Dinner and a show

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Jeff Woo/DRC
Guests order drinks at the new bar Thursday during the Movie Tavern Denton's ribbon-cutting event.

Movie Tavern attracts hundreds to VIP reopening bash

Movie Tavern Denton saw a huge turnout for its VIP Experience, the big party the local multiplex threw to celebrate the completion of its expansion. The specialty movie theater grew from four screens to nine in a project that began in 2016.

“We basically started from scratch,” said Danny DiGiacomo, vice president of marketing at Southern Theatres, the New Orleans-based chain that owns the Denton cinema. “It was a pretty big project.”

The four existing screening rooms got new screens, plus the new seating and additional stairs. Then the company built five new screening rooms. There are small and large rooms, with seating for 85 to 135. Special seating is available for patrons who use wheelchairs, along with rolling trays for those customers to use for dining. At the moment, Movie Tavern is the only multiplex in town where patrons can order a full meal and alcoholic drinks from their seat.

At the VIP event, hundreds crowded the newly remodeled lobby. The raised lounge? Gone to make room for the new bar, which construction crews moved from the west to the east side of the cinema. Pub tables line the walls, and a television screen will keep moviegoers entertained until they move on to the screening room to see a Hollywood blockbuster or indie sleeper. The box office now is in the multiplex.

But DiGiacomo said he hopes patrons will take advantage of one of his favorite features.

“You can buy your tickets online and reserve your seats before you even get here,” he said. “This has been available for a while now, but we want people to know they have this option. Reserve your seats, then either pick them up at the kiosk or show your purchase to the box office on your cell phone.”

Two ticket kiosks are visible before you even see the box office in the lobby. Movie Tavern means to reduce wait times. But beware: It’s still customary for cinemas to plan for long lines and staff them with employees when popular movies cause tickets to sell out.

Movie Tavern invited members of the business and nonprofit community to test drive the spruced-up cinema Thursday night.

A free buffet, drink tickets and free admission to a movie lured an enormous crowd to the event. Visitors chose from Logan, the latest superhero flick from Marvel Comics, Kong: Skull Island, the latest installment of the King Kong series, and The Shack, a Christian drama.

Lines for the earliest screenings were long, but the staff kept people moving. Once inside, visitors tested the cushioned, reclining chairs (with cup holders big enough for the cinema’s 32-ounce drinks). A complementary selection of menu items was available during the screening.

DiGiacomo said movie theaters are competing with the comforts of home, so Movie Tavern’s makeover put comfort as the first priority.

“Every screening room has stadium seating, with wider aisles,” DiGiacomo said. “The aisles make it easier for customers to keep their eyes on the screen while the staff takes orders, and when they bring your food.”

DiGiacomo wasn’t exaggerating. More than one man immediately pushed the reclining buttons after ordering dinner and accepted food during the first 20 minutes of Kong. One man dug into his chicken wings while reclining, never missing a frame of the giant, angry ape cracking a pair of military helicopters together in a fireball.

Customers can follow up a cobb salad with a giant dessert by pressing the button on their swiveling tray. A soft blue light guides the wait staff to your seat after sending a computer notification to the kitchen.

And for those curious about the sound system, it’s more than sufficient for your average movie buff. When Kong roared and beat his chest, the speakers lining the cinema walls let the bass rumble with enough force for the vinyl upholstery to buzz against your legs.

The menu includes appetizers, flatbreads and pizza, entree salads, sandwiches, pub food, burgers and sliders. Desserts range from cookies to cakes and a brownie pie. The bar serves beer, wine, cocktails and frozen margaritas.

A meal combo is available for two people for $26.

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877 and via Twitter at @LBreedingDRC.

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