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Kingsport leader says IMAX project is 'stuck'

July 8th, 2014 10:10 pm by Hank Hayes

Kingsport leader says IMAX project is 'stuck'

Artist rendering of the proposed IMAX at the Kingsport Town Center. Times-News file image.

KINGSPORT — City Manager Jeff Fleming said Tuesday that Kingsport's attempt to land an IMAX theater hasn't died, but it hasn't moved forward, either.

At the June meeting of the Kingsport Economic Development Board (KEDB), Fleming announced the IMAX project was "stuck."

The issue was not on KEDB's agenda on Tuesday.

In September 2013, computer-generated images and copies of architectural drawings of the IMAX project convinced KEDB members to keep alive an $800,000 incentive package that would go to Somera Capital Management (SMC) to help Florida-based Frank Theatres bring an IMAX to the Kingsport Town Center, formerly known as the Fort Henry Mall. SMC is the shopping facility's owner.

Frank Theaters has not responded to a request for new information about the project, although the company continues to say on its Web site (www.franktheatres.com) that an IMAX is coming to Kingsport.

Fleming, formerly Kingsport's assistant city manager for development, reported at the January KEDB meeting that agreements for the IMAX were complete.

"We are still waiting to hear from them," Fleming said at the conclusion of Tuesday's KEDB meeting. "That's where it stands at this point. It's not dead. The (incentive) agreement is tied to who has the IMAX franchise, and they have the IMAX franchise. We don't have any financial exposure unless they perform. We're still in a holding pattern waiting for them to act, and if they do act, the money is available. However, if there are other theaters interested in investing in Kingsport, we are more than welcome to talk to them."

In addition to renovating the existing theater site, Frank Theatres' plans called for expanding into the mall parking lot with a 40,000-square-foot, two-story addition.

Frank Theatres said the addition would house a "Cine Bowl & Grille" restaurant, 50-game arcade, 18 lanes of bowling, an auditorium with stadium-like seating to view sports events and the centerpiece of it all: An 85-foot-tall IMAX theater seating up to 400 people.

Staff Writer Matthew Lane contributed to this report.

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