Theater chain to operate new theater on Ft. Bliss military base

posted by CSWalczak on September 14, 2010 at 4:47 am

EL PASO, TX — Southern Theatres LLC will be opening one of their Grand Theatre multiplexes in November near here, but you probably won’t see it listed on their website and, unless you have the right credentials, you probably won’t be able to see a film there. The new theater is planned to open in November on the Fort Bliss military base as part of the Freedom Crossing shopping center, a private/public development that is a definite departure from the traditional post exchange centers, as it will be a modern outdoor shopping plaza with many well-known national brand stores and restaurants, operating in cooperation with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), the traditional operator of PXs. According to a recent press release:

“The Grand Theatre at Freedom Crossing will include 10 screens, 35,453 square feet, and over 1,700 seats with plans for future expansion. Featuring high back stadium seating, the latest in digital projection including 3D capabilities, wall-to-wall screens, and expanded concessions, the theatre will offer an unrivaled movie going experience.

The Grand Theatre at Freedom Crossing will create a one-of-a-kind movie experience on a military installation,“ said George Solomon, Chief Executive Officer, Southern Theatres, LLC, operator of The Grand Theatre. "We are bringing the latest movie theatre technology and entertainment into the rapidly growing Fort Bliss community, and directly to the soldiers, retirees and family members, who deserve the best.”

The full press release can be downloaded from the Freedom Crossing website and there is a picture of the theater under constructionhere.

Comments (10)

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on September 14, 2010 at 7:27 am

Thanks Chris.

It should be pointed out that this is all being paid for out of the profits from the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (the Soldiers and Airmen answer to Wal-Mart) and private money, NOT from Taxpayer$ Funds.

Chief Jensen

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on September 14, 2010 at 8:15 am

Is that the organization that runs all the PX outlets?

JohnRice
JohnRice on September 14, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I have fond memories of Fort Bliss and El Paso based on when I was a young GI stationed there in 1961-1962, almost a half century ago! In those days we had two very nice theatres on base where we could see recent movies for 25 cents, four single feature program changes a week. About 6 months into my tour of duty there the bone headed post commander decried that we soldiers had to wear our uniforms or a coat and die to go to the movies. You can imagine how that goofy policy went over! The great majority of us boycotted the post theatres and got our movie fixes in downtown El Paso at the Plaza, Capri, State or Pershing first run houses or the Palace and Crawford flea pit grind houses. We did lots of business at the dozen or so El Paso drive ins too, one in particular (North Loop?) where a whole carload could get in for 99 cents! Those were the days…sort of!

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on September 14, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Life’s too short, Yes the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) is the PX/BX/Exchange, but it is also a lot more depending on the size of the military instalation. Vendors would be a little different on Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard Bases and the New Freedom Center at Fort Bliss will really have some new vendors.

Things have changed a lot from what a PX used to be. To give you an idea of what the AFFES might have on a base here is what they have spread around Fort Bragg and adjacent Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, it’s one of the largest exchanges in the world. Remember they are serving a population of 29,000 just on Fort Bragg, not counting Pope AFB , PLUS Families or Retired who can use the facilities.

2 Theater (I’m about to add the York and then the Pope AFB)
4 Exchange
6 Shoppettes
Funiture Store
Sports Store
8 Barber Shop
3 Beauty Shop
4 Laundry and Dry Cleaning
Alterations
Washeteria
Shoe Repair
Specialty Watch Repair
4 Florist
Video Rental/Music
6 Class 6 (Liquor Store)
3 GNC
UPS Store
Sprint Cellular
4 Gas/Service Station
Firestone Tire & Service Center
Car Wash
Enterprise Car Rental
Mega World Travel/Leisure Travel
2 Amusement Arcade
4 Food Court
3 Burger King
2 KFC
Taco Bell
Baskin Robbins
Hardees
Cinnabon
Popeye’s
Churches Chicken
Blimpies Subs
Seattle’s Best Coffee
Godfather’s Pizza
Captain D’s
4 Anthony’s Pizza
3 Robin Hood Subs
4 Charleys Steakery
2 Xtreem Franks Franks
Greek Odyssey
3 Coffee Scene
3 Roving Concessions
Mobile Snack Truck
Barracks Phone Center
AND MUCH MORE!

Remember the profits from all this go to the Morale, Welfare and Recreation of the Airmen and Soldiers.

Chief Jensen

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on September 14, 2010 at 5:44 pm

Chief, would I not be correct though, in assuming that up until, oh, say the last two decades, most military base theaters were rather plain affairs used at cinemas in the evenings and weekends and as training rooms or auditoria for military ceremonies during the day? Some of them, I know were architecturally pleasing (the one at the former Presidio in San Francisco, for example). But weren’t many of them quonset huts or simple cement block buildings? Things seem to be really changing.

When I was researching this, it appears that up until this Freedom Crossing development (which appears now to be a prototype for some other new military base centers), AAFES calls many of the theaters which it operates by itself Reel Time theaters.

John Fink
John Fink on September 14, 2010 at 6:00 pm

My understanding is Reel Time Theaters are usually single screen venues that are “programed” much like a college student union showing films after their first run theatrical release. Whereas Freedom Crossings sounds like an ambitious suburban complex and 10-screens with a large and growing population requires a first run operator. Is Grand/Southern Theaters managing the complex or are they actually leasing the property. I imagine a lease would be risky, especially since the future success of the base/community depends on military spending and strategy – they again I speak of what I know very little – I will shut up now.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on September 14, 2010 at 6:35 pm

If the press release is accurate, Fort Bliss will experience great growth over the next few years as a result of the current projections under the 2005 Base Alignment and Closures plan, apparently eventually becoming an installation numbering in excess of 127,000 people. The whole Freedom Crossings project is apprarently a joint venture between AAFES and a mall developer, and it is clear the Southern LLC is going be the theater operator, but whether Southern will have a lease on the theater building and exactly what the profit sharing agreement is between AAFES and Southern, I would not have a clue either.

KenLayton
KenLayton on September 14, 2010 at 6:50 pm

The military base theaters in my area use union projectionists.

JohnRice
JohnRice on September 14, 2010 at 7:26 pm

When I was in the Army (1959-1962) the domestic and overseas movie theatres were programmed and operated by something called AAFMPS (Army & Air Force Motion Picture Service). Interesting that they are now part of the PX system. Projectionists at Fort Bliss were moonlighting service personnel I believe. In Korea a Korean civilian ran the 35mm booth at our post theatre.

CSWalczak
CSWalczak on September 15, 2010 at 11:01 am

From what I have been able to gather, looking a various online sources, AAFMPS, AAFES, and a few other military support and morale agencies were merged together some years back during a reorganization initiative.

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