KINGSPORT — Kingsport moviegoers may have to wait until mid-April before the theater in the Kingsport Town Center is up and running again.
Jeff Fleming, Kingsport’s assistant city manager for development, told the Kingsport Economic Development Board Tuesday that mall owner Somera Capital Management terminated Marquee Cinemas’ lease, which prompted the theater to close on Monday.
Fleming said Marquee has until mid-February to remove its equipment from the mall. Then Somera would have about 30 days to prepare the space for the new theater tenant — Frank Entertainment. At that point, Frank would have about 30 days to reopen the theater, Fleming said.
“So it will be about mid-April when they reopen — and that’s worst-case scenario,” he said. “It could be a lot sooner.”
Frank Entertainment has announced plans to establish an entertainment complex at the mall complete with 12 theater screens including five 3-D screens, a full-service restaurant and lounge, two bars, a soft play area for children, bumper cars, laser tag and laser maze arenas in a two-story environment, plus 24 lanes of regulation bowling. Frank Entertainment also wants to bring an IMAX theater to the mall.
The KEDB has approved an $800,000 incentive package to help entice Frank to bring the IMAX. As part of the incentive package, the KEDB must see significant work on the project by March 31. Fleming said Somera moved forward with pushing Marquee out of the mall to comply with that March 31 deadline.
Fleming noted that construction crews are conducting soil borings and drilling this week to prepare for the theater addition, which will take up part of the parking lot in front of the mall entrance next to the existing theater.
On the other side of town, Marquee has begun preliminary work to construct a new free-standing 12-screen theater behind Kmart. Construction is expected to begin within the next two months on that project.
The city has been criticized for offering an incentive package to the mall project and not to Marquee.
Fleming said Tuesday that the city’s incentive is for the IMAX portion of the mall project, and nothing else.
“The only thing that’s being incented is the IMAX, and the only company that has the IMAX franchise for Kingsport is the one that we’re dealing with. So it’s not a matter of picking one project over another, it’s a matter of who has the (IMAX) license,” Fleming said.
Frank holds the license for an IMAX in the Kingsport area, and unless that license is sold or transferred, only Frank Entertainment can bring the IMAX.
Mayor Dennis Phillips said construction of an IMAX theater would be a big boost for Kingsport and draw moviegoers from across the region.
“I don’t think anyone can over-emphasize the impact it could have on Kingsport to have an IMAX theater,” Phillips said.