by Barbara Sherf
Many of us have experienced the frustration of a damaged cable and the inability to access the Internet, but the folks at Flourtown’s new Movie Tavern experienced not only frustration, but lost revenue this past week with the delayed opening of the long-anticipated eight-screen cinema-eatery.
The long-awaited establishment was supposed to open on Wednesday, Sept. 16, but didn’t see its debut until Saturday.
The concept behind Movie Tavern is that of offering an in-theater dining experience where servers deliver cocktails, meals, desserts and movie snacks throughout the show. There will also be a weekly “Breakfast and a Flick” series where families can enjoy a feature film and a variety of morning favorites on Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. The chain also plans to show retro films in their stadium seating, complete with recliners and call-button service in every auditorium.
Danny DiGiacomo, director of marketing for Movie Tavern, was earning his paycheck with the delay on what was supposed to be opening day last Wednesday. Instead of glad handing customers, he was busy troubleshooting and trying to keep those who were turned away – like Damon Ortt of Oreland – happy.
Ortt had stopped by the Flourtown Shopping Center to pick up movie tickets to surprise his fiancé for the opening show. When he learned there was a delay, he was more than a little bit disappointed, and DiGiacomo followed him to the parking lot with some complimentary tickets.
“He didn’t have to race after me, but he could tell how upset I was,”Ortt said. “I’m in construction, too, and I understand that things happen. He more than compensated me for the inconvenience. He’s a nice guy who actually listened.”
Earlier in the day, DiGiacomo talked about the $9 million project that took over the former Giant Market and several other stores along the strip, totaling 38,476-square feet. He said the chain is hiring and plans to employ 150 people.
“After the astounding success and popularity of our Collegeville location, we are very excited to continue our growth in the Philadelphia area,” he said, noting that area had a dearth of first-run theaters in the Flourtown area. “We saw a need, and we are eager to give Flourtown area moviegoers a chance to make a night of it with dinner and a movie in one location.”
He added that customers do not need to purchase food or drink, and that individuals who are not even ticketed for a movie can get drinks and food at the 70-seat bar in the lobby.
Asked why Flourtown was selected, DiGiacomo said the parent company, the Dallas-based Southern Theaters LLC, saw growth potential in Southeast Pennsylvania.
“After the astounding success and popularity of our Collegeville location, we realized the demand for our product in the Greater Philadelphia area,” DiGiacomo said.
Chris Collier, associate director of the Renew Theaters, the nonprofit that runs the Ambler Movie Theater, saw both pros and cons to the new establishment.
“There was some hand-wrenching when we first heard the news, but I really think we serve two different audiences, and we welcome the fact that it is getting people back into movie theaters,” Collier said. It should be noted that this past weekend, the two theaters were both offering at least one movie that was the same.
Christina Visco, of Erdenheim, who has been busy in recent weeks with the move of the Flourtown Farmer’s Market to its new location that is within walking distance of the shopping center, welcomed the new theater.
“Without the Movie Tavern opening in that shopping center, more businesses would continue to close,” Visco said. “It needed an anchor and this is it. The additional tax revenue is a great thing for our residents, and they run a clean, professional theater. The traffic going by the new location will definitely help build awareness about the new Flourtown Farmer’s Market. It’s an exciting time to live in Springfield Township.”
While enjoying a beverage at Scoogi’s Classic Italian Restaurant, Dan Helwig, a longtime Realtor along Bethlehem Pike, said it was a win-win situation for everyone.
“I think people will slowly discover some of the other local businesses in this community. Even this place [Scoogi’s] is going to see increased traffic from it,” Helwig said. “Flourtown is coming into its own.”
Rob Rosato, proprietor of Scoogi’s since 1990, welcomed the increased visibility.
“I know people will drive by and say, ‘hey, let’s check out that place out one night,’” said Rosato, as he was picking up a few items in the Giant Food Store, housed within the shopping center. “I believe moviegoers might stop for drinks or coffee and desert to discuss the movie and keep the night going. It’s great.”
Dave Kalick, owner of the Gulf Station that is the closest full-service gas station, acknowledged there will be more traffic.
“Do I see them stopping in for gas – probably not unless they are really low,” Kalick said. “Do I see flat tires and dead batteries from some customers? Yeah, we’ll get that. I am a bit concerned about traffic patterns and possibly some outsiders who might not respect our little community. But I guess it’s change, and change, in the long run, is usually good.”
PetValu employee Becky Barrett, who watched the construction from her perch at the cash register, said she also had some concerns.
“I have a mixed reaction,” Barrett said. “I think it’s good for tax revenues and there will bring in a lot of jobs, but I’m also concerned that it might attract some people who may get rowdy if they’ve had too much to drink. But I’ve been to one [Movie Tavern] and I liked it, so I’ll definitely be a customer.”
Dianna Gallen, past president of the Flourtown Business Association and longtime employee of BQ Basement Systems, was pleased to see the new venue.
“It’s great for business and jobs and our tax base,” Gallen said. “Any restaurant will benefit as it shows that Flourtown can stay open past 9 o’clock. We welcome them.”
Springfield Township Manager Don Berger is excited about the opening and believes it will be good for all of the businesses in the shopping center.
“It’s good overall and a welcome addition to the community,” Berger said. “They did get into a bit of trouble with lack of labor, so the delays did not surprise me, but I wish them well.”
One individual who has followed the opening for some time is Oreland resident Roddy K. Davis, who took more than 700 photos pre- and post-construction simply because he has an interest from a historical perspective.
“I’m a member of the Springfield Township Historical Society and I like to follow projects and document them visually,” said Davis, while getting a preview tour. “It’s been interesting to see the process, and I’m glad to see it done.”
Bret Jones, manager of the Hilton Garden Inn in Fort Washington, is both happy to see another destination for his customers and also pleased that the parent company booked 16 rooms there for the past month.
“It’s really helped us,” Jones said. “We are not seeing the numbers with the Pope visit. As a matter of fact, corporations are canceling business travel to the area during the visit because of the security restrictions, so we needed this boost. Plus the employees have been really nice to deal with.”
With this latest addition to the Movie Tavern roster, the full-service theater company has now grown to 21 locations and 171 screens in nine states, with another location under construction in Exton.
For more information, go to www.movietavern.com.