outbreak.  This was a procedure my boss and I had only seen on TV and in movies, and I was terrified because the needle was every bit as long and menacing as I had seen in old episodes of ER. 

To her credit, my boss was a stalwart and comforting companion, who never left the room, even for a moment, until the tests were complete and my parents had answered their cell phones to learn what was going on with me while they were out of town.

The fear and anxiety we shared in that room as well as the relief at my recovery has bonded us in a way that we were like instant family, the kind of relationship that I had never had with any boss, and the kind of bond formed out of a moment I hope I never have to share with anyone else ever again.

In the ten months that followed this crazy night, I had a series of other strange and painful or temporarily debilitating symptoms that led my rheumatologist, as part of a fleet of specialists under the keen orchestration of my primary care physician, to diagnose me with Systemic Lupus Erythematosis (also known as SLE or Lupus).

Once diagnosed, I began the journey of learning to live with this chronic ailment, which meant lifestyle changes and adjustment to the idea that I was not just allergic to lots of things or prone to getting the flu. I had to learn to accept that there are days when things that were easy one day could become impossibly difficult on another.  My antibodies were not recognizing cells in parts of my body as normal healthy parts of me and they would attack different parts of my body at different times, so I had to prepare myself for anything.

When we discovered that my SLE was photosensitive to UVA rays from the sun and even fluorescent lighting, my boss supported me by getting UV filters put over the bulbs in my office and hers.  When I started getting medication infusions as part of my treatment, she got me a laptop so that I could work from the infusion clinic while I was hooked up to an IV.  But this is not the end of the support that I have gotten from my boss and my SMG family.

Apart from family and from work, another great resource I found to help me cope with my diagnosis and the activity of my lupus was the Lupus Foundation of North Texas (LFANT), where I found a support group that allowed me to listen to other patients’ stories and learn from how they dealt with the struggles their lupus caused for them so that I could find hope and strategies for dealing with an illness that it seems almost no one understands unless they have it or care for someone who has it.

It was a place where stories were shared and ideas were brainstormed for solving problems or information could be found.  I met people who understood what I was going through and people who offered hope, advice and solutions for this incurable disease that was wreaking havoc on my body and my life.  These people inspired me to believe that I am not defined as a person with lupus, but rather, my lupus was just something I deal with.  The foundation and the friends I met there have empowered me to get the help I needed and to take back ownership of my life.

And now, that organization that has done so much for me is preparing to launch one of it’s annual fundraisers – The Walk to End Lupus Now, from which funds will be donated to research that will help us find better treatments and possibly one day a cure.  I cannot express how much it means to me that my Studio Movie Grill family is choosing to support my LFANT family by offering a year of free movies as the prize to the walker who collects the most donated funds.

The Walk to End Lupus Now will take place in Grand Prairie, TX on April 6, 2014.

For more information on the Walk to End Lupus Now, or to join the Walk, please visit http://www.lupus.org/lonestar/events/entry/dallas-walk-to-end-lupus-now.

Senior Sales Manager Lee Anne Tilley on Lone Survivor Foundation’s Fundraiser at SMG City Centre


SMG City Centre closed to the public for half a day to host a red carpet fundraiser for Lone Survivor Foundation, with director Peter Berg in attendance. The film showed on all screens and many naval veterans came out to see the film with their families and supporters.

I love my job.  A lot of people aren’t able to say those words, so I do not take that for granted.  As Senior Sales Manager for Studio Movie Grill Private Events, each day I am exposed to new people and new experiences, but I have to share my favorite experience yet.

On November 17th, I was lucky enough to be part of the LONE SURVIVOR premiere fundraiser event in Houston, Texas, at our City Centre location.  If you’re not familiar with LONE SURVIVOR, I will give you a brief overview.  Marcus Luttrell wrote the book…the movie, to be released on December 25th, is based on his book and experiences as a Navy SEAL.  The story follows the failed mission of SEAL Team 10, Operation Red Wings, and is truly an account of courage and heroism.  Luttrell, since returning from serving in Afghanistan, started a foundation called the Lone Survivor Foundation.  The fundraiser hosted at SMG City Centre was held to support this foundation and Luttrell’s efforts to give back to our men and women in service.

