Frank Theatres' renovated Tilton 8 & IMAX in Northfield will see its first customers Thursday. The nearly $2 million investment is the company's latest effort to transform some of its 25 theaters across seven states, the company president said.

Formerly called the Tilton 9, the 48-year-old movie house will reopen with an 85-foot IMAX screen and Series 2 IMAX Digital Projection in a 400-leather seat theater, showing "Iron Man 3" at 9 p.m. and midnight. A full schedule of showings begins Friday in the theater.

Four additional auditoriums are scheduled to open May 17, and the remaining three by June 7, company President Bruce Frank said.

Three of those theaters will be equipped with 3-D.

"The philosophy is of raising the level of entertainment. It's not just about going to a great movie, it's about seeing in a great environment," Frank said.

Frank Theatres, a division of Jupiter, Fla.-based Frank Entertainment, is taking a new approach to some of its cinemas, building some with restaurants, bowling alleys and family entertainment complexes.

Frank Theatres also owns the nearby Towne Stadium 16 in Egg Harbor Township and is developing plans for a potential $3 million project there, Frank said.

The company plans to close part of the Towne in the fall and build a 75-foot, large-format screen called Frank Digital Experience, he said. Electronic recliners would be installed there.

Frank said the company will submit plans to Egg Harbor Township officials to build a Cinebowl & Grill eatery.

Frank said the company already has a liquor license for the Towne.

"The rest of the country is doing a lot of unique things and we want to bring those things back to our home, that's what we like about it best," he said. "The industry has been very stable and it's been on a solid trend of more people going to the movies. The technology has helped."

Box Office Mojo, an online movie publication, reported box offices grossed about $10.8 billion last year, an increase of about 7 percent from 2011.

Frank Theatres purchased the Tilton 9 in January 2011 from Milgram Theatres Inc. The former theater closed in September, and the projected opening date was pushed back several times. Work included new air conditioning and installing fire sprinklers.

Changes to the Northfield theater include digital 3-D projectors, as well as an automated box office that will allow moviegoers to reserve seats online, through a mobile phone app, or at electronic touch-screen kiosks at the theater.

"I think the industry has stepped up their game … and at the Tilton it's going to be all reserved seating. You will go online and pick your seat, like at a baseball game, a flight, going to the opera, or a concert," Frank said. "The idea is to eliminate lines, to improve the experience when you go. You'll know where you're sitting."

Frank said kiosks at the theater will still allow traditional, walk-up purchases with cash, credit card, debit card or gift card.

Frank said the new IMAX theater will charge $17 for adults and $15 for children. There is no additional charge for IMAX in 3-D, he said.

The only other IMAX in the region is located at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, a 280-seat theater where the IMAX ticket prices were $15 last week.

Frank Theatres operates 25 theaters nationally, including regional cinemas in Middle Township and Stone Harbor. The company sold its two Ocean City cinemas - the Moorlyn Theatre and the Strand 5 - last year.

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