Finding someone to go to a movie with just got easier thanks to what could be the world’s first movie theater focused on dogs and dog owners sharing a film together.
K-9 Cinema is a new dog-friendly movie theater located at 1192 Greenway Dr. in Plano. The business is the brainchild of self-proclaimed “serial entrepreneur” Eric Lankford, who recently relocated to Texas chasing a venture he said ended up not being a great fit. Not one to take his lumps lying down, Lankford said he got the idea for the theater while looking for pet-friendly places he could take his dog, Bear, whom he described as his “son.”
“I have always been a movie lover,” Lankford said. “I was never as much of a dog lover as I became. I had no idea how much love I would have for this dog. It’s like becoming a father. That’s how the idea came about. I love him, I love movies. There was no complicated thought process beyond that. I thought it would be cool to bring him with me to the movies.”
The premise is pretty basic, Lankford said, people show up with their dogs and watch a movie. The concession stand has doggie treats, some complimentary and others available for purchase. Once in the auditorium, patrons and their pets have their choice of a human seat similar to a standard movie theater with a water bowl next to each seat for the canine companion.
Behind the stage there is an exit that leads to the outdoor area where dogs can do their business or get some fresh air without disturbing the other viewers.
“All my business’ I did before this, I did for the money,” Lankford said. “There was no meaningful purpose behind my work. Now I am doing it because it makes me happy. I just wanted to share that with the community. I am pouring my heart into it and people are seeing that. It’s more than bringing dogs to sit in the seats.”
Lankford said the idea for the theater came to him as a way to spend more time with his dog.
“He is with me 24/7,” Lankford said of Bear. “When I leave him, I see the sadness in his face, he cries and whimpers. This is something I am doing because it makes me happy.”
Lankford said he hasn’t settled on exactly what types of movies he will show. He said currently the plan is to show older, family-friendly films. He doesn’t want audiences upset about missing part of a new release because of another patron or a restroom break.
Tickets for K-9 Cinema are $12.50 one adult and one dog. Then it’s an additional $5 for a second canine as there is a two dogs per human limit. The theater also requires dogs that attend movies have their shot records up-to-date. Lankford said all snacks, treats and drinks at the concession stand are $2.
“We want our movies to be fun, nostalgic-themed movies where people can bring their pet into a fun, friendly atmosphere,” Lankford said.
He said the theater is currently only open at specific times, but he is hoping to be able to be open every weekend in January.
“CinemaTour.com emailed me saying they are on a mission to document every movie theater in the world,” Lankford said. “In their database, they have 57,000 movie theaters and they confirmed this is the first dog friendly movie theater in their database. We are the first ever dog-friendly movie theater.”
CinemaTour.com’s Roger Katz called K-9 Cinema a “unique concept.”
“Dogs have been permitted at many drive-in theatres for years, but I have never heard of an indoor cinema that allowed dogs, let alone was geared towards dogs,” Katz said via email. “Most theatres that are unique are due to architecture or technology, not because they let pets in. It’s an interesting idea.”
Katz said he knew of other organizations increasingly becoming pet-friendly.
“A lot of minor league baseball teams have ‘Bark in the Park’ days when people can bring their dogs to the game with them,” Katz said.
Millerann Moya, senior marketing specialist for Visit Plano, said the city was thrilled to have this unique opportunity to expand upon the city’s growing pet tourism attractions. She said Visit Plano has begun a marketing campaign to attract tourists looking for pet-friendly cities and the city has a significant number of restaurants, hotels and dog parks that are all accommodating to people who travel with their beloved animals by their sides.
“Going to tourism conferences, everyone is talking about how pet tourism is on the rise,” Moya said. “We realized we are a pet friendly destination. We began giving out dog bowls to pet friendly restaurants with patios certified by the health department. We also give out dog treats to hotels which are pet friendly.”
Visit Plano was on the scene to celebrate the new theater on its recent opening night.
“I was surprised at the idea in general; I wasn’t surprised it came to Plano,” Moya said. “We are always a place for new restaurant concepts. I am not surprised he picked Plano at all. My initial reaction to there being a dog-friendly theater was surprise.”
Lankford said the community support has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We are upgrading seating to couch style seating where dog lovers can cuddle up with their pet as if they were at home,” Lankford said.
Lankford said he has been really impressed with how well-behaved the dogs have been.
“If you go to a dog park you don’t see dogs acting up,” Lankford said. “Dog owners know their dogs. They know where they can take their dogs. We have had owners tell us they left their other dog at home because they would have acted up.”
Lankford said the theater is currently only allowing dogs and he can’t allow cats right now because he doesn’t want any issues. However, he hasn’t ruled out the idea of doing a cat only event once in a while in the future.
For more information on the Plano theater, K-9 Cinema page on Facebook. To view the listing on CinemaTour’s website, visit https://www.cinematour.com/tour/us/48870.html.