Mall cinema expands with 2 new screens
Published 10:41 am Friday, May 9, 2014
When the 32nd installment of the “Godzilla” franchise hits North American theaters a week from today, Vicksburg moviegoers might find it wise to wait a week or two before they feel the foreboding of the monster’s return.
If they do, they can watch it in style.
After years of planning, the cinema at the city’s main retail mall has added two additional screens, complete with 60 high-back, padded stadium seats with cup holders. The rooms are off to the left of the concession stand, occupying the former Cyberstation area, and are 32-by-30 feet, as opposed to the 30-by-80 feet dimensions of the older four screens. The renovation is something of a final step — for now — of a larger list of goings-on at the cinema since it started a move to digital projection in 2012 after years of fuzzy, old-style film, owner David Wilcox said.
“We got it up and going because the mall agreed to finance the expansion,” Wilcox said this week, adding his company, Wilcox Theaters, has sunk about $800,000 into upgrades to the projection system and other renovations at the Vicksburg location since taking over the operation in 2008. Wilcox also operates a theater in Bastrop, La.
“If the public takes a liking to it, we’ll split up the other four and put new seats in there,” Wilcox said.
That means cutting the cinema’s older screens to 60-seat venues to fit the market, Wilcox said. Currently, those seat between 178 and 250 people.
“It’s all in what Vicksburg can handle,” Wilcox said. “I think the 60-seat shows are good for the second, third, fourth weekend because you won’t sell out the larger ones.”
Rotating up to 10 movies a month instead of just six might add to a business that’s picked up in the four years since the mall’s current ownership took over, Wilcox said. Challenges of operating theaters — where the average markup for popcorn has exceeded 1,000 percent nationally for years — in small markets like Vicksburg and Bastrop abound, Wilcox said.
“I lose more families to the Grandview Theater in Madison than I do to Clinton,” Wilcox said. “It’s about all the other things the family wants to do.”
Mike Carlisle, general manager for Vicksburg Mall, predicts the renovation adds some excitement to the 2014 summer blockbuster movie season — even if it means losing a bit of the new-carpet scent prevalent in the new digs.
“The new rooms will smell like popcorn soon enough,” Carlisle said.