The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre (it’s actually Theater, but since this is a Canadian blog we’re deferring to our spelling of theatre) is a sit-down table service restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. This uniquely themed restaurant has guests sitting in convertible-style cars/tables, while watching campy sci-fi movie clips from the 1950’s. It feels so much like a typical drive-in movie theatre that it literally has to be referenced in the name of the restaurant. We have made a point of visiting the restaurant a number of times in our travels to Walt Disney World. So, if you’re thinking of adding it to your dining reservations, we present our Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Review:
The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant is family friendly and serves traditional (and some non-traditional) all-American Fare. The restaurant is located along Commissary Lane in Hollywood Studios – head towards the Chinese Theatre and hang a left. You’ll pass the ABC Commissary, but if you see Star Tours or the Muppet Courtyard, you’ve gone too far.
Sci-Fi is open for both lunch (10:45am to 3:55pm) and dinner (4:00 to park close) everyday, though the hours are always subject to change. The menu, and the prices, are the same for both lunch and dinner, so there’s no discernable difference in mealtime.
Due to its unique theming and the menu, which appeals to many, the Sci-Fi Dine-In is a very popular restaurant. It can be a difficult Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) to get, especially for the popular lunch and dinner hours.
I think it’s safe to say the biggest appeal here is the theming of the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant. All it takes is one photo of the restaurant for people to say “Cool! Let’s eat there!” And don’t get me wrong…it is cool. This is the only place where you can sit at tables that look like convertible cars, or as Disney calls them, automo-booths.
When you step into the dining area you are transported to a 1950’s drive-in at night. The outdoor theming includes a fence around the perimeter, trees and a starry night sky. The different coloured automo-booths face a large movie screen playing B-movie previews, and behind all the cars is a snack stand, just like the one you’d find at the drive-in.
It’s all very kitschy and adds to the overall experience.
We do think it’s worth noting that although many guests find the 1950’s creature/monster movie previews cheesy, there is a chance some smaller children who are more on the sensitive side could find them a little spooky. You know your children best and what they might find fun or scary, but it’s worth knowing ahead of time that you may see previews for things like the “creature from the black lagoon” and other similar titles.
I know the sci-fi B-movie trailers go with the theming and name of the restaurant, but I always find myself wishing they would screen classic Disney cartoons or Silly Symphony shorts. Those are so difficult to come by and it would be such a treat to be able to see them on a big screen. That’s just my wishful thinking and as I said, I know it wouldn’t fit with the theming of the restaurant, but a girl can still dream.
We also want to point out that the cycle of movie trailers and commercials seems to last around 60 minutes. The timing is Disney’s way of making sure that guests aren’t going to park themselves (pun intended) and just watch the big screen for an hour after dinner. Once you start to see the same clips playing again, you’re less likely to stick around, especially if you have already finished your meal.
A couple things are worth mentioning about the automo-booths. There are cars with three rows of seating and two rows of seating. Two adults fit in one row, but three children could possibly fit in a row. There are also a few automo-booths that do have a regular table and chairs housed inside the exterior of a car and one of the chairs could be removed if needed for wheelchair accessibility.
The seating arrangement does make it difficult to have a group conversation, but depending on your group, you may view that as a positive!
The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant is a one-credit table service meal, for those on the Disney Dining Plan.
Appetizers start at $8 USD and go up to $20 USD (for a shared platter), with most appetizers being in the $10-$11 USD price range.
Entrees start at $16 USD and go up to $33 USD, with most meals averaging around $24 USD.
Children’s entrees are between $10-$12 USD.
Desserts are between $7-$9 USD.
This is a good pay-out-of-pocket restaurant. The prices are lower than a character meal/buffet, which are a better use of a table service dining credit when on the Disney Dining Plan.
Tables in Wonderland card holders (available to Annual Passholders and DVC Members for an extra cost) get 20% off meals and alcoholic beverages here, and Annual Passholders and DVC Members get 10% off meals.