Marcus Luttrell, subject of the film and his wife Melanie pose for a photo on the red carpet.

Marcus Luttrell, subject of the film and his wife Melanie pose for a photo on the red carpet.

This event was so important that director and producer Peter Berg was in attendance.  He and Marcus went into each theater following the film screening to thank everyone for coming and supporting the film and Marcus’ foundation.  Many of the Navy SEALs involved in saving Marcus and the widows of those that did not survive were in attendance along with some major Houston celebrities.  It was quite a day!


Director Peter Berg held a post screening Q&A to talk about making Lone Survivor, the featured film.

Shaking Marcus Luttrell’s hand was truly an honor.  Here is this man who has sacrificed so much for his country, has lost friends in combat, has seen horrors we will never see, and he is standing in front of me.  He has more courage in his pinky finger than I could ever hope to possess.  I am inspired.  This is why I love my job.  Not only am I allowed to do what I love to do, but I am inspired.  SMG donated over $7,000 to the Lone Survivor Foundation and helped to raise thousands more.  This isn’t work, this is a privilege, and I am so grateful for that privilege.

SMG Film and Marketing Assistant Danielle Hawthorne Tells Us Why She Loves Working at SMG

Why SMG? Was it the movies or maybe the people? I would have to say it was a little bit of everything. Having just moved to Dallas a few months ago, I was searching for the right job. You know, the one that gets me excited to head into the office everyday. Which, lets be honest, is not always an easy task. Then I truly believe fate stepped in and led me right to SMG. I received an email one day from the director of a company I had recently interviewed with that read, “This is exactly what you are looking for. You need to apply.” I immediately emailed SMG and the rest is history. I have been extremely impressed with the company and everyone working for it since the moment I stepped through the office doors.

The week before I started work, SMG moved into a new and open office space. The new space is contemporary with glass office walls and floor to ceiling windows. Everyone is pretty spaced out, but in a way it feels like we are all connected. It just flows.

Studio Movie Grill New Office

Studio Movie Grill opened our new Home Office on September 10, 2013.

To make things even better, the people who work here are even more impressive than the space itself! I have never received a more welcoming and warm reception from a company than I have at SMG. Not only are my co-workers some of the most talented professionals I’ve had the opportunity to work with, they are also some of the kindest people I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know. I now come into work every day excited about learning and growing with a company I truly believe in.


CEO Brian Schultz poses with SMG home office staff members who participate in today’s Halloween Costume Contest and Chili Cook-off.

Every day is an adventure with SMG. The coolest thing about that is that anyone can be a part of it! There is an SMG slogan that I really didn’t understand before working here, “Change the World One Movie at a Time”.  After becoming a part of the SMG family and seeing all of the joy that this company brings to people through its charity work, special needs, screenings, movie events, fundraisers, the list goes on, I get it and I am so proud to be a part of it.

SMG Wheaton Chef Castano Penn on SMG Chefs for Children


SMG Chef Castano Penn initiated the SMG Chefs for Children program in April, 2013. 5% of the proceeds from Chefs for Children menu items are donated to nonprofits aiding families with special needs children.

Being a chef and feeding others isn’t just about food – for me, it’s also always been a way to nurture people. I can show someone I’m thinking about them by preparing their favorite dish, taking into account an allergy, or preparing a dish for someone who has recently been sick or stressed out.

This perspective is what spurred me to create the SMG Chefs for Children program. Chefs are creative and nurturing folks – what better way to combine the two than this program which allows our chefs to create their own specials all while helping kids in their own communities?

