April 12, 2005

New Movie Theater Coming to Pyramid

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Plans for a new Regal theater complex at the Pyramid Mall have moved forward, according to a recent press release. Slated for completion by late fall of this year, the new 14-screen complex will replace the aging ten-screen Regal cinema. The new theater will be located at the former Ames department store, next to Old Navy.

“Everything isn’t set in stone yet, but we hope to start demolition [of Ames] in the next 30 days,” said James Tull ’74, general manager of the Pyramid Mall. “All in all, we’re looking at the end of November for the building to be ready to go,” he added.

Plans for the new theater were announced in the spring of 2004. As part of Regal Entertainment’s “ThEATery” concept, which “mixes dining, entertainment and interactive retail,” the new theater will feature stadium seating, reclining seats and digital surround sound.

According to Tull, there is no planned raise in ticket prices for the new theater.

“When we added onto the theater last time, there was no raise in price, although I’m not really privy to that information,” Tull said.

Generally, ticket prices are determined by negotiations with production studios, and not related to the costs of new construction.

As the only provider of first-run movies in the Ithaca area, one might wonder why Regal would see the need to replace the current 10-screen theater.

“Basically, Regal wants to keep their market share in the Ithaca market” Tull said.

Regal’s privileged position in Ithaca may not last long though, as the City of Ithaca’s Department of Planning and Development is currently reviewing a plan to build a first-run movie theater downtown near the Commons. The only theaters currently downtown — Fall Creek Pictures and Cinemapolis — primarily show independent or foreign films.

The downtown theater is part of a larger development effort by Ithaca and private developer Steve Bloomfield to bring more people downtown. The development will be located between the Tompkins County Mental Health building and the public library on Green street. There are also plans for addtional retail and office space.

When asked whether or not Ithaca’s plans for a downtown movie theater have affected the decision for a new theater at the Pyramid Mall, Tull said that “Pyramid Mall made its announcement of a deal way before Ithaca even announced they were looking for somebody to develop their downtown theater.”

Last night, a special meeting of the Ithaca Common Council convened to discuss the downtown initiative. Bloomfield addressed the feasibility of having two first-run theaters in Ithaca.

“The theater operator that we’re in negotiations with thinks this location downtown is the 100 percent corner — he thinks this is the best spot in the marketplace for a theater,” Bloomfield said. “We’re trained to think we can’t compete with suburbanization, but we have an opportunity here; do you want to give into the malling, if you will, of America?”

At the Common Council meeting, council member Michael Taylor ’05 (D-4th Ward) mentioned why he thought a theater downtown would be a good idea.

“As a student, and as the main target demographic of a theater like this, I would choose a downtown theater over Pyramid Mall if parking was available,” Taylor said.

Bloomfield responded that “parking downtown will be even closer to the theater than at Pyramid, with the Greet street parking garage right across the street — also, we will figure out ways to reduce parking fees for the movie crowd.”

Currently, fees for the Green street garage are waived after 8 p.m., as the payment booth is not staffed past that time.

Although a downtown theater would offer more choice, some students would still prefer going to the mall to see a movie, citing the current parking situation downtown as the main reason.

“I would probably go up to Pyramid more mainly because parking isn’t a problem by the mall,” said Eric Wilson ’06.

“I agree [with Wilson],” said Raheem Savji ’06. “I’d definitely go with Pyramid, it’s just more accessible from campus and has ample parking,” he added.

Archived article by Dennis Dunegan
Sun Staff Writer