I had read enough about the Alamo Drafthouse franchise in Texas to be slightly skeptical about the Movie Tavern that just opened it’s doors in Collegeville, PA. For those not familiar with this trend, both the Alamo and Movie Tavern provide theatergoers with food, drink, and seat service during a film. As fantastic as this sounds, as someone who gets cranky when they hear the crinkle of a candy bag, I was expecting a full blown aneurism at the prospect of listening to the orchestra of people eating a full-blown meal.
But I’m happy to report that I actually had a positive experience at Movie Tavern, and here’s why:
1. The auditorium setup
Because waiters need to be able to access everyone’s seat without too much disruption, the aisles in these theaters are huge. And consequently, so are the seats. Let’s just say this is probably the only time in my life I will experience what first class is like on an airplane. With so much room, it’s easy to get comfortable and enjoy the movie you’re watching.
2. The fluidity/timing/ease of ordering food
Movie Tavern recommends arriving a half hour before your movie time to ensure that there is ample time to get seats, and order food and drinks. Because mostly everyone in the theater is ordering the bulk of their food before the movie even starts there is little risk of multiple interruptions while the film is playing. I think I was only passed three times by a waiter during the course of a two hour movie. Each seat has a tray to hold everything, and a button that you press for service. After you receive your food, the waiter only comes back if you push the button. To my surprise, very few people continued to order things throughout the movie. I guess I had little faith that people would remember the primary reason they go to theater: to see a movie, and not to eat.
3. The movie itself
Selection of the movie is an important thing to consider in this situation. I believe my experience was as positive as it was because I saw Cowboys & Aliens, an action movie that required little thought on my part, and enough noise to block out any mastication in my general area. Because I was in the middle of eating during the first twenty minutes of the movie, my attention wasn’t always up at the screen. I wouldn’t normally condone this, as I like to be fully immersed in the film from beginning to end, but Cowboys & Aliens is one of those fun, easy films that doesn’t require such stiffness. I want to stress again that I don’t think I would chose Movie Tavern for quieter, more introspective films where excess noise in the theater becomes a distraction.
4. An extensive and reasonably priced menu
I was thrilled and surprised by the amount of choices offered. Movie Tavern has a full bar, and plenty of menu options (and dessert!) to please just about everyone. The food isn’t stellar, but not any worse than a large casual restaurant chain, like Applebee’s. It’s also a nice luxury to be able to drink beer during a film (without having to hide an ice pack in your coat and possibly be kicked out or worse, your beer confiscated).
5. Friendly waitstaff and employees
I think I was told “Enjoy your movie” five times before I even sat down. And while such enthusiasm may wane after the initial opening (trust me I’ve worked in service jobs before), I felt very welcome and taken care of while there. I’m calling out the service specifically because another one of our local theaters that we frequent out of necessity lacks the same friendly face. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with the moody teens that work there or what, but because there’s alcohol being served in the theater, a majority of the staff is older and less full of angst.
I came into this experience as a purist, believing that anything added to the theater experience was probably taking away from it. And in some cases, I believe Movie Tavern could take away from film watching. But if you’re looking for a fun, different, and social night outing with friends, then Movie Tavern may be something to look into-as long as the movie you’re watching isn’t The Tree of Life.