KINGSPORT — Frank Theatres re-affirmed this week the company still plans to reopen the theaters in the Kingsport Town Center this summer, offering a more firm target date of Aug. 1 for when the theaters would open for business.
Frank Theatres of Jupiter, Fla., has been planning to renovate and reopen the theaters in the mall since early February after Marquee Cinemas moved out to build a new, freestanding theater behind the Kmart Super Center off Stone Drive.
Initially, Frank Theatres set a target date of May 17 for the reopening, but that date was pushed back to early June due to the new theater chairs having yet to arrive.
Then in late May, Bruce Frank, president and CEO of Frank Theatres, said the theaters would re-open “sometime over the summer” noting the delay was due to Somera Capital Management, the owners of the mall, taking on a new financial partner in the redevelopment of the property.
“We are pushing very hard to get open for Aug. 1. We’re going to put a full court press on,” Frank said this week. “I don’t think (Aug. 1) is aggressive. I think there’s a lot of work to do, but it’s the nature of the movie business. A lot gets done in a little bit of time, and it always looks like it’ll never get open, then it all comes together.”
Frank Theatres plans to move into the Kingsport Town Center, renovate the existing theater 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, 40-game arcade, 20 lanes of bowling and the centerpiece of it all — an 85-foot-tall IMAX theater that seats up to 400 people.
Renovations to the existing 11-screen theater will consist of new carpet, curtains, seats, screens, projectors and sound system. Frank has said six of the screens would be 3-D.
Depending on location, IMAX tickets at Frank Theatres vary from $15 to $17.
New projectors were delivered weeks ago and are in their respective theaters; the seats have taken five months to arrive, but should be delivered next week, Frank said. Recently, the company wrapped up the geo-technical work for the expansion.
The geo-technical work involves test borings — drilling into the parking lot and testing the soil — to ensure the property is suitable for the foundation of the expansion.
“We found nothing unusual; it’s a good, compact surface, so there won’t be any additional costs or problems in doing it,” Frank said. “It should be a fairly smooth construction, and we hope to get it started early in the fall and have it open for Easter.”
Last month, IMAX announced a 10-theater agreement with Frank Theatres, with IMAX theaters installed in existing and new complexes in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, West Virginia, New Jersey and Tennessee. The remaining four IMAX screens have yet to be determined.
To help sweeten the deal, 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 2012 and has been extended twice since then.
Since Somera purchased the mall in 2007, the company has discussed investing millions of dollars in renovating and upgrading the facility, everything from improving the aesthetics of the building, adding a food court and expanding the footprint of the 37-year-old shopping center.
“Mall renovations have always been a part of our business plan for the property,” said Jake Farver, vice president of Somera. “Unfortunately the financial crisis impacted our ability to get that done immediately, but it’s something we’re absolutely committed to seeing completed.”
Farver said the work would be a comprehensive interior and exterior renovation of the mall property, likely to begin during the first quarter of 2014. The only expansion being contemplated at this time is the Frank Theatres’ project.
Frank said the theater expansion project was not contingent upon Somera’s renovation project, and Farver said Somera was planning to undertake its project regardless of the Frank Theatre expansion.