KINGSPORT — It’s been more than two months since Marquee Cinemas closed shop and moved out of the Kingsport Town Center. Since then, people have been asking when the theater in the mall would be re-opening.
According to the president of Frank Theatres — the company going into the mall location — May 17 is the target date for the reopening.
“We’re starting this coming week,” said Bruce Frank, president and CEO of the company.
For you summer movie fans, the theater opens two weeks after “Iron Man 3” debuts May 3, but almost a month before “Man of Steel” hits the big screen on June 14.
Last year, Marquee Cinemas announced it would be closing its location in the mall and moving to a new, free-standing theater behind the K mart Supercenter off Stone Drive. Marquee closed its mall location on Feb. 1 and over a two-week period removed virtually everything within.
While Marquee has been working to transition out of the mall, Frank Theatres has been planning to move in, renovate the existing site and expand into the parking lot with a 40,000 square foot, two-story addition. The addition would house a Red Brick Grille restaurant, arcade, 20 lanes of bowling and an 85-foot tall IMAX theater that will seat up to 400 people.
“It’s a giant IMAX and it’s awesome,” Frank said, pointing out the seating would be high back, leather rockers. “This will be a very cool entertainment center.”
Another notable feature in the expansion will be “The Stadium” portion of the Red Brick Grille, where patrons will sit before a 180-degree panoramic wall of 32 television screens, typically featuring different sporting events.
The existing 12-screen theater site will be renovated over the next five weeks with carpet, curtains, seats, screens, projectors and sound system. Frank said six of the 12 screens will be 3-D ones.
“The chairs are on order and will be shipping late April, but the projectors are on site,” Frank said. “All new, Sony 4K digital projectors; the brightest illumination of projectors available. It’ll be like going from your old RCA television to an HDTV. It’s pretty special and a big upgrade.”
And unlike other theaters, there will not be a separate ticket booth in the lobby of the mall.
“We have single source transactions. We don’t do a box office, “Frank said. “You can literally get your tickets online, from a free-standing kiosk or right at the concession stand.”
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.
Over the past two months, Frank said the company has been working on the architectural portion of the expansion and ordering equipment for the renovation. The expansion does not affect the old Garfield’s location or the Belk location above the theater.
“It takes time. The seats are a 90 to 120 day lead item, and there was no way we could order them prior to (Marquee moving out),” Frank said. “We’ll start construction (on the expansion) over the summer and we’re shooting to have it ready for Christmas of this year.”
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 said the company is currently in the process of building 25 other Frank Theatres Cinebowl and Grilles along the East Coast, including ones in New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina and Florida.