Expand and enhance: FJI's sixth annual survey of new cinema construction, part 2


Having commenced our Class of 2009 review of new theatre openings with full-scale food operations at the movies, our second report continues with a cinema that did away with meals in order to offer more screening opportunities instead. Officially opened on Dec. 5, the two new theatres at the IFC Center in Manhattan (www.ifccenter.com) replace a restaurant and bring another 60 and 35 seats, respectively, to the original triplex conversion of the historic Waverly Theater (FJI June 2005).

“They are both small,” architect and designer Larry Bogdanow admits (www.bogdanow.com). However, “because of the type of independent film programming that IFC does, the need for more screens was considered essential,” he attests. Alongside two booths of the original three, the larger new theatre is equipped with both 35mm and 2K DLP projection, while the smallest has 2K capabilities only. “On the nights of special events, the regularly programmed films can now just be shifted to one of the smaller screening rooms. Special and unusual programming is also more possible.”

The existing theatres each have a distinctive design, Bogdanow elaborates. “So the new ones also had to be unique.” The smallest, number 5, is known as the Red Room, “with red carpet, red seats, red fabric acoustical panels, and red exposed brick. Even the LED step lights are red. Almost all other exposed surfaces are black, however.”

Auditorium 4 features “upholstery in purple and two shades of blue. Carpet and various painted surfaces are also purple.” Another stylish choice is the way the Greystone seats were covered. “Ten of the red seats have backrests made from a red and black abstract-lettered Maharam fabric. Since this is over three times as expensive as the red upholstery, we limited the use.”

IFC 5 runs along ever-busy Sixth Avenue, which added to the challenges of converting a pre-existing space. “We installed a solid concrete block wall with a furred-out and insulated triple layer of interior sheetrock. Because of the street frontage, bordering where people line up for tickets, a small pair of binoculars was built into the concrete wall to allow people to ‘peek’ into the theatre… Ceiling heights determined the rake of seating as well as the size and location of the screens. Acoustical separations were also critical. Auditorium 4 adjoins two of the earlier theatres and needed improved acoustical separation.”

Moving to the Midwest, Malco Theatres (www.malco.com) always anticipated “that a future addition was a possibility” for their Razorback 12 in Fayetteville, Arkansas,” so TK Architects (www.tkarch.com) planned for that likelihood from the start. “In less than two years,” says TK principal Jack Muffoletto, this location “earned itself a four-screen addition” during the summer of 2009. It “plugged in nicely with little disruption to the site or current operations,” he assures. “Interior and exterior finishes were extended and transitioned in such a way to leave barely an indication that the building had been added on to.”

More extensive changes were required for the urban village setting of Regal Thornton Place 14 in Seattle. Per Muffoletto, “This site is one of the last open locations in Seattle and only became available for development through a cooperative agreement with the city. The site originally had a large storm-drainage creek that was piped underground to ease flooding concerns. The developer deeded back part of the property to the city and they are now restoring the natural creek along with flood-control storm-drainage piping.”

Thornton Place is a “mixed-use project that includes residential, parking and ride share, retail and entertainment venues.” Similarly, a pair of 16-screen Epic Theatres (www.epictheatres.com) are at the heart of two 2009 Florida developments. Opened during the summer and “located in what is tabbed as the nation’s oldest city” of St. Augustine, “the Epic Village cinema required an appeal to complement an Olde World theme,” Muffoletto notes. Some “9,000 square feet [836 sq. m.] of attached retail shell space was integrated in front of the theatre and blended into the façade design to set the standard for the rest of the development.” Down in Clermont Landing, the second Epic 16 anchors 360,000 square feet (33,445 sq. m.) of open-air retail and, once again, additional shell space “helps to create a landscaped, pedestrian-scaled entry plaza for theatre ticketing… The project design was based on a prototype that was adjusted to have its exterior match up with existing Clermont Landing retail structures. The prototype interiors were also modified to be cohesive with the overall look. The result is an ultra-modern digital cinema.”

Although TK Architects oversaw its share of new construction, Muffoletto says the real story of 2009 was the investment in existing theatres. “New construction funding was difficult to come by in 2009,” he attests. “Accordingly, many of the larger exhibitors took the opportunity to reinvest in their existing facilities. The primary manifestation for us was renovating auditoriums to capitalize on the additional revenue possibilities of digital and large format.”

Cases in point were no less than 13 conversions to IMAX MPX for Regal Cinemas that “required adjustments to existing seating to provide sightlines to the larger screens and of course new projection, sound and screens.” TK Architects also guided Cinemark through the establishment of its own large-format brand in nine locations including Albuquerque, New Mexico; Woodland, Texas; Anchorage, Alaska; and Union City, Calif. “The Cinemark XD program is a new branded presentation,” he details, “that includes a new, larger, digitally projected silver screen and is combined with new, more comfortable seating and a new entrance to the renovated auditorium.”

Meanwhile, the six screens of a shuttered cinema building in Niles, Illinois, received a total stadium-seating-and-more overhaul by Paradigm Design (www.paradigmae.com) to become “the flagship of the new Adlabs USA circuit” (www.bigcinemas.com). The Golf Glen 5 reopened on May 30 with one of the former auditoriums now serving as the Ebony Lounge with a full bar and full-service kitchen. “A separate exterior entry allows the restaurant and lounge to function as a separate destination as well as drawing synergy from the movie crowds,” project manager Todd Ockaskis explains. “The commitment to technology by the exhibitor, subsidiary of Adlabs Ltd. of Mumbai, is evident in the modern, urban lobby décor which features numerous video displays and video poster cases.” The re-built façade of the 29,200 sq ft. (2,700 sq. m.) building uses “metal panels, neon and other materials to announce the theatre’s rebirth. The design is in keeping with the exhibitor’s focus on international films delivered with cutting-edge technology” that includes fiber-optic uploads all the way from India.

Another impressive Illinois project has been the expansion of a 1972, 500-seat Jerry Lewis Cinema into a suburban theatre complex with ten screens and 1,655 seats. Over the past 24 years, Classic Cinemas has updated, renovated and expanded the Elk Grove Theatre in Elk Grove Village with the latest and the best. In August 2009, construction began on the newest four-fold stadium addition in partnership with Paradigm, designers of the Lake Theatre makeover featured in the June 2009 FJI. Completed on Nov. 25, the Elk Grove additions boast new “Carrara” leather-like seats in all auditoriums.

Classic Cinemas founder and president Willis Johnson declares that this type of project “is what we do best: downtowns as more land becomes available and where we are in walking distance of a lot of the population. I couldn't believe it, but the village manager called before the project was finished and asked when we might consider adding more screens.”

In our next installment, Russ Nunley, VP of marketing and communications at Regal Entertainment Group, details the 2009 theatre openings at the nation’s largest circuit.
As with all entries in this series, we can only feature a selection of what the author believes to be representative of exciting and exceptional work accomplished around the world. The best way to be considered for inclusion is to send in information about what your company is doing.