Updated: December 17, 2013 at 10:09 pm
Lights. Camera. Amenities.
Chapel Hills 13 becomes Colorado Springs' newest movie theater complex when it opens Thursday at the Chapel Hills Mall, hoping to woo filmgoers with comfy reclining seats, speedy concessions and what operator Carmike Cinemas calls the biggest movie screen in the state.
The enhancements - like those increasingly found in theater complexes around the country - are designed to improve the movie-going experience. By offering state-of-the art amenities, theater chains are encouraging movie lovers to get off their couches and into the theaters.
"Nothing really beats that feeling of sitting in a big plush seat and seeing that brand-new movie of the week," said Lowell Karl, Chapel Hills 13 complex manager. Carmike, one of the nation's largest movie theater operators, is using similar formats with the new complexes it builds, he said.
Chapel Hills 13 replaces Carmike's aged, 15-screen complex at Chapel Hills; nine of those screens opened when the mall was completed in 1982 and six more were added in 1996. The old theaters were razed, along with a shuttered Kmart store, to make way for the new Carmike complex at the mall, off Academy and Briargate boulevards on the city's north side.
The complex was constructed on the east side of the mall; shoppers can walk through the mall to reach the Carmike complex or come and go via the theater entry and exit area when the mall is closed. Among other features, Chapel Hills 13 will offer all-in-one ticket and concession counters, which will allow moviegoers to stand in just one line to buy tickets and food; separate popcorn and drink stations that will keep customer traffic flowing once they've bought tickets and snacks; and a carpeted lobby area with tables and chairs for relaxing before and after movies and food items such as mini pizzas, hot dogs and cotton candy.
"You can kind of sit here at these tables and have a small meal before you actually enter the theater," Karl said.
It's not necessarily an amenity, but it is an eye-catcher: A glassed-off computer room just off the lobby - essentially the brains of the complex - is on display, much like a brewpub with a glassed-off area where customers can view brewing equipment.
In an age where most movies are digital, the room contains 13 computer servers that control which films play in the auditoriums, the times they're scheduled and their lighting, among other functions, Karl said. More than 13 miles of cable connect the servers to individual projectors that are housed in small rooms in each auditorium. Movies are downloaded to the servers either via a hard drive or transmitted via satellite, Karl said.
The auditoriums, meanwhile, will feature stadium-style seating; rocking and reclining seats, with extra legroom; movable arm rests with cup holders; and additional seating areas for the disabled.
Twelve auditoriums range in size from 110 to nearly 300 seats each. The 13th auditorium, with 600 seats, is what Carmike calls its BigD Experience - an 80-foot-wide, 3 1/2-story-tall screen that Karl says is believed to be the largest in Colorado. It's slightly bigger, and more rectangular, than a squared-off IMAX screen, he said.
Unlike standard white, vinyl screens, the BigD screen is made of a silver-coated, meshy material designed to make dark colors darker and to reflect lighter colors and make them more vivid, Karl said.
Chapel Hills 13 joins the Regal InterQuest 14 Stadium complex at the InterQuest Marketplace shopping center, a few miles north of Chapel Hills on the city's north side; a Cinemark complex was started - but never finished - as part of the stalled Colorado Crossing residential and commercial development that's across the street from InterQuest Marketplace.
Despite the north-side competition, Karl believes Carmike will retain its old customers and get some new ones. The trade areas serving Regal and Carmike are large enough that each complex should stand on its own, he said.
"I don't believe we're going to be stealing customers from anyone in particular," Karl said.
For Chapel Hills, the theater addition is another draw for the mall, said general manger Victoria Harley. The mall's owner, New York-based Garrison Investment Group, built the complex and is leasing it back to Carmike.
"It just gives people something else to do while they're here at the mall," she said. "It also drives traffic to the mall that otherwise might not come. They might buy their tickets, then they have an hour to kill and they go and purchase a few things and then they come back. We believe it will help drive a considerable amount of traffic into the mall."