• December 16, 2016

    Aledo, IL – Aledo family has fun reopening historic movie theater


    From At the holidays, it’s a pleasure to see a family-friendly Christmas movie in a single-screen theater, with concessions, and not have to take a second mortgage to do so.

    Since this month started, that’s been possible here in the seat of Mercer County, as Aledo native Dan Mellgren and his wife, Michelle, reopened the historic Aledo Opera House. The 1904 building — with 414 seats — had been closed for two years.

    “This town needs some entertainment,” Dan said recently. “We didn’t have to do anything. The building’s here, the screen’s here. Everything was here.”

    “We’re gonna gear it toward the junior-high age group,” he said. “Parents are looking for a place to drop their kids for a couple hours. That’s what it was when I was a kid — here’s 10 bucks and we’ll see ya in a couple hours.”

    Dan said it last closed because of the costs for licensing each movie. The Mellgrens lease the theater — and since Aug. 1, The Slammer Bed & Breakfast — from Dick and Jennie Maynard, and run the businesses.

    “This building has been a million different things,” Dan said of Aledo Opera House, including a roller rink and a basketball court. “Nothing’s really changed in here,” he said, noting the main difference since he was a kid was that three rows were removed to make more leg room between rows.

    The theater opened on Feb. 26, 1904, with a production of the play “Quincy Adams Sawyer.” It was first used as a movie theater in 1909, and also has served as a church. While operating as a movie house in the ‘70s and '80s (when Mr. Mellgren grew up here), it closed in 1997.

    An October 2000 fire in a neighboring building damaged the theater, and a renovated opera house reopened in 2002. It closed once before during the past decade.

    “It’s a historic building in our downtown area, been part of our community for 100 years. It’s really an asset,” said Tarah Sipes, Aledo’s economic development coordinator. “It’s an amenity for our residents; there’s a big nostalgia factor as well. I also spent time there in my youth. The movie theater was a great place to go.”

    She’s working with the city administrator and Main Street director about securing private funding to get digital projection needed for new films.

    “I’m excited; the Mellgrens do have quite a bit of energy and passion for what they’re doing, which makes a big difference,” Ms. Sipes said. “If we can harness their energy, make more it visible, I hope that we can get things rolling in the same direction.”

    Dan met Michelle when they attended Southern Illinois University. While they didn’t graduate, Dan worked in management with AirTran airlines for 10 years. They’ve been married since 2000. They have two children — 14-year-old Emma, and 11-year-old Colin.

    The Mellgrens lived in the Miami, Fla., area for eight years; he left AirTran in 2010, and started working as vice president for a company that sold merchandise to duty-free stores.

    “I left that because I was gone nine months out of the year,” Dan said, noting he traveled all over the Caribbean.

    When they moved back to Aledo about two years ago, he started a “pay it forward” gift business.

    “This is the best way to slow it down — move to a small town, tie yourself to some big anchors,” Dan said of the historic landmarks they manage. “The nice part of it is, the kids can be part of it,” Michelle said, noting their kids help out.

    “I want my kids to have a little bit of what I had growing up,” Dan said. “This was an easy fix. With the Slammer, I usually do the morning stuff, so it leaves the afternoon for this. It’s a win-win, and my son helps me clean. He actually takes the money for tickets and enjoys it. The reason we’re back here is family. … My son, daughter, wife and I can all be here together.”

    “It’s definitely good for both of them,” Michelle — whose family is in Chicago — said of their kids. “Emma’s friends come and help. They take pride in it.”

    The nine-room Slammer is in the 1909 former Mercer County Jail. It was listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1997 and was converted into a bed and breakfast in 1998 (originally The Slammer was the restaurant and B & B called The Great Escape).

    Michelle is studying at Black Hawk College, with plans to become an elementary-school teacher, and is the current PTO president in Aledo.

    The first weekend of December, and their first running the theater, was hectic — in addition to showings of “It’s a Wonderful Life” in 35-millimeter, they hosted It’s a Mystery dinner theater and the Untangled women’s conference at The Slammer (both Saturday).

