By Hannah Schultz, Features Editor
When one of my supervisors told me why Amstar Cinemas at Brannon Crossing was turning into a Movie Tavern, he explained it to me this way: no one goes to the movies in order to view a worthwhile piece of art anymore.
It’s all about the experience— the package deal. People want to do something to fill empty spaces in their day, and they want that activity streamlined to have the most convenience, meaning the increase in things like diner theaters and reserved seating. This results in your Amstar theaters being replaced by Movie Taverns all over the world, as well as a decrease in the quality of movies that are released each year.
Movie Tavern is a diner theater, meaning you can eat a three-course meal right at your seat, with servers checking in on you throughout the movie. Diner theaters are a two-birds-with-one-stone combination of movie-watching and full-dining experience. No more waiting in line at the concession stand for a refill or forgetting to eat lunch and being forced to scarf down a measly tray of nachos with questionable looking cheese. Guests can now sit back in pleather recliners and enjoy a blockbuster hit while eating calamari and summoning a server to refill their champagne flutes.
However, the diner theater concept prevents a fully engaged viewer. The theater is brighter in order for guests to be able to see and eat their food, thus distractions from the movie abound—from the other guests themselves, to trying to focus on both the food and the film, to the servers getting their attention in order to ask them a question. It’s difficult enough to focus on a movie with an obnoxious popcorn eater behind you, much less a man who’s had one too many beers— courtesy of Movie Tavern’s adult target audience and full bar—and is trying to fumble his way through a cheeseburger and fries.
Because the film industry understands that most theaters are moving towards the diner theater concept, they have less drive to produce worthwhile and meaningful movies. Mid-range budget films are no longer being made because it’s too risky—only things like blockbuster superhero movies are guaranteed to draw a crowd, and the crowd is vital to studios’ success. No one cares about the personal connection between the audience and film anymore, as extraneous noise and distractions make it all the more tenuous. Furthermore, guests don’t want to commit to a longer movie with a moving narrative and emotional payoff, so they settle for snack-sized entertainment.
Working at Amstar Cinemas for one and a half years taught me that the art of movie appreciation is dying, and it might be too late to bring it back. Despite how many customers complained to corporate or management about the Movie Tavern transition, still more supported corporate’s bottom line: diner theaters are more profitable because of the full-package experience, and it is the profit that matters.
However, not all hope is lost. Movies cater to audiences, and it is the responsibility of the moviegoer to dictate the value of his or her experience. If audiences start demanding higher production values and more engaging storylines— challenging filmmakers to test new ideas and experiment in order to enthrall an engaged viewer—then perhaps film can be saved from distraction-induced oblivion after all.
So next time you find yourself wanting two and a half hours to fill and wind up at the Movie Tavern at Brannon Crossing, remember the sacrifice—the loss of the production of good art, of unmitigated attention, of the relationship between the film and the audience—made to bring you Movie Tavern: where movies never tasted so good!