BAXTER — With “The Avengers” expected to bring in a billion dollars in box office revenues during its run, not being able to show it at the new Lakes 12 movie theater is disappointing for owner Mann Theaters.
On the plus side, Steve Mann, president at Mann Theatres, said the summer season looks strong with big-screen draws piling up one after the other like waves on a beach. And lakes area moviegoers will see those motion pictures in a vastly different setting than before in Baxter.
“People will be surprised,” Benjie Mann, vice president, said on a recent tour of the construction site. “You’ll never know it’s the same theater.”
The former Movies 10 is just a shell now with seats, flooring, screens and projection equipment all gone. Empty rooms in various stages of renovation remain. Outside giant wall panels are going up for the two auditoriums being added on the theater’s west side. Lakes 12 will have a new look inside and out. Three 3D screens, including the two new auditoriums, are being added. The lobby will have a new entrance. Gone will be the often disconcerting exit signs facing people as they arrived for the movies with the entrances on the sides of the lobby. A video arcade is going in to the right of the main entrance on the lobby’s east side. Concessions are replacing the former arcade area with food items expanded and self-serve pop added. The restrooms are being redone and more added by the 3D auditoriums.
When they are done the Manns said the only thing the two theater versions will share is a layout.
Construction crews were busy earlier this week putting together pre-cut hard foam forms for the stadium seating like puzzle pieces. The number sections have all been plotted and shipped ready to install. Steel is placed around the forms and several inches of concrete poured over the top to create the staggered stadium seating.
Stadium seating means fewer seats per the existing auditoriums but that is countered by expanding the theater overall. New seats will be the latest version of comfortable cushion in a chair that feels more like a rocker.
Lakes 12 will reopen in phases with five screens completed at the end of May in time for the start of the summer movie season.
The finished theater will also include a party room for events like birthdays. The room will be available for those who are adding movie tickets to the outing and for those who just want use of the room. The exterior will be repainted with decorative brick added to the front. Inside the auditoriums, the burgundy drapes wallcoverings are mounted and wrapped in plastic and ready to be unfurled once the construction is complete.
The renovation is changing the environment for movie watching and technology is changing how it happens. Movie reels will soon be a thing of the past here as digital projection equipment is installed. The mechanical film projection equipment went to the scrap yard. Never again will a film catch on fire or jump a reel or snap, as movie-going generations of the past may have experienced. Thirty-five millimeter film is giving way to the digital version. The NEC digital projectors are able to produce three million colors. “I never thought I’d see it in my lifetime,” Benjie Mann said.
In its place is a digital image that is designed to produce the same crisp image and color whether its the first day of release or two months later. For 12 screens, the investment in digital technology is abut $850,000, Steve Mann said.
For the small theaters on main streets across the country, he said the digital conversion is expected to shutter 5,000 to 7,500 movie houses a year from now as they go out of business, unable to pay for the upgrade.
Even the 3D glasses come at a cost. When Mann Theatres first added them, the reusable glasses were $27 a pair. And some moviegoers simply took them. Staffers were added just to attempt to keep people from stealing the glasses, which are washed in the high-temperatures of a dishwasher and reused by patrons. The confusion for some moviegoers may have been disposable glasses used once at some theaters. But the Manns said other people still walked off the glasses even when signs were posted that they were using the more expensive reusable versions. Costs have dropped a bit since the early days. Now the 3D glasses are $12 a pair.
The new theater, with new sound and digital projection equipment and landscaping, is expected to be completed in August. Steve Saurer is the new theater manager in Baxter.
Steve Mann said they would rather be open for “The Avengers.”
“It’s not a good time to be closed, but there never will be,” he said. “It looks like a solid summer. A lot of good films.”
RENEE RICHARDSON, senior reporter, may be reached at 855-5852. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz.