By Steve Lackmeyer
Orignally published February 3, 2019 by newsok.com
Wes Anderson-infused Banquet Cinema now open.
Infused with the spirit of iconic filmmaker Wes Anderson, Banquet Cinema is set to introduce Oklahoma City to a new way approach to viewing movies that combines a pub with two theaters showing new and classic movies, televised sports and other community favorites.
The two-screen cinema and pub opens Feb. 13 in a former Pontiac and Chrysler showroom and garage at 800 NW 4 and continues the westward expansion of downtown.
Unlike most movie theaters, Banquet Cinema's lobby is surrounded by showroom windows providing ample view of outside traffic. The signage, the art and design choices purposely reflect the whimsical décor and bright colors of Anderson's films.
The lights in the pub and lobby reflect that style, as does the wall covered with posters created by artist Dusty Gilpin of Bill Murray's Oceanographer Steve Zissou in “The Life Aquatic.”
“Gardner Architects asked us what we wanted to see in our space,” Wheat said. “And it was really Wes Anderson heavy. We love his design. We went with his color palate from one of his movies, and we went with that look in the restrooms, and we just had fun with it all.”
That fun will continue in the kitchen, where chef Jeff Patton is testing out recipes.
“Kitchens usually get left behind,” Wheat said. “But that is really the cultural backbone of the whole space and we want that to be fun too.”
The pub and bar are set up to operate separately from the cinemas, each of which seat 70 and include counter tables and armrest cup holders to accommodate guests bringing in pizzas, chicken wings and other menu picks along with drinks from the bar.
Wheat said the menu is designed to keep prices at or below $9 while the bar will feature a variety of wines, nitro coffee, national and craft beers and cocktails.
Patton, who took over at Banquet Cinema after a stint at the nearby 21c Museum Hotel, was this past week perfecting pizzas and a weekend brunch specialty he calls “Motor City Breakfast,” a pizza consisting of fennel sausage, mozzarella, maple syrup and topped with a fried egg.
“It's all low brow food, very much based on the idea of a traditional bar menu,” Patton said. “But my approach is a lot more elevated. We're not buying frozen products, we're not just throwing everything into a fryer. It's executed at the highest level we can. We have chicken wings, but we're making our own hot sauce and fermenting it in house. We make our own sweet pickles. We make our own version of ranch dressing, it's not from a packet or Hidden Valley.”
While the pub and lobby are located in the terrazzo-floored former car showroom, the cinemas were built out of the rear garage bays. A second, smaller snack bar is located between the two auditoriums where the first screenings will be Rebel Wilson's new movie “Isn't it Romantic” and the Woody Allen classic “Annie Hall.”
The classics cinema, he said, will also be used to show the upcoming Oscars and other potential favorites for what he calls “social viewing.”
The renovation of the former dealership was overseen by T. Scott Construction while Vox Audio Visual tackled the task of ensuring the former garage bays with their steel barrel roofs could provide movie goers with the quality of sound demanded by modern audiences.
“We really don't have a lot of local independent cinemas and a lot of this work is done by nationals,” Wheat said. “Vox Audio Visual really stepped up their game and learned how to make all of this work.”
Wheat and his partner Lacey Pritchard have a loyal following with their Bleu Garten, the outdoor food court and bar opened five years ago at NW 10 and Harvey. But long before that, the pair were originally seeking a spot to create a combined theater, bar and restaurant after visiting similar venues in Oregon.
That mission accomplished, Wheat has promised Pritchard to take a two-year break before looking to launch another new venture. They are eager to see how the community takes to their second introduction of a concept not previously seen by locals.
With nine televisions and projector screen located in the restaurant and bar, Wheat is offering visitors a choice of viewing and socializing.
“Whenever we have a big OU, OSU or Thunder game, we will be playing it here,” Wheat said. “Really anything you might want to see socially, we will be playing here.”
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