Thursday, April 11, 2013

West 7th Movie Tavern

               When I think of movie theaters, I think of popcorn, oversized soft drinks, and red velvet chairs.  However, I knew my latest movie-going experience would be slightly different.  The Movie Tavern franchise prides itself on being an elite, luxurious movie-going experience that just about anyone can afford.  Regardless, the fact that they depict several patrons in suits in some their advertisements was enough to make me wear a polo shirt and khaki pants when I went to this theater to see Jurassic Park 3D, just to be on the safe side.  This move turned out to be somewhat, though not blatantly, unnecessary.    Located on the corner of Currie and Crockett streets just south of West 7th Street, the Movie Tavern Fort Worth utilizes various appeals to pathos, logos, and ethos to draw in patrons of all backgrounds.  Most of these efforts prove successful, and I can only imagine what the place is like on a Saturday night during prime film season.  But on the other hand, there were a handful of things about my experience that make me wonder if the Movie Tavern franchise is a bit too ritzy for my liking.


                Approaching the theater, one cannot help but notice the big, bold message adorning the façade with the company slogan, “Movies Never Tasted So Good!”  That is a clear indication that this chain of theaters puts special emphasis on the food they serve and that it must get relatively good reviews.  The food is an example of both pathos and logos being used to draw in audience members.  They say that the path to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and sure enough, as I made my way up the escalators to the main level of the theater, I found myself surrounded by large images of what appeared to be very high-end cuisine.  This is an example of an appeal to pathos, and an extremely effective one at that, because a theater patron arriving in primetime would probably immediately feel pangs of hunger and a desire to try one of the depicted dishes in particular.  Now, I was not interested in spending extra money halfway between lunch and dinner, but I did look over the menu and I noticed several things.  Highly emphasized were mixed drinks and desserts, and prices seemed to correspond with who would be interested in buying the item.  The average mixed drink cost about $7.00-$8.00, indicating that these menu items were intended to be purchased by those with money to spare.   Dessert prices were much more reasonable, costing about $4.50-$5.25 each.  It appears that these items are more for the middle class couple on a date night or the average family trying to keep two children happy.  This is an appeal to logos because those who come in probably will come to realize that this is not a theater appealing to a niche market, but one whose aim is to incorporate the best of both worlds.  As far as appeals to emotion and logic are concerned, the marketing strategies utilized to sell food appear to be a success at Movie Tavern Fort Worth.

                The atmosphere that the franchise’s ownership group is looking to portray has a lot to do with the appeals to ethos and logos.  Again, the idea is to make the place appear quite ritzy without going over the top and making the average citizen like me feel out of place.  In some ways the effort is successful, but in other ways it is not.  I could not enter my respective theater until thirty minutes before the movie began.  That gave me time to sit just outside the bar and analyze the implications of the lobby’s various traits.  I remember thinking to myself that the company slogan leaves something to be desired; as though the assumption is that the food is really all that matters.  This is an example of a negative ethos being reflected on the company.  Another aspect of the layout of this particular theater might also have resulted in a minor flaw in the good ethos of the franchise.  The atmosphere of this place was very modern, indicative of the fact that this was a rather new building in a recently redeveloped part of downtown Fort Worth.  That is a good thing, but places we go to spend an enjoyable evening at require something else.  In my eyes, the place lacked some aspect of the “character” that we seek in public places.  The experience is about more than just sitting, eating, and watching, and I think that it is diminished in an atmosphere of dull colors and large windows making everything very bright (movies are meant to be shown where it at least feels like it’s dark outside).  I understand how opinionated this is, but there probably is no one proper interpretation of the character of a movie theater, just like there is not always a proper interpretation of a movie as Louis D. Giannetti claims in Chapter 10 of Understanding Movies (Giannetti, 403).  On the other hand, I think that I found something very positive while examining the lobby as well.  I think that the movies being shown have a lot to do with the impression that the theater leaves on its patrons, so it would be important for this establishment to show both the latest movies and a wide variety of movies.  Both of these traits are established through the use of a series of standees and movie posters. The fact that there is something for everyone at this theater is evident in a prominently displayed appeal to logos through an advertising standee for this summer’s children’s film Monsters University.  I deduced from this that the aim of displaying this in a very visible spot is to show that this theater is for children as well despite the wine glasses and other fixtures reserved for adults.  In the chapter on logos in Everything's an Argument, Andrea Lunsford mentions two types of hard evidence used in logical arguments.  This standee would fall under the category of artistic proofs (as opposed to unartistic proofs) because it is put up by the theater and appeals to reason and common sense by forming an enthymeme in the mind of the viewer (Lunsford 56).  That is: it's a standee for a children's movie + it is placed in a movie theater = this is not just a theater for adults.  Another thing that caught my eye was a trio of movie posters that reminded me of a Movie Tavern promotional that I had heard recently in which the franchise advertised “the latest movies” alongside “great food”.  The three posters advertising what might be this year’s most anticipated film: Catching Fire.  This provided a slight boost for the ethos of the place, as advertising a hit film half a year before its release is a pretty solid indicator that this is a first-run theater that will be very much alive at midnight on a certain date.  So while this overall structure might lack the “character” that I so often look for, a series of appeals at least partially makes up for any lapses in ethos that I observed while in the lobby.  No respect from me was lost at this point in my movie-going experience.

