Exhibitors of all shapes and sizes heard the digital call of 2008. Whether adding digital IMAX MPX systems, Sony SXRD, DLP Cinemas powered by Christie, Barco or Strong/NEC, or Dolby, Doremi or RealD (among other providers), new projection technologies have surely made an impact on theatre expansion.
“AMC has always been an innovator in the industry and continues to be at the forefront of state-of-the-art technology at our theatres,” AMC Entertainment corporate communications manager Andy DiOrio says of the giant Kansas City, MO circuit’s digital deployment. “All of our new builds, beginning in December 2007, have digital projection, capable of producing images with up to four times the resolution of HDTV,” he details. “Our guests have absolutely loved the picture quality and clarity and it allows AMC to have greater programming flexibility,” as exemplified by 3D and live broadcast capabilities. Adds AMC external communications director Justin Scott, “We also continue to deploy IMAX digital projection systems throughout 100 auditoriums in 33 U.S. markets.”
At the circuit’s six new 2008 locations (see sidebar) and in general, DiOrio says that AMC tries “to brand certain elements of our theatres, but recognizes that each theatre location takes on its own unique design. AMC’s signature design elements include sensational high-mural celebrity graphics, movie quotes inlaid in terrazzo flooring, entertaining director’s series photographs and a modern-day rendition of the red carpet. We put our hearts into each theatre and every location takes in its own unique design.”
DiOrio affirms, “AMC guests find our signature guest service, innovative programs and state-of-the-art amenities continue to set the standard in the industry. All of our guests have really enjoyed our new builds, as well as our re-openings.” (The 2008 Fork & Screen re-dos of six theatres in Buckhead/Atlanta, Georgia and of an entire wing at Studio 30 in Olathe, Kansas were served up in our “Dinner at the Movies” special last month.) “Each theatre brings the best possible out-of-home entertainment experience,” DiOrio promises, “and we’re happy to be a part of the community as a true entertainment destination.”
The 2,150-seat Malco-Roxy 14 in Smyrna, Tennessee offers “all the amenities of a Malco luxury theatre,” says marketing director Karen Scott, but in a joint venture set-up. Recognizing the sign of the overbuilding times, “The Smyrna Cinema partnership with Roxy was a situation where two operators decided to come together and build one theatre, rather than compete over business in a mid-sized market. The Malco-Roxy Smyrna Cinema is unique.” Marking the Memphis-based circuit’s first foray into the region, “We think it’s the finest theatre in all of Middle Tennessee.”
Fifty-two-thousand square feet (4,830 sq. m.) sitting on an abandoned rock quarry (“the entire site is 100% rock”) brought some additional costs and issues to be contended with. The addition of Malco’s signature courtyard-themed lobby, fountain and skylight “after construction had already begun,” Harrison admits, posed another building challenge. However, “with some changes in construction sequencing, even up to within a couple weeks of opening, all elements were incorporated as requested and the theatre opened as scheduled” on Nov. 21.
Harrison may call the Malco-Roxy’s “undetectable metal structure” its “most unique feature,” but he also provides a hint at new opportunities to come. Having DLP Cinema equipment (Barco, Dolby Digital Cinema and 3D) throughout all 14 screens “allows for a narrower projection booth than typical,” Harrison has observed.
Michael Cummings, principal at Kansas City, Missouri’s TK Architects, describes similar experiences at the firm’s 2008 project for R/C Theatres. (Their work for Regal Cinemas was featured in the February edition.) Aside from “karst geological strata requiring special foundation systems and site preparation before construction could begin,” Movies 11 with IMAX in Reading, Philadelphia (featured in-depth in our Nov. 2008 issue) was “planned for one-half to be digital only and the other half to have film projection, with the infrastructure for digital already installed. This did provide some flexibility with the layout of the facility, and a control room was introduced to administer the facility.” In the end, in another sure sign of technology times, “all digital-only projection was installed.”
Back to Malco’s 2008 openings in Arkansas, the 100% digital projection upgrade at the Malco Hollywood Cinema in Jonesboro was completed by Oct. 3. In the press notes, Malco VP of operations James Tashie explained the upgrade: “We realize this was a long time coming, and Jonesboro, being a key market for Malco, has a tremendous amount of loyal moviegoers who deserve all the amenities of a state-of-the-art theatre. The citizens of the greater Jonesboro area should be proud of this new theatre—only a small percentage of theatres in the United States can boast of the services that this theatre will offer.”