    The dinner theater (a special, and not regular, event) was catered by La Belle Vie, a local restaurant. “Little did we know we’d be running a movie theater at that time,” Michelle said.

    “It was a little crazy, but everything worked out,” she said, noting she didn’t expect to have the theater up so soon. “I had agreed to it. I just didn’t know he was doing all the work. It was in the middle of (Black Hawk) finals.”

    However, the 35-mm projector didn’t work well, so Dan got a projector to play DVDs (now attached to the 20-foot-high ceiling), which is the fix before they raise money ($25,000 to $50,000) for a digital projection system.

    Geneseo’s 1924 Central Theater is owned and operated by the Geneseo Park District, and made the digital conversion in 2012. It shows first-run films.

    “What we’re trying to do is give people an experience,” Dan said. Tickets for the 7 p.m. showings are $5, and popcorn is just $1.50, among other concessions. They have a new sound system loaned by True Audio in Aledo, for as long as they need.

    “To have everything line up like that, who gets that blessed?” Michelle said. “I’ve had so many people reach out and say, ‘If you need help, I’m here.’ It just seems unreal.”

    “It looks sexy to get into, but once you get into the bills, it’s not,” Dan said, noting there are licensing fees for each film. “Keeping old buildings open, letting people experience this is half of why we’re doing it. It’s a cool old theater.”

    “There’s just so much history here,” Michelle said of their two businesses. “I think Aledo takes pride in their history, where they come from. To be part of it, someone’s gotta lead it. Somehow we’re crazy enough.”

    At The Slammer (, “I would definitely love to do more community things, just some things to open up the doors, for groups to meet there,” she said.

    People have asked the couple if the theater is just a seasonal thing. “We genuinely will be year-round. This is forever,” Michelle said. They plan to show films every weekend, at 7 p.m. each night — including Christmas and New Year’s Day, she said.

    “Elf” is showing this weekend. “White Christmas” will be Dec. 23-25.

  • December 7, 2016

    Houston, TX – Star Cinema Grill Acquires Houston-Area Movie Theater


    From Business Wire: Star Cinema Grill announced today that it is opening a new location in Vintage Park, at the site formerly operated by Alamo Drafthouse, making it their fourth Houston area theater. With this acquisition, Star Cinema Grill will be adding premium amenities including luxury recliners, push button service, and an updated modern décor. Sunday marked the last day of operations as Alamo Drafthouse, and the theater will re-open as Star Cinema Grill by Friday, December 9th. Star Cinema Grill will honor all tickets sold for the upcoming release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

  • December 2, 2016

    Laguna Beach, CA – Historic Theater Readies for a Sequel


    From the Laguna Beach Indy: Signs of life are visible within Laguna Beach’s only movie theater, a landmark building that closed 16 months ago and is expected to reopen shortly. There is new carpet in the lobby and a giant popcorn maker gleaming just inside the front doors. Painters are dodging ladders and caution tape, working to meet the slated opening date.

    Theater operator Vintage Cinema will show first-run movies on two screens, with an opening date target of Dec. 16, Chris Leonard, an attorney for theater owner Leslie Blumberg, said in an email.

  • November 29, 2016

    Scranton, PA – Downtown Scranton movie theater to open in early 2017


    From the Times-Tribune: The Iron Horse Movie Bistro won’t be open in time for the new “Star Wars” release Dec. 16, but the return of the downtown Scranton movie theater shouldn’t be too far away.

    Phoenix Theatres Entertainment expects to reopen the former Marquee Cinemas 8 in the first quarter of 2017, said Joe Gibbons, a spokesman for Marketplace at Steamtown developer John Basalyga.

    The timeline for the rebirth of the eight-theater complex into a luxury establishment with bistro-style food, alcohol and squishy red leather recliners moved back a few times from the original target of the first half of 2016 amid engineering and millwork manufacturing delays.

