I‘ve been itching to get my camera and myself into that sprawling theater complex for a few weeks now. Very early yesterday, I was notified that if I could get my sorry self to the construction trailers by 2:30, I’d be led on a tour of the complex by some chamber folk. As a result, I then worked like an adrenaline-engorged man possessed and hauled myself on over to Wilkes-Barre.
One note. Bare with me, here. I ain’t got all that highly specialized reporter training you’re used to, so this post might be a bit of a jumbled mass. I took 46 pictures during the tour and added roughly half of them to the theater slideshow on my main page. I realize it takes a while to run in it’s entirety, but if you want a sneak peek at interior of the theater complex and suchlike, it’s well worth it. Some of the darker pictures are of less than good quality, but low lighting plus dust particles wafting all over the place will do that.
Upon my arrival at the site, I was confronted by a group approaching 12 members, and the only person I recognized was chamber member Larry Newman. I forget what his official title is, so let’s just say that he is to all of this urban planning mucky muck what I am to borderline insanity. Turns out, the tour was being led by Larry Newman and Fred Lohman, who also toils away at the chamber. All told, the tour took an hour. We started with the theater elements, took a walk through the ground level parking garage that is enveloped by the entire structure, strolled through the new loft apartment areas, the rehabbed loft areas, and then the retail space.
If you take in the updated slideshow, you’ll surely notice that some areas of the complex seem far from completed. That they are, but the theater portion will be open for business sometime between June 16th and June 30th. That’s what they’re telling me. So, best case scenario, we could be taking in a movie as soon as five weeks from today. The retail spaces should be completed right around the time the theater opens, and the loft apartment areas that comprise the second and third floors of the structure in a L shape on both South Main and Northampton streets will be completed at some later date.
As to those new retail areas, someone asked Larry Newman if they are indeed going to be occupied any time soon. He said that they have “letters of intent out to a number of good prospects.” In response, I asked if that meant we had a good chance that they’ll be rented, or a real good chance. His quick retort was “real good.” In addition, every one of the properties on Northampton street directly opposite the theater complex have recently been acquired by new owners. In other words, interest in that area of the downtown is suddenly very high.
I never seem to have a problem parking in our downtown, but many have complained about a perceived lack of parking, and still others have wondered where they might park after the theater opens. I’m told the ground lot contained within the structure will hold an estimated 85 cars. Plus, the city is about to break ground on the intermodal center later this summer, which will add 600 or so parking spaces to the mix just a few feet away. In addition, an elevator was installed in the existing central garage, so we can park in there, jump in the elevator and find ourselves in the ground level of the theater complex. All told, according to Mr. Lohman, there will be 1,000 parking spaces within a 5-minute walk of the theaters.
Putting the retail slots, the apartments and the parking aside, this is what you can expect when you make your way downtown to take in a movie. You’ll enter the theater by way of Northampton street and immediately be confronted by the widest set of steps I’ve ever laid eyes on. Next to the steps will be both escalators and an elevator, since the theaters themselves sit on the second and third floors. Before you make your way upstairs, you will buy your tickets at a ticket booth, or you can swipe your MAC card and have your tickets dispensed electronically, ala the Cinemark up north a ways.
When you have your tickets and climb skyward, you will then run right into the rather large concession area. Y’all can do what you like, but I’d suggest the 2-pound box of Junior Mints. After you load up on calories, you can either turn left towards one of the 7 theaters the hall will lead you to, or make a right and head down the hall towards the 7 other theaters. Just a few feet from the concession area are private rooms that can be rented out for birthday parties and whatnot.
The 14 theaters all vary in size, but can accommodate 2,800 movie-goers. I think this is where my notes scribbled on a tattered envelope will get me to misreporting the numbers to some degree, but stick with me. When the complex opens, only one of the theaters will be completely digital, while the theater operators await a decision from the movie industry whereas the standardization of digital movie-making is concerned. Still, that one all-digital theater will be one of only three in this entire state. I think they said the digital theater holds 300 people, but I’m not trusting my notes on that. Hey, it was dark in there, OK? This is cool. That large theater also has a private party box incorporated into it right above and behind where all of us normal folk will be sitting spellbound.
The thing is, all of the 14 theaters have been configured so that when some sort of standardization of digital movies is decided upon, all 14 can be updated to all-digital rather quickly and easily. I think they call that your basic “flexible infrastructure,” wherein, they are building something now that is easily adaptable in the future. See that, Larry? I study some of that urban planning mucky muck, too.
The point is, sometime in the very near future, this series of theaters will be like no others in all of Northeastern Pennsylvania. This place will be unique.
And get this, there is a hallway on the third floor directly above the second floor hall we’ll be using to navigate the place that they call the projection mezzanine. From this vantage point, one lone projectionist will operate all 14 of the theaters. As I made my way down the mezzanine, I was able to peak through the windows and into every one of the theaters below.
According to our gracious guides, the owner of RC Theaters is a bit of a perfectionist and wants nothing but the best in available technologies installed in his theaters. We passed piles of still-boxed speakers and large crated sound racks. And as far as the theaters themselves are concerned, they are supposed to be outfitted with lumbar-supported chairs like no others. Do you still want to drive all the way to Scranton to see a movie?
I guess that’s about it for the big theater tour, but I think we need to think about an overdue attitude adjustment on some of our parts.
As far as I’m concerned, the latest addition to “The Eight Wonders of NEPA” is about to open right in the heart of our downtown. We’ve been promised this, that and damn near everything for years now, but we’ve been disappointed over and over again. Well guess what? A jewel is being delivered to us, so now we need to get past the well-entrenched negative mindset, start believing for a change and take some pride in our improving community by supporting our new theater complex and all of the peripheral businesses soon to appear.
The policing issue is being addressed, the downtown lighting is about to be improved on a massive scale and the increased foot traffic is sure to increase your safety while visiting the new amenities. Stop whining, stop bitching, get yourself down there and enjoy yourself.
But, if some lowly street urchin decides to grab a purse one night, I want the bastard chased down and beaten to a pulp before the police arrive on scene. Tenderize him a tad. You want your streets taken back? Fine. Then take them back. Show some initiative
Again, the theater portion will be open for business sometime between June 16th and June 30th. I’ll be there and so will my grandkids. Actually, I can’t wait.
Larry Newman offered to take me through the complex again. And since I have a vacation scheduled for the second week of June, I figure I’ll take him up on that generous offer and post some pictures of the finished product here right before it opens it’s doors to all of us.
Once again, I can’t wait.
This concludes our theater tour, now…get the hell out!
This is the first I‘m hearing of this, but if anyone else has encountered such a thing, please let me know so I can make some adjustments.
No, no warfare going on. All I did was embed some music within the page, and the HTML involved commands the music file to do nothing other than play in it’s entirety. Unless this has exposed some correctable flaw in your ‘puter, I don’t know what to make of it. But if anyone else has encountered what you’re encountering, they should let me know and I’ll remove the embedded file real quick like. Maybe it’s corrupted or something. I dunno.
Anyway, the music is Frank Zappa’s “Watermelon in Easter Hay.” And, no, that deranged voice in the beginning is not mine.
Stay in touch.