This program is personal to me. My five year old son is autistic. My wife and I are so fortunate that there has been so much more research done in this area and we are grateful for the programs that help our son reach his ultimate potential. Children deserve amazing opportunities and I thought this program could be my small way of saying, “You’re important, we care about you, and we’re going to do what we can to help!”

I’m thrilled that SMG home office was receptive to my idea and I am really happy with the energy with which this program has been greeted! I look forward to more charitable partnering in the future!

An Homage to Whitney

Beloved actress/singer and songwriter Whitney Houston passed away on February 11, 2012.  Studio Movie Grill pays homage to the woman whose songs we sang when our hairbrushes were microphones and our heads were full of dreams for this “Girl’s Night Out.”

When I wrote those words to market our February 13 Girls’ Night Out event in SMG theaters across the nation, I had no idea how much attending the event would drive that thought home.

The folks from E&J Gallo supported our tribute to Whitney by coming out to our Spring Valley theater and offering a sampling of their Apothic Red wine, a blended red comprised of zinfandel and merlot varietals that strike notes of vanilla and chocolate, creating a rich flavor, the perfect complement for red meat or desserts.  The wine is featured as our monthly special for February.

Before the lights went down, our guest host, Shannon Powell Hart of Good Morning Texas, gave introduction to the film, inspiring members of the audience to engage with the content by giving away prizes for knowing trivia from the movie, and three women came up to the front of the auditorium to sing a few lines of “And I Will Always Love You,” to win an admit two pass to come back for another movie of their choice.

Kevin Costner was definitely not at his best, and Whitney was pretty inexperienced as an actress when this movie was made, but I can still think of no greater homage to the fallen star than this movie, in which we revisit the best selling soundtrack of all time.

Whitney’s vocal performances were stunning.

Everyone in the audience danced in their chairs to the beat of “Queen of the Night,” and I realized that one of the reasons Whitney was such an amazing performer is that over the years she provided so many wonderful songs for the soundtrack of our lives.

Sometimes we don’t love movies because of the performances.  We love them for the memories they evoke that are forever tied in our hearts.

I remember when the movie first came out in 1992.  I was a dorky, awkward eighth grader with glasses and a huge crush on an equally quirky boy with red hair and blue eyes, who was my lab partner in Biology.  I admit he probably just liked the song, but I melted when he sang, “And I Will Always Love You,” in a fleeting moment alone with me before class.

As Studio Movie Grill continues to offer retro series as part of our alternate programming, we will be showing other favorites – for women with Girls’ Night Out, for men with Brews ‘n’ Views, and for everyone with $1 Classics.

Shannon and Jessica

Jessica Kirby from EJ Gallo (left) introduced Apothic Red to our Girls’ Night Out host, Shannon Powell Hart (right), TV personality from Good Morning Texas.

I hope every movie we revisit for these series evokes as fond memories to share with younger generations as they did for us when they first came out.

Little Black Dress and Bridget Jones’s Diary – Just My Night!

I had been so excited that Little Black Dress Vodka was coming out to do a free promotional sampling of this month’s feature drink – the Skinny Squeeze –  for this month’s Girls’ Night Out screening of Bridget Jones’s Diary that I had called my mom and told her we should don our little black dresses and go check it out together.

Bridget Jones’s Diary seemed like the perfect fit for me this January in so many ways, not just because, like Bridget, I am a single woman in her thirties aspiring to lose weight, build a career and find true love, but because of Mark Darcy’s statement about how Bridget is verbally incontinent, prone to embarrassing moments and makes bad decisions, but he likes her just the way she is.

That seemed just about right for me and my start of this month at Studio Movie Grill.  I had been driving my car around damaged from being hit by an 18-wheeler whose driver hadn’t been looking where he was going while I haggled with his insurance to get it fixed, and Sunday night my car began to die in the drive thru at In-and-Out Burger and I barely managed to crawl it off of Dallas Parkway into the driveway of a deserted Tetco station to call AAA for a tow.

