Southgate Mall and Carmike Cinemas plan to open a new 900-seat, nine-screen dine-in movie theater with a menu featuring items like pizza, hamburgers and salads by next spring.
Movie-goers will be able to reserve luxury reclining seats ahead of time, and waiters and waitresses will bring their orders to them. There’s a good chance beer and wine will be available, as well.
And a host of other new businesses are expected to spring up nearby due to redevelopment at the mall.
Peter Lambros, a representative for Southgate Mall Associates, said the mall has been trying to put together a deal to bring a movie theater to the property for about 20 years.
“Southgate recognizes, and Carmike recognizes, that a movie outing is becoming more and more of an experience,” he said. “There are so many people with big-screen TVs and you can obviously download a lot of things these days. So why would people come to a movie theater? But the Carmike has done well with their larger screens, the Big D and the IMAX. The dine-in option is not only convenience, but it’s an experience, too.”
Lambros said the larger, more comfortable seats and the ability to reserve ahead of time are things customers clamor for, and dine-in theaters are popular in other cities.
“People can watch basketball on TV, but people still go out to an arena to watch games,” he said. “This is all geared toward making it special. People want to take their family out to dinner and go see a movie, but they might think it’s too much fuss to drive (to) two different places. Now, it’s going to be really convenient. You’ll have your choices of amenities. If you want to have a beer while you watch a movie, you can.”
Lambros said the architecture as people walk into the theater will be awe-inspiring.
“We’re really trying to pay a respect to people’s time and choices, and we want to raise the bar on choice,” he said.
The theater will be approximately 45,000 square feet and will be built between the Mustard Seed restaurant and the space that used to be Sears, which will be redeveloped to include more shops.
Lambros said construction is expected to begin in June, and it will take about a year to complete.
The mall is in the midst of launching a $64 million renovation and expansion, and plans include the addition of a specialty grocery store, a parking structure, housing developments and more retail stores that face outward.
“There will be a new round of outdoor shops and restaurants that will also be visible from the street, and we are trying to attract tenants that, in particular, have uses that really require street presence and street exposure as opposed to those that are sort of content to be inside,” Lambros said. “In addition to adding specialty grocery and entertainment, those will redefine the forward progression of the shopping center. As opposed to just being mainly clothes and retail, there will be tenants that want to be in that environment. There could (even) be services.”
The mall recently acquired land near Brooks Street allowing for the redevelopment, Lambros said, and it is working with the city to turn Mary Avenue into a connector that will allow traffic to travel from Brooks to Reserve Street through the mall property.
“We picture (the mall property) functioning more like a downtown street, with a variety of uses and textures next to one another,” Lambros said. “There will be patios and areas that are easy to walk and gather. It will look like a typical urban street by appearance.”
Jim Zehr, the director of real estate and construction for Carmike, said theaters where people can enjoy a meal while they watch a movie are increasing in popularity around the country.
He said tables next to the luxury recliners can be moved out of the way so movie-goers can lay their seats all the way back if they want. The rows will also be on elevated platforms, so waiters and waitresses won't impede their view.
Carmike will operate the kitchen, employing about approximately 75 people, Zehr said. The menu will include burgers and sliders, sandwiches and wraps, nachos, tacos, quesadillas, flatbread pizzas, chicken wings, fish, shrimp, salads and desserts. The company is looking to obtain a beer and wine license, as well.
Zehr said the popularity of dine-in theaters has risen as people try to save time in their busy lives.
“People are looking for a way to save time, and this way they can enjoy the movie and eat at the same time and really be relaxed,” he said. “Especially in an environment that is normally a little quieter than a restaurant.”
Rival theater chain AMC Entertainment has entered into an agreement to buy Carmike Cinemas, and the deal is expected to close by the end of this year, pending regulatory approval. Zehr said that the potential sale doesn’t affect Carmike’s plans to build the new dine-in theater at the mall, and it would be a part of the sale if it goes through.
Carmike also owns the Carmike 12 off Mullan Road and North Reserve Street.