The owners of the Tilton 9 in Northfield plan to reopen the movie theater on March 1, with upgrades that include more than $1 million for an 85-foot IMAX screen and Series 2 IMAX projectors.
The 48-year-old movie house closed in September to install oversized stadium seats, digital sound systems, 3-D projectors and other additions and renovations, Frank Theatres President Bruce Frank said.
The work was planned since the company, headquartered in Jupiter, Fla., bought the Tilton 9 in January 2011 from Milgram Theatres Inc.
Since then, the construction plans were delayed twice. Renovations scheduled to be completed by Nov-mber were carried over into 2013.
“We want to do it right. It’s cool for the area to have that type of theater as we make the changes,” said Frank, whose company also owns the nearby Towne Stadium 16 in Egg Harbor Township. “I think the cinematic experience between the Towne and the Tilton will really set the market.”
Frank Theatres, a division of Frank Entertainment, operates local cinemas in Middle Township and Stone Harbor.
The company wants to open the entire Northfield cinema in about two months, showing “Jack the Giant Slayer” in IMAX 3-D, Frank said.
The IMAX screen cost more than $125,000, compared with about $8,000 for a regular movie screen, he said. The IMAX screen is curved and slightly tilted toward the audience.
The IMAX movies will be in a 450-seat auditorium that had been two auditoriums and will have snack tables and custom-built chairs, Frank said.
IMAX Corp., based in Ontario, Canada, said 689 IMAX theaters will operate by the end of September.
The only other IMAX in the region is at Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City, a 280-seat theater that was charging $15 on Friday for showing “The Hobbit.”
Watching an IMAX movie in 3-D can cost $5 or more than watching a traditional one.
Movies in 3-D also carry an upcharge. Frank Theatres’ location in Rio Grande, Middle Township, was charging an extra $3.50 for a 3-D movie.
“Everything’s an issue with where people spend their dollars,” Frank said. “We have to make sure we give you something so when you walk out, you value the experience — seeing IMAX and sitting in a seat twice the size of any other theater, including our own. People should say, ‘This is the way I should be seeing movies when I spend my hard-earned money.’”
Frank Theatres, which owns more than two dozen theaters in seven states, has been turning many of its cinemas into entertainment and dining complexes.
The company has similar plans for the Towne 16 in Egg Harbor Township, where it hopes to add a restaurant, a cafe and a family entertainment center, Frank said.
The cinema there also owns a liquor license and plans to start serving drinks sometime in the first quarter this year, something the company has done in several other locations, he said.
“For the most part, people have a glass of wine or a crafted beer. We’re doing as many as 20 in some locations,” he said.
As the company turns more of its cinemas into major complexes with IMAX, eateries and other amenities, it has also closed most of its South Jersey oceanfront theaters in the past few years, saying those seasonal movie houses were no longer profitable.
Last year, the company sold its two Ocean City theaters: the four-screen Moorlyn Theatre sold for $1.5 million to the Ocean City Tabernacle nonprofit; the Strand 5 was among six Boardwalk properties sold to the investment group OC Bwalk Holdings LLC for $7.7 million.
As a whole, the movie industry set a domestic box office record in 2012, aided by blockbusters such as “The Avengers,” “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Hunger Games,” according to Box Office Mojo, an online movie publication owned by IMDB.com.
Box offices grossed about $10.8 billion in 2012, an almost 7 percent increase from the year before, although the average ticket price stayed about the same, the publication said. The prior record was about $10.6 billion in 2009.
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