    Carl Scartelli, superintendent for Eco Trade Construction overseeing the $4 million renovation, expected the remodeling work to wrap up in the second week of December.

    Mr. Scartelli led The Times-Tribune on a brief tour of the building amid a flurry of activity as roughly 20 contractors painted walls, installed carpeting and tiles, worked on finishing ceilings and continued adding curtains and speakers.

    Keph Construction crews, who specialize in movie theater projects all over the country, worked on setting up Theater 1, which Project Manager Charlie Harrison described as the facility’s prime auditorium with 22 speakers.

    “This would be where their mega-blockbusters play,” Mr. Harrison said. “You’re going to have a much better experience with the surround sound. They’ll have upgraded seating. These are love seats. If you’re on a date, you can raise the arm rest and scoot your honey right next to you. The silver screen is a 3-D screen. Everything is upgraded. They’re making the theater experience like a ride in a theme park.”

    Once construction is done, Phoenix Theatres will still need to set up the kitchen, hire staff and train the workers, which is why Mr. Gibbons said the opening of the theaters at the intersection of Penn and Lackawanna avenues will come early next year.

    “This is exciting,” Mr. Gibbons said. “We see this as a corner that all of a sudden is going to have an incredible amount of life.”

    Mr. Gibbons spoke about the movie complex in the context of Delta Medix and Luzerne County Community College occupying space in the mall, the planned opening of the Scranton Public Market in the near future and more retailers moving in.

    Mr. Gibbons highlighted the recent return of eclectic gift boutique La Ti Da to the mall, along with Pink Shades by Kimberly, a women’s clothing store targeting 18- to 35-year-olds, scheduled to open Thursday.

  • November 21, 2016

    Riverview, FL – Xscape Theater opens in Riverview


    From the Tampa Bay Times: The new Xscape Riverview 14 screened its first film Wednesday night and fully-opened to moviegoers this weekend.

    The theater, located at 6135 Valleydale Drive just off of Progress Village Boulevard, officially opened on Friday, staging a ribbon cutting with the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce.

    The movieplex features floor-to-ceiling, 60-foot wide screens similar to IMAX.

    The auditoriums are equipped with Dolby Atmos, a 360-degree immersive surround sound system that can project noise from behind the viewer and emit bass frequencies that you feel in your seat.

    Viewing movies in these two auditoriums will only cost $1 extra.

    Xscape will be mostly a first-run cinema, focusing on major studio films rather than art-house or independent movies.

    But in an unusual move, it plans to have a curfew of 9 p.m. for under 17’s, so that grownups can see movies without the chatter of children and excited kicks on the back of their seats.

    In a sign of how fast it is growing, Xscape is not the only cinema set to open in Riverview this year.

    Goodrich Quality Theaters has constructed a 14-screen multiplex on Gibsonton Drive that is scheduled to open by Christmas, said Martin Betz, Goodrich chief operating officer.

    It too has recliner seats. Its IMAX equivalent is called Giant Digital Experience and features an 80-foot wide screen.

    By late January, the cinema will be complimented by a gastro-pub and restaurant.

    Xscape vice president of operations Scott Bagwell said he expects that his competitor will draw customers from the southern part of Riverview.

    Xscape patrons will likely come from north of the Alafia River and even from Brandon, now that there is an alternative to the traffic and crowds of the nearest multiplex in Regency Square, he said.

  • November 2, 2016

    Grand Junction, CO – New movie theater opening in Grand Junction


    From KKCO TV-11: Renovations are underway at a closed movie theater in Grand Junction.

    The movie theater company Picture Show is moving into the former Carmike Cinemas and opening a new budget friendly movie theater.

    “I think it’s really exciting, it gives more of a variety of places we can go,” said Lux Miller, a Grand Valley movie lover.

    “It’s great to have other options, and something that will hopefully make these a little more competitive on the other side,” said Grand Junction resident Jeff Green.

    Picture Show bought the 23-year-old building, and the owners are working hard on upgrades.

    “I think that Carmike needed to improve,” said the new owner, Jeff Stedman.

