Joan Foster couldn’t stop grinning when she read the banner hanging over the Movie Tavern entrance.
“We’ve been hoping for this for a long time,” said Foster, 51, who’s made about 25 girls’-day-out trips to the cinema/diner since it opened five years ago in the Shops at Central Park in Bedford.
Foster and her friends were giggling because, sometime early next year, they’ll be meeting in a brand-new theater where all the seats are luxury recliners equipped with buttons that let guests adjust the seats for optimal comfort. Dunhill Partners, owners of the shopping center at Airport Freeway and Central Drive, is spending around $12 million on what the company’s vice president, Tim Denker, called “the Taj Mahal of movie theaters.”
The new 55,000-square-foot facility dwarfs the existing 29,000-square-foot digs, said Denker, 45.
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“This is a big deal for us,” Denker said. “We’re spending a whole lot of money to put these guys in.”
All that extra space makes room for two more auditoriums, said Terry Sullivan, the general manager who will move the 80 or so service professionals into their new space, and add about 30 more people to the staff.
“We’ll have two theaters that seat 200 or more; two that seat 140; two that seat 100 and two that seat 50,” said Sullivan, 55. “I’m proud to be given the flagship location, a showcase in DFW. I’m confident that our team is up for it.”
Sullivan said members of his team have been promised a new movie house for more than two years. It can’t come too soon for Kathy Harrer, who started in the box office four and a half years ago and now is a daytime bartender.
“It will be great to have a new bar,” said Harrer, 57. “It won’t have anything different that will do anything I can’t do now, it’s just all new stuff.”
‘No price changes planned’
The only changes Sullivan expects will be for his guests’ convenience and comfort. There are two entries to the theater — one each for front and back parking lots — that lead into a massive lobby that includes the ticket booth, restaurant and horseshoe-shaped bar. The menu will remain the same, and ticket prices may do likewise.
“Any price changes for the new location haven’t been determined,” said Danny DeGiacomo, marketing director for VSS Southern Theatres, which owns 22 Movie Taverns in this area. “Currently there are no price changes planned.”
Tickets for the all-reserved seating also may be purchased at movietavern.com.
Response to the “cinema eatery concept” in the H-E-B and Fort Worth area, particularly in Northeast Tarrant County, prompted the company to bring a state-of-the-art facility to Bedford, DiGiacomo said.
Each auditorium is equipped with audio/video equipment created by theater-projection specialists Christie. The 10 all digital 4K projection screens should provide the clearest picture possible, matched with cutting-edge Christie sound systems.
‘We’ll be more visible’
Bedford Mayor Jim Griffin said he’s eager to be one of the first to enjoy the new Movie Tavern experience. It’s already one of his favorite places to go, and he said the improvements will make it “a great economic engine for the city.
“It will be a tremendous addition to that shopping center, drawing more business to the area and complementing the other restaurants. It also will be an asset to the growth we’re experiencing along the highway,” Griffin said.
Facing the North Tarrant Express (Airport Freeway) is one of the greatest benefits of the move, Sullivan said. The current location is on the shopping center’s east side and can be difficult to find for first-time guests.
“We’ll be more visible,” Sullivan said. “People have called and said ‘We’re in the parking lot but the theater looks closed.’ We have to tell them to drive around to this side. But that tells me that people already are coming who’ve never been here before.”