Dinner Theatre is a format that caters usually to elderly patrons. The building will be both a restaurant and theatre. In some places food is served during the show, others it's served beforehand.
At conventional dinner theaters, the plays chosen tend to be The Musical, or other Lowest Common Denominator crowd-pleasing fare. Another take comes in the form of original spectacles in custom-built arenas designed to entertain family crowds, such as the Real Life Medieval Times chain. A popular variation has been to mix dinner theater with LARP Murder Mystery theatre, where the audience takes part in the proceedings to solve the crime. Alternatively, the show is set up as an event that encourages mingling between audience and actors, a concept pioneered by Tony 'n' Tina's Wedding in The '80s.
In fiction, this is usually portrayed as the lowest job an actor can get.
- The 3 Little Pigs: The Movie: Big Boss, owner of The Inn of the Gentle Wolf, plans out a lucrative event for his establishment, where he intends to serve pigs Wally and Beemo to his carnivorous guests, after the two provide some entertainment with a song & dance.
- At the beginning of Shrek the Third, Prince Charming is reduced to performing dinner theater to an unappreciative audience who cheer on Shrek (who is supposed to be the villain in the play) instead of him.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie: The main characters begin the plot as pirates in a pirate-themed dinner-theatre restaurant, depicted as cheesy. The main characters' hatred of working there fuels the plot and their desire for something more interesting.
- The film Auto Focus recreates Bob Crane having to make do with these kind of theatre roles to make ends meet, after Hogan's Heroes ends.
- The Cable Guy takes his increasingly reluctant buddy to an outpost of Medieval Times and they wind up duking it out Star Trek style in the arena itself.
- Soapdish has Kevin Kline's washed-up character performing Death of a Salesman at a Dinner Theatre. His audience is divided between the oblivious and the uninterested.
- The Golden Girls Has an episode ("The Case of the Libertine Belle") that fits this trope. The gang is treated to a Murder Mystery Dinner Party at an upscale bed and breakfast. The twist: The first mystery is a decoy. Blanche unwittingly takes part in the second act. Hilarity Ensues
- Part of the backstory in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Gets Drunk" reveals that Monk ruined a murder mystery theater weekend by solving the mystery in the first twelve minutes, causing the organizers to have to refund all the guests.
- In the Poker Face episode, "Exit Stage Death", a murder takes place during a performance at one of these.
- One episode of Saturday Night Live featured Chris Farley as an actor playing the victim in a cheesy murder mystery play ("Eeny Meeny Miny Murder, Catch a Killer in the Mansion of Flurder"). Because his parents were in the audience, he overplayed his death scene, outright refusing to die so he could keep on overacting, eventually driving everyone away.
- In the episode "Hollywood Babylon" of Supernatural, a character named Gerard St. James is playing Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman.
Gerard St. James: Speaking of, I'm playing Willy in a dinner theater production of Salesman at Costa Mesa, all next month. (He hands Dean a flyer) You get a free pepper steak with the coupon.
- Bob's Burgers: The episode "Hamburger Dinner Theater" has Linda trying her hand at dinner theater by staging a bizarre musical murder mystery at the restaurant.
- In an episode of Chowder, Shnitzel plays a tree in Mung Daal's dinner theater.
- Dan Vs.. has an episode called "Dan Vs. Ye Olde Shakespeare Dinner Theatre". Both Dan and an actor at the theatre are perfectly rude to one another, but the actor slapping Chris in the face with his epeé and giving him a shiner that streches from chin to brow seals them as worthy of revenge.
- King of the Hill had "Abracapasta", a dinner theatre specializing in magic.
- And there was the disco-themed murder-mystery dinner theater on a train.
- On The Simpsons:
- Mark Hamill performs a Star Wars-themed dinner theater version of Guys and Dolls.
- Krusty The Klown also appears in King Lear at the Springfield Dinner Theatre. Homer, a restaurant critic at the time, thinks the food isn't near so hammy as the acting. (It doesn't help that Krusty didn't know that the play is a tragedy.)
- The family also went to a magic-themed dinner theater.
- SpongeBob SquarePants has three episodes in which the Krusty Krab is temporarily turned into one: "Culture Shock", "Squirrel Jokes" and "The Play's the Thing".
- Some examples in France:
- Cabarets, particularly in Paris, such as the Moulin Rouge, the Crazy Horse, the Lido...
- Strasbourg had the Barabli, which featured stage plays and stand-up comedy in Alsatian language and was founded by Germain Muller. Its successor is the Choucrouterie, which derives its name from sauerkraut and prominently features the meal on its menu.
- Faulty Towers The Dining Experience is a dinner theatre tribute to Fawlty Towers.
- The 2004 Official Transformers Collectors Convention had planned a Transformers-themed LARP Murder Mystery-style dinner event titled "Who Shot Optimus Prime?" featuring Autobot detective Nightbeat, but because the hosting entertainment company wanted more money to change their format than the convention organizers could afford, those attending the event got the generic DEATH BY CHOCOLATE starring Detective Harry Bottoms instead. But, at least the attendees got Optimus Prime and Megatron posters signed by Peter Cullen and Frank Welker along with their meal, so the night wasn't a total loss.
- Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, a resort offshoot of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge in Disney Hollywood Studios, Florida, is effectively two full days of dinner theater and LARP that started in March 2022. The story is that the attending vacation-goers are spending time aboard a luxury Corellian cruiser, the Halcyon, which suddenly becomes a subversive battleground between the Resistance and the First Order; actors will routinely engage with the audience and assign missions, including a proper visit to the Galaxy's Edge setting, in order to entertain and move the story along until it culminates on the second night, followed by departure back to Earth the following morning after breakfast. Unfortunately, with a $1,200 a night per person price tag and launching in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, the experience proved to be a commercial failure and ended on September 30, 2023. It is unclear what will happen to the cruiser/hotel.