    It’s the inside where picture show is adding all new equipment and upgrades like reclining seats, hoping to make the movie viewing experience more comfortable.

    “We took a facility that was not being used, and would have been closed otherwise and invested $2 million in the community,” said Stedman. “We’re going to employ 25-30 people and we’re going to have value pricing for our customers.”

  • October 27, 2016

    Lewisville, TX – New Drive-In Movie Theater Opens in Lewisville Friday


    From If recent trends in new theater openings in North Texas can tell us anything, it may be that people really enjoy eating and drinking while watching a movie, simplifying the classic “dinner and a movie” combination. We’ve also seen the rise of zero tolerance policies for cell phones, extra-cinematic programming, and the promise of “luxury” seating as theater attendance continues to decline.

    A more traditional experience hasn’t completely lost its sway with moviegoers, however. It’s too early to call it a comeback, but a new drive-in theater opening Friday in Lewisville could qualify as at least a tentative revival of a throwback American night out.

    It’s the third such venture from Coyote Drive-In Theaters and Canteen, which opened its first outpost in Fort Worth in 2013 and expanded to Leeds, Alabama earlier this year. (The two Coyotes join the Galaxy Drive-In in Ennis and the Brazos in Granbury on North Texas’ lineup of drive-in theaters.)

    The theater, at 1901 Midway Rd. off the 121 Tollway, will have five screens digitally projecting double features of first-run movies seven nights a week, according to a press release. Most of the screens — there are plans for a sixth — stand about 55 feet tall and 75 feet wide. The complex can fit about 1,500 cars.

    There are, of course, plenty of modern amenities added to this nostalgia trip. Audiences in the drive-in heyday of the ’50s never knew the unique, late capitalism joys of “Pepsi Spire 5.0 drink systems,” for example. Per the press release from Coyote:

    In the center of the grounds stands a Canteen – a restaurant and bar pavilion with indoor and outdoor covered seating for 300 guests, fitted with ten high-definition big-screen TVs – perfect for football, baseball and soccer game days.

    Within the Canteen area, patrons can enjoy hand-crafted pizza, burgers, wings and tenders from the full-service kitchen in one hand and the traditional concessions like giant pretzels, churros, popcorn, candy in the other. Coyote Drive-In comes complete with a Beer & Wine bar, featuring many craft beer favorites and frozen wineritas. Coyote also prepares Sno-Cones and Cotton Candy on site and has a Merchandise Shop. And to top it off, the theater is one of the first in Texas to carry Pepsi Spire 5.0 drink systems, a state-of-the-art refreshment dispenser with over one hundred Pepsi flavor combinations to choose from.

    Some people will try to tell you America used to be greater than it is now, but in what other era could you choose from 100 Pepsi flavor combinations?

    Tickets to the Coyote Drive-In are $7 for adults, $5 for kids between the ages of 5 and 11, and free for children younger than 4. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. and showtimes begin just after sunset.

  • October 26, 2016

    Bridgeport, CT – New management keeps Bridgeport’s Bijou Theatre open


    From The Connecticut Post: The Bijou Theatre has not seen its final curtain call after all.

    In July, Christine Brown, president of the nonprofit that operated the theater, said it would close its doors on Aug. 7 because it didn’t work financially.

    “We’re really, really proud of what we’ve accomplished, but the economics have made it impossible for us to keep going,” Brown said at the time.

    But, according to developer Phil Kuchma, whose company owns the building, no one has taken any final bows. “It’s just under a new tenant,” he said.

    Kuchma said he never planned to close the theater, but potential visitors might have had a hard time learning this. Though the Bijou has a new website and Facebook page, the original site, the, still comes up in web searches and as of Monday featured a farewell message.

    “The Bijou Theatre thanks the people of Bridgeport, the local theater community and all of its past patrons for the privilege of serving them,” the message states.

    The theater’s former Facebook page comes up as unavailable.