                The arrangement of the seats inside a movie theater can be linked to different appeals in different instances.  In this case, the seats in the theater are designed to enhance the experience by not being your typical “stadium seat,” and I must admit, the chairs were quite unlike any others I’ve sat in at various movie theaters.  Whether or not they were exceptionally comfortable is subject to interpretation, but I don’t think it makes a huge difference as to the general impact of such a seating arrangement.  What does matter, for one thing, is that this is not a come early, get the good seats kind of theater.  Rather, one receives a designated seat number on his or her ticket.  Since it was the mid-afternoon, attendance was not good for that showing of Jurassic Park 3D, so I was placed in the best row available: about halfway up the theater from the screen and in the middle of the row with a walkway just in front of it.  It was an ideal location for both the patron and the waiter who came by shortly before the film previews got under way.  The red button on your tray table used to call for service gives you a sense of power and control, making this an appeal to pathos and a relatively successful one.  For example, you don’t need to get up to go for popcorn; the popcorn will come to you.  That is the glory of the Movie Tavern experience.  At least, that’s what the franchise owners want you to believe.  For me, however, the idea of being waited on in my seat was an experience that did not live up to expectations.  Maybe things would have been different if it had been dinner time and I had ordered one of the specialty dishes, but alas I noticed three minor yet evident shortfalls.  All of these things have to do with appeals to ethos and all are linked to the serving of food inside the theater.  First of all, I don’t think the theater ever got as dark as an ordinary theater would, probably due to the need for waiters to move around and audience members to see their food.  Regardless of whether or not my eyes were mistaken in this, there were several points during the film in which a waiter passed in front of us, which I naturally thought was poor for a theater of this prestige.  Lastly, I am not sure whether the start of the movie was delayed or not to accommodate the wait staff (I was not wearing a watch), but if it was, then one must consider rethinking the process of the operation.  All these shortfalls, though minor, have a major impact on the ethos of that particular theater and the franchise in the minds of specific patrons.  In my book, all this, combined with the lack of character to the structure of this theater, will drop this place’s rating from three tickets to two.
                The concept of the Movie Tavern franchise is one that has a lot of promise, but one that definitely takes some getting used to.  I would not be opposed to going back to the corner of Currie and Crockett streets to try some of the food while watching one of the latest movies.  The experience probably would leave me with a different initial feel for the place, but I also can safely assume that it would not leave me too much happier than the traditional theaters that I am used to attending back home in the upper Midwest.  You can call me a harsh critic if you want, but, all things considered as far as ethos, pathos, and logos are concerned, Movie Tavern Fort Worth receives two tickets from me.

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