Coming attractions: Work to start on new Carmike multiplex in Foothills Mall
By Robert Norris (email@example.com)
The first clue to the state-of-the-art entertainment coming to Foothills Mall will be visible in a couple of weeks.
Michael Kaufman, general manager of the mall in Maryville, said that’s when demolition will start at the former location of the men’s, kids’ and housewares departments of Belk department store.
The space will be filled with a new Carmike Cinemas multiplex expected to open in early 2012.
The multiplex will feature 12 screens with stadium seating, digital surround sound and high-back plush rockers. Moviegoers will also enjoy the “BIG – D,” a large-format digital experience, featuring bigger screens, bigger sound and bigger, more luxurious seats.
The expectation is for those seats to put more feet on the ground in the mall and strengthen local business. That’s why the Economic Development Board of the Blount Partnership authorized in March a lease agreement between the board and FHM Anchor LLC.
The agreement, requested by the city of Maryville, includes a tax abatement to facilitate the $6 million project. Unlike similar pilot incentives previously granted by the Economic Development Board to support manufacturing jobs (ALCOA and DENSO), this arrangement is designed to support commercial interests.
“I think that mall traffic will see a sizable increase. I think what it’s going to do is provide an alternative to going to the west side of Knoxville for a premier visual and audio experience,” Kaufman said.
Which would help other local businesses and preserve jobs.
“That, coupled with a lot of the new food opportunities, will offer a more balanced opportunity to stay in our market for theater, food and shopping.”
Kaufman, who also is general manager of College Square Mall in Morristown, said he has seen the positive economic impact of a state-of-the-art, multiscreen theater.
College Square previously had a nine-screen theater complex inside the mall, but it was showing its age. Three years ago, Carmike built a new 12-screen theater connected to the mall. That gave Morristown residents access to a cinematic experience highlighting the advances in visual and audio technology used by modern filmmakers, according to Kaufman.
“It’s been phenomenally successful. People looking for a new theater experience would drive 20 or 30 miles. Now we’re doing a better job of keeping people in Morristown. We’re thinking the same thing will happen in Maryville.”
The former Belk location facing the U.S. 129 Bypass will be completely reconfigured to accommodate the new 45,000-square-foot theater. The existing Carmike theater at Foothills Plaza will remain open during construction.
“This new location will provide Maryville and the surrounding area with a premier entertainment destination featuring state-of-the-art technology and first-class amenities. This addition represents another step in our ongoing commitment to enhancing Foothills Mall to continue its long-term success,” said Stephen Lebovitz, president and chief executive officer of CBL & Associates Properties Inc., owner and operator of Foothills Mall.
Carmike President and CEO David Passman said his company is “delighted” to be expanding in this market.
“We have found a partner in CBL, who has the ability to build a new state-of-the-art entertainment complex for Foothills Mall. “The BIG-D” is a totally redesigned premium auditorium that allows Carmike to provide our audiences with the technology and total luxury that brings theater-going to a whole new level.”
The new Foothills 12 will have more than 2,300 seats and be one of six major anchors at Foothills Mall. The 481,000-square-foot regional mall is also anchored by Belk, JCPenney, Sears, Goody’s and T.J. Maxx and is home to more than 55 specialty stores.
Kaufman said people will enjoy watching the transformation of the retail space into a multiplex.
“It will be a neat thing, and people will be able to watch it happen,” he said. “It’s a fascinating process. I know it was in Morristown.”