  • October 6, 2016

    New York, NY – This luxe dine-in movie theater serves only quiet food


    From the New York Post: New Yorkers who get their first look at — and taste of — the city’s first iPic cinema complex at the South Street Seaport on Friday might be awed if they’ve never been to one of iPic Entertainment’s 14 other destinations around the US.

    Realty Check got a sneak peek at iPic in the landmark Fulton Market Building, which boasts eight screens and 501 seats. It opens to the public on Oct. 7 with showings of “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” “The Birth of a Nation” and the much-anticipated “The Girl on the Train.”

    Plush, reclining seats similar to those in a first-class airline cabin and food prepared by an award-winning chef that’s served as you watch a film, are far more upscale than even the fanciest of other cinemas in New York.

    Via and a dedicated app, customers can easily book showings — not only the movie and time but also exactly which seats. There are two seating options, Premium and Premium Plus. The former includes regular or chaise lounge seats; customers can bring food from an iPic Express counter to the seats.

    Premium Plus means reclining leather seats built into pods with pillows, blankets and “unlimited free popcorn.” They’re arrayed in pairs separated by aisles, so customers can have pre-ordered meals and cocktails delivered to seats by “Ninja” servers who don’t block anyone’s view of the screen.

    Membership programs both free and paid entitle users to various discounts, priority reservations and other benefits. Seats cost $14 to $29 depending on which level of service is chosen, as well as the day and time; weekends are more expensive.

  • October 5, 2016

    Abingdon, VA – New owner brings new life for Moonlite Drive-In


    From the Bristol Herald Courier:
    Local residents will soon be able to enjoy movies under the stars once again, courtesy of the historic Moonlite Drive-in.

    After seeing it idle for three years, new owner Kyle Blevins is breathing life back into the Moonlite, which is off Lee Highway between Abingdon and Bristol.

    Blevins, a UPS driver from Bristol, Tennessee, went to the Moonlite for more than 40 years before it closed. He said he’s always wanted to own the theater and recently he came to an agreement with William Booker, who has been trying to sell the property. Under the agreement, Blevins said he is owner and president while Booker remains a co-owner.

    “I never dreamed that I would be able to do it,” Blevins said.

    He declined to give the cost of the sale. In March 2015, the asking price was $1.75 million.

    The drive-in opened in 1949 and closed in 2013 after many studios made the switch to digital, making many new release movies incompatible with the old projector.

    The Moonlite was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, and is one of only three drive-ins in the nation to be there, according to Blevins.

    Its long history is one of the things that makes Blevins happy to revive it. He plans to restore the property to its original 1950s style.

    “It’s not just coming to watch a movie. You’re going to be transformed into a different time,” said Blevins, who added that he also plans to alter the decor to fully immerse customers in the movie experience.

    The upcoming changes were brought to the attention of many who pass by when the number 16 showed up Sept. 15 on the marquee and the Facebook page. He wanted to spark interest so he decided to conduct a countdown until his announcement of the reopening today.

    But even he admits he was shocked at the attention he got.

    The real motivation to reopening is the way people in the community still talk about it, Blevins said.

    “It’s got a lot of history that comes from everybody in the community. A lot of people have a story about it,” he said.

    Blevins hopes to get support from the community, both in preparing for the reopening and keeping the theater open. Abingdon-based CPA firm Hicok, Fern & Company has agreed to assist Blevins in overseeing financial contributions and expenditures.

    “The needs are extensive and community involvement is going to be crucial to meeting those needs,” he said in a news release.

    Blevins has scheduled a community work day for Saturday, Oct. 8, beginning at 8 a.m. He invites anyone who’s willing to help with the start of the renovation.

    His plan is to try to get the drive-in ready for at least one show around the middle of October, but there’s a lot to be done before that can happen. An official reopening is planned for next spring.

    Blevins is ready to do what it takes to get the drive-in up and running, but notes that it isn’t just for himself or his family.

    “It doesn’t belong to me,” he said. “It belongs to the community. It belongs to everybody. I just happen to be lucky enough to be able to do it.”