Along with the expansion of 12 screens to 15, moviegoers experience “a completely redesigned lobby, updated party rooms, an additional concession stand, extra restrooms and new video arcade [to] fit with the modern look of newer Malco locations in Memphis and Northwest Arkansas.” Malco’s other location on Highland has since been closed, confirms Scott, “as we consolidated operations into the fully renovated Malco Hollywood Cinema.”
In another example of expanding an existing theatre to better serve the region, Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Paradigm Design worked closely with Goodrich Quality Theaters in Bay City. Just in time for Thanksgiving, the Michigan eight-plex (1,140 seats) welcomed its patrons to a newly enlarged lobby that brought the cinema frontage from one- to two-tenants wide. Paradigm marketing director Cassie Ferris feels this “opened up the lobby…flowing into the mall,” while affording additional space for a party/meeting room and “to double the box office stations and provide for six concession stations” with an extra storage room. Equally, the riser heights at Goodrich Hamilton 16 in Noblesville/Indianapolis, Indiana (70,400 sq. ft.; 6,540 sq. m.; new construction opened May 2), provided for “bonus rooms” to be used for toilet facilities, janitor rooms and lots of storage underneath.
Of the 3,151 seats at Hamilton, 457 were installed in the 18-inch (46 cm) risered IMAX auditorium, whose lobby and seating area Bob Goodrich—ever the showman—highlighted with a “star field” on the ceiling. The entrance soars 47 feet high (14 m), creating an “open mezzanine for patrons to overlook the activity below” as “the visible ‘catwalk’ provides a feeling of a performing theatre,” Ferris says.
Film Journal International in June and August 2007, respectively. In mid-July 2008, Aliance Entertainment/Great Escape debuted 2,600 seats, including two digital 3D houses, in the Hamilton Mill Towne Center on the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia. According to Ferris, “The design challenge was creating a unique identity for the theatre while dealing with the tight local zoning jurisdiction for materials and lighting. Deep recesses were carved in the building’s cornices and piers to allow coved and indirect light effects to accent the walls and masonry details” made of red brick and local Stone Mountain granite.
Roughly two weeks later, Marquee brought its all-digital projection auditoria, ranging from 90 to 375 seats for a total capacity of 2,530, to Wheeling, West Virginia. The 53,000-square-foot building (4,920 sq. m.) is indeed “the centerpiece that anchors the entry axis of the pedestrian-friendly development” at lifestyle center “The Highlands.” “While the majority of the exterior façade matches its neighbors with two-tone ground face masonry and large cornices,” Ferris points out that the theatre once again “stands out with a massive 18-foot diagonal LED video screen flanked by 35-foot tall towers with acid-etched glass backlit with more color-changing lights.” While this was in perfect keeping with “the calm context of the retail center by day,” she enthuses, the lighting makes the cinema “explode with activity and excitement after dark.”
As with previous entries in this series, we can only feature a selection and personal choice of what the author believes to be representative of the exciting and exceptional work accomplished around the world. Obviously, the best way to be considered for inclusion into the “Class of 2009” is to keep on sending information about what your company is doing.
Regal Entertainment Group IMAX Update
The circuit added ten IMAX Digital Projection Systems to existing theatres:
“Regal’s IMAX Digital Projection Systems have attracted crowds of moviegoers from the very first day they opened,” says Dick Westerling, senior VP of marketing and advertising at Regal Entertainment Group. “The addition of IMAX Digital increases the loyalty of our existing patrons and it has attracted new moviegoers from an even wider geographic area.”
AMC Entertainment’s New Openings
March 28, 2008: AMC Yonge & Dundas 24, Toronto, Canada
April 4, 2008: AMC Orchard 12, Westminster/Denver, Colorado
May 16, 2008: AMC Plaza Bonita 14 (2,600 seats), National City, San Diego, Calif.
July 18, 2008: AMC Southcenter 16 (2,900 seats), Tukwila/Seattle, Wash.
Oct. 17, 2008: AMC Glendora 12 (2,200 seats), Glendora, Calif.
“The Curious Case of Multiplex Mania”
Among “the more interesting trends in new theatres and in renovations,” he has observed, “is the inclusion of restaurant and bar service. Chains and independents are finding success with offering the dinner-and-a-movie concept in a single location and capturing patron spending that would otherwise go to a restaurant down the street or across the mall. This trend is occurring at every level of expense, from finger food to moderately priced family style to luxury service. Expect to see more of it in the future.”
Official NATO data had 2008 box office up 1.6% to $9,788,889,050. Admissions were down 2.6% to 1,363,355,021. Average ticket price was $7.18.
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