Marquee closing mall theater for free-standing complex, IMAX in the works at Town Center

Matthew Lane • Feb 1, 2013 at 8:57 AM

Effective Monday, Marquee Cinemas in the Kingsport Town Center will be closed.

In an advertisement running in the Times-News over the next four days, Marquee Cinemas thanks its customers for support and patronage during its 10-year run at the Kingsport Town Center.

“We look forward to serving you at our new & improved location at Indian Trail — coming Christmas 2013,” the advertisement states.

Marquee’s closing leaves Kingsport without a theater in the heart of town. The Tri-Cities 7 is located off of Interstate 81 in the old Carolina Pottery shopping center, 354 Shadowtown Road.

About a year ago, Marquee Cinemas announced plans to leave the Kingsport Town Center and build a new, free-standing 12-screen theater behind the Kmart Supercenter, on the old YMCA property. The current plans show a 43,000-square-foot complex with 12 theaters, party room, arcade, concession and box office area and a centralized entrance.

Last June, Marquee and Somera Capital Management (the owners of the KTC) agreed to a deal where Marquee would be able to stay in its current location, up to a year, on a month-by-month basis while its new facility is being built.

As to why Marquee is moving out now, and whether it was prompted by the theater or the mall’s owner, officials at Marquee and Somera could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Regarding Marquee’s new location, some preliminary site work has taken place, such as tree removal and silt fencing installation. Construction is expected to begin within the next two months.

Marquee Cinemas gift cards purchased from the KTC location can be used at the new theater when it opens or any other Marquee location. For those wishing to obtain a refund, visit www.marqueecinemas.com beginning Feb. 4 or call (304) 255-4036, according to the advertisement.

As Marquee transitions out of the mall, Somera and the city of Kingsport have been working to recruit Frank Theatres to the KTC. Frank Theatres of Jupiter, Fla., (whose parent company was founded in 1906) owns and operates 25 theaters and 256 screens in seven eastern and southern states.

Frank Theatres has said it plans to expand the mall footprint by 40,000 square feet, have 12 screens (five of which would be 3-D) and bring an IMAX theater to the Kingsport location, along with a full-service restaurant and lounge, two bars, a soft play area for children, bumper cars, laser tag and laser maze arenas and two dozen lanes of bowling.

The Kingsport Economic Development Board has approved an $800,000 incentive package to Frank Theatres if it brings an IMAX to the Model City. The package was originally approved in June and then extended for another six months in September.

Rob Reynolds, Frank’s chief financial officer, said once Marquee removes all of its equipment and seats from the existing theater, Frank plans to come in and do its makeover of the 12-screen facility.

“We’re still coming,” Reynolds said. “We’re bringing a new projection system, sound system and seats and we hope to re-open as quick as we can so folks aren’t without a theater too long.”

Reynolds could not give a time frame on when Frank’s would re-open, saying the work depends on the condition of the existing theater.“No matter what though, we’ll be down for a few weeks,” he said.

And as for the IMAX theater and major expansion project, Reynolds said the company is waiting on information from their civil engineer and did not have a time frame on when that work would begin. Kingsport’s building and planning departments confirmed to the Times-News that no building or site plans have been submitted to the city regarding the expansion.

“We don’t want to delay it. We want to get started and we’re anxious to get started,” Reynolds said. “And we’re very excited about coming to Kingsport. When (the opportunity) was first offered to us, we were pleased to have the opportunity.”

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