KINGSPORT — The opening date of the theaters in the Kingsport Town Center has changed again, this time from early June to “sometime over the summer.” However, the president of the company re-opening the theaters said this week renovations would begin soon and the company is committed to being in the mall for decades to come.
Frank Theatres of Jupiter, Fla., has been planning to renovate and re-open 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 re-opening but earlier this month said the date had been pushed back to early June since the new chairs going into the theaters had yet to arrive.
Earlier this week, Bruce Frank, president and CEO of Frank Theatres, said the theaters would open “sometime over the summer.”
“We will open in phases. We’ll renovate the theaters, get those open right away and then start construction on the new project,” Frank said.
Frank Theatres has announced plans to move in, 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 12-screen theater will take place over a five-week period and consist of new carpet, curtains, seats, screens, projectors and sound system. Frank has said six of the 12 screens would be 3-D.
Frank said the reason for this most recent delay has been due to Somera Capital Management (the owners of the Kingsport Town Center) taking on a new financial partner in the redevelopment of the mall.
“(Somera) called us and asked us to wait. I hate to be closed, but we want to do what’s best for the project,” Frank said. “It’s a very well-known, high profile company in the shopping center industry and there is a substantial commitment of dollars, not just to the (theater), but to the overall shopping center itself, including new stores, a facelift and new interior.”
A major renovation and expansion at the Kingsport Town Center has been discussed several times in the past, by both the current owners and previous ones, but plans have never manifested.
“We’re taking the appropriate steps to capitalize both the redevelopment of the overall project and the completion of the Frank entertainment program at the mall,” said Jake Farver, vice-president of Somera. “Our business is to capitalize our ventures with equity and debt and we’re capitalizing this venture...in the same manner we capitalize all of our transactions.”
Farver said Somera is not selling the Kingsport Town Center, nor is the company involved in a buy-out or a take-over. Details of the financing will be released at a later date once finalized, Farver said.
Frank said the company is excited about the project and is committed to being in the Kingsport Town Center for years to come.
“We’re standing in the starting blocks. The seats are sitting on the loading dock...and as soon as (Somera) says go, we can turn over a handful of auditoriums in a manner of days and get some films back on the screens,” Frank said. “We’re not there for one year, we’re there for the next 50 years and the project we’re building is a category killer.”
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.
Marquee Cinemas has submitted a formal request to the KEDB, asking that it be considered for the incentive to develop an IMAX at its location if the Frank Theatres’ project falls through.
Frank said IMAX is signed, executed and committed to Frank Theatres.
“We have a long, contractual relationship with IMAX to do 15 theaters. Marquee is not getting IMAX, they can’t get IMAX. It’s not going there; it’s coming to us,” Frank said. “If (Marquee is) foolishly chose to compete against the complex we’re building, it is at their own peril.”
Frank Theatres owns and operates 25 theaters and 256 screens in seven eastern and southern states.