The menu at Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre features all-American fare. The appetizers are fairly large portions, with options including a Sci-Fi Wedge Salad, Shrimp and Crab Fondue and Crispy Chicken Tenders. The Fried Dill Pickles appetizer are a fan-favourite, though not a menu item you couldn’t easily find elsewhere.
There are some solid vegan and vegetarian options on the menu, including a ‘Crabless’ Cake appetizer, Vegan Tofu Lettuce Wraps and a Vegetarian Falafel Burger.
The majority of the entrée menu consists of burgers, sandwiches, salads and pasta. We used to enjoy the ribs here, but that is no longer on the menu. You can still get the ribs as part of the Sci-Fi Barbecue Platter.
On our most recent visit here I opted for the Oven Roasted Turkey Sandwich. The big seller here for me was that it’s served on a multi-grain croissant and I am a huge croissant fan. This entree came with fries and it was much larger and more filling than I expected. The sandwich was piled high with turkey, but I was slightly disappointed that the turkey was a deli style turkey as opposed to meat that had been carved from a roasted turkey. I also would have liked more aioli on my sandwich, but I should have asked for more on the side. However, it was satisfying and it was very filling. I felt it was good value for $16 USD.
Ryan opted for the Falafel Burger, which he said was a large falafel patty on a brioche bun. The tzatziki and red pepper aïoli on top really finished off the burger nicely.
We have often said, “next time we should share a couple appetizers or an appetizer and a meal” simply because the portions are quite large. We never seem to be able to finish our meals and menu doesn’t really give you a scale of how large the portions will be, or how heavy each dish is. The Sci-Fi Appetizer Sampler offers three items, including the fried pickles, for $20 USD, which we could easily share and then split the Turkey Sandwich (or another dish) and our hunger would be completely satisfied.
The theming is the big draw at Sci-Fi, not the menu. Advance reservations are highly recommended as this is a very popular dining location at Disney. The best available times tend to be snatched up when the 180-day ADR window opens up. If you didn’t get your ideal time, check back for reservations to open up closer to your travel date. Because of the style of cars, the capacity of the restaurant is smaller than others. This makes getting a reservation that much more important if you’re aiming for Sci-Fi.
We like the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant, but it’s not our top pick in the park. When choosing a sit-down restaurant at Hollywood Studios, it often comes down to picking between Sci-Fi or 50’s Prime Time Cafe. For us, 50’s Prime Time usually wins out. I find this to be a dark restaurant and on the loud side, largely due to the constant movie audio.
The food is pretty good and satisfies your hunger, but it’s not great. It’s meant to be a fun, non-character dining experience for the whole family. It has a very accessible menu and the noise level is well suited for excitable children.
All that being said, we do think it’s absolutely worth doing once, simply for the fun of eating in an automo-booth in front of a giant movie screen with a backdrop of faux of stars! While it’s not a must-do restaurant for a first-time trip, we would recommend adding it to your list of restaurants to try on your second or third visit to Walt Disney World.
Disney Dining QUIPS – Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant
Quick – The Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is a drive-in themed restaurant where guests (the vast majority) sit in cars, facing a large movie screen, which shows old creature/sci-fi movies from the 50’s
Unique – Obviously, the theming is key here. Sitting in the automo-booths, while watching old movies is a big draw. You won’t find any other restaurant like it in Walt Disney World.
Impressions – Because of the drive-in movie theming, the restaurant tends to be on the darker side. The novelty of watching the movies can be very fun, but the cycle of clips starts to repeat after about 60 minutes. This gives you the impression that it’s time to be done your meal and move on.
Palate – There are some good choices for vegan and vegetarian guests, but the rest of the menu is pretty standard fare. Burgers, wraps and sandwiches dominate the entrées, but the Sci-Fi Barbecue Platter is a good choice here as well. The Sci-Fi Appetizer Sampler is also a good way to share food and save on costs
Skip or Stay – This is a stay (with an asterisk). You’re really visiting this restaurant for the theming. If the drive-in concept isn’t appealing, the food isn’t worth the reservation. That being said, the theming does draw quite a lot of guests. So, if you’re planning on visiting, try to get your dining reservation as early as possible.
Have you ever visited the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!