A mall patron looks at the signs outside the Frank Theatres movie theater at the Kingsport Town Center on Wednesday. (Photo by David Grace)
KINGSPORT — It’s showtime!
Frank Theatres is on track to re-open the movie theater in the Kingsport Town Center on Friday, a company official said Wednesday. The first show will be the new Disney animated movie “Planes” with a start time of 11 a.m.
Frank Theatres of Jupiter, Fla., has been working hard over the past three weeks to renovate the old theater space in the mall and to get movies back on the big screen as soon as possible. The company has been planning to transition into the mall since Marquee Cinemas moved out in February. Marquee Cinemas plans to build a new, freestanding theater behind the Kmart Super Center off Stone Drive.
While there has been little movement on the renovation these past six months, Frank Theatres’ work began in earnest three weeks ago with “Coming Soon” signs hung on the side of the building and over the old theater sign along Fort Henry Drive.
Crews have worked 10- to 16-hour days since then, installing new high-back seats, curtains, screens, digital projectors and a concession stand.
According to a Frank Theatres representative overseeing the renovation, only minor work and cleanup remains to be done, including some painting, laying carpet in the office and installing the masking around the screens. On Wednesday, workers were continuing to tune the projectors for each of the 10 auditoriums, a task that usually takes about six hours to perform.
Employees fired up the popcorn machines earlier this week and handed out fresh popcorn to mall patrons.
Frank Theatres had originally planned to re-open three screens last week with the remaining seven coming on line this week, but the digital projectors had the wrong lenses and new ones had to be manufactured and sent to Kingsport. The company official said Wednesday said that those lenses had arrived and been installed.
More permanent signs for the front of the theater and for the road hopefully will be installed prior to opening but, if not, the sign package will come in within the next couple of weeks, the company official said.
On Friday, 10 auditoriums will be open for the public. Showing will be “The Wolverine,” “Smurfs 2,” “2 Guns,” “Planes,” “Elysium,” “We’re the Millers,” “Percy Jackson 2,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Grown Ups 2” and “The Conjuring.”
Four of the auditoriums will be 3-D — originally the number was six. The 11th auditorium currently in the building will not re-open; the company plans to re-purpose that space into a kitchen area during the expansion project coming later this year.
Moviegoers will be able to purchase tickets from freestanding, ATM-style devices outside the theater or — if you only have cash — at the concession booth itself. Patrons can purchase tickets online at Franktheatres.com or at Movietickets.com, but not at Fandango.com (though the site will list the movie times for the new theater).
In addition to renovating the existing theater site, Frank Theatres plans to expand into the parking lot with a 40,000-square-foot, two-story addition. The addition would house a Red Brick Grille restaurant, 50-game arcade, 18 lanes of bowling and the centerpiece of it all: an 85-foot-tall IMAX theater that seats up to 400 people.
Bruce Frank, president and CEO of Frank Entertainment, said in an email to the Times-News that the company plans to begin the expansion within the next 60 to 90 days. Completion is estimated for the third quarter of 2014.
“So for now, sit back and enjoy the show knowing the best is yet to come,” Frank said. “Kingsport will have the only true ‘state-of-the-art’ theater and entertainment complex of the future.”