Monday, I managed to get a ride to and from the office from an incredibly sweet coworker who was going to drive me in Tuesday as well, but that morning, I got out of the shower to finish getting ready, and the knob to the faucet broke so I couldn’t turn the water off.  I had to cancel the ride and let my boss know that I’d be late.  I managed to get emergency maintenance out to my apartment to fix it very quickly, and then managed to sweet talk my accountant father into coming over from Carrollton to drive me to the office by telling him that I really shouldn’t spend money on cab fare if my car was about to be totaled and I was going to have to start shopping for a new one.  He came through for me like a champ and I managed to only be half an hour late.

As I continue to live out a constant stream of ridiculous mini crises, I totally related to Bridget’s social awkwardness at the office.  This afternoon I had just verbally stepped in it with one of our top executives as he was telling us about a location he had scouted for potential to open a new theater that had the quirk of its surrounding property not allowing children in after 9pm.  Trying to offer a positive explanation, I had said, “Maybe it’s just a quirk of that pharmacy, that they have to keep out children after a certain time because they sell pornography or something…”  Yeah.  Not something one of your professional higher ups wants to hear crosses your mind, but it was already out of my mouth.

It was then just hours before the screening and I was still sans vehicle, and had finally gotten a rental car reservation made by the insurance company after leaving the claims lady so many voicemails she probably approved my claim just to get me to stop calling.  But was that the end?  No.

Enterprise Rent-a-Car had apparently run out of cars available to rent out and they had accepted my reservation for a mid-size sedan, but with Dallas’s recent spate of stormy weather and voluminous auto accidents, they weren’t just short my sedan, but any other car either.  After calling three locations, I pleaded with the third manager that I was on the verge of getting in trouble at work because I had been without a car for three days and my apartment was more than two hours away from the office by bus, and I needed to make it to work the screening at SMG Spring Valley.

Thankfully, one of the Enterprise managers heard my story and managed to wrangle me a Dodge Grand Caravan, but when he gave it to me, it was out of gas.  I stopped at the Shamrock station on Plano Pkwy and Walnut Hill for gas, and at long last, made my way through the wind and rain to the theater.

I mingled in the bar area chit chatting with our patrons and taking photographs of people enjoying drinks for Girls’ Night Out.  Most everyone was windblown and wet from the rain, but in good spirits, and I have to say the ladies stepping out for a night at our theater were all showing off their individual senses of style and having a good time.  The Skinny Squeeze tasting was a hit.  Almost everyone in the bar area waiting to see a movie had a Little Black Dress sample cup in hand, and the bar saw a surge in drink orders coming in.  Mom, ever the vodka connoisseur, gave it the thumbs up.

I snuck jnto the auditorium just as our new TV personality Girls Night Out host, Shannon, was giving a comical introduction to the film.  I wanted to get some pictures of her introducing the movie but the theater was so dark that I couldn’t see her through the view finder of my camera so I was snapping shots blindly in the dark and checking them on the digital display after they shot, so I think she was incredibly kind not to complain that I probably blinded her, at least temporarily, with my flash.

At last the movie started and my work was done.  All in all after my crazy day, I was happy to see everyone enjoying our Girls’ Night Out.  Just like Bridget Jones, give us a Skinny Squeeze and $1 tickets to Bridget Jones and we like SMG Spring Valley just the way she is.

IMG_0102 IMG_0110 IMG_0092 IMG_0099

For anyone who enjoyed  the 178 calorie Skinny Squeeze as much as Mom and I did, I managed to track down a copy of the recipe to make one at home:



Shake Over Ice – Strain Into Martini Glass


1 ½   oz. Little Black Dress Classic Vodka

¼  oz. Cointreau

3 oz. Cranberry Juice

½  oz. Agave Nectar

½  oz .Lime Juice

Garnish:  Orange Twist

Ding, dong!  I think I will have one of those…