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Phoenix Big Cinemas make over, upgrade former Destinta theaters

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Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, 12:48 p.m.
 

The former Destinta movie theaters in Bridgeville and North Versailles closed for two days and will reopen Friday under the management of Phoenix Big Cinemas.

Both theaters closed after movie showings Tuesday night.

Kossman Development Co. of Pittsburgh took over operations of the multiplexes after the Destinta chain, as longtime tenants, decided to pull out of the Pittsburgh market, said Steve Weisbrod, Kossman's vice president of business development.

Weisbrod said Destinta had several years remaining on its leases.

Phil Zacheretti, CEO of Knoxville-based Phoenix Big Cinemas Management LLC, said Wednesday the company has dozens of workers doing repairs, deep cleaning and installing new signs and other technology to prepare for the reopenings.

Names of the two theaters will change to the Chartiers Valley Stadium 18 in Bridgeville, and the North Versailles Stadium 18 in the Pittsburgh Plaza East.

Crews are upgrading concession stands to turn out more varied food choices, such as corn dog bites, pizzas and chicken, he said.

And new point-of-sale systems will allow customers to order tickets more easily online, through MovieTickets.com or the Phoenix website.

Under Destinta, the multiplexes didn't sell many tickets via Internet. “We expect that to increase dramatically,” Zacheretti said.

Phoenix also has a loyalty rewards card program.

Kossman hired Phoenix to handle all aspects of running the theaters, from renting films to selling food and maintaining the 90,000- to 100,000-square-foot buildings. Free popcorn will be given out with each paid admission through Sunday.

Bigger changes are in store. Over the next three months, Phoenix will convert auditoriums at both theaters to all-digital projection and surround sound.

With changing technology, “Film will be nonexistent by the end of next year,” said Zacheretti, who began his 37 years in the movie industry as a theater usher in high school.

Each site will get eight 3D projection systems, for use as needed, compared to one digital and one film 3D system at each multiplex now.

The upgrades will cost “several million dollars,” he said.

Many ex-Destinta employees were hired, along with some new managers, and each theater will have about 40 part-time workers. Phoenix manages 27 theaters in 16 states, and ranks No. 20 among U.S. movie chains.

Representatives of Lodi, N.J.-based Destinta couldn't be reached for comment.

Customers will notice improvements on Friday, but some changes to the buildings will take six months to a year. “We're working with the owners on a capital budget,” Zacheretti said.

Weisbrod said details of the equipment upgrades should be firmed up by mid-August.

Both Destinta theaters opened in 1999, amid a movie house building boom in Western Pennsylvania.

They were built with perks beyond the typical popcorn and candy stands: Stadium-style seating with reclining rocker seats, VIP screening rooms, children's quiet rooms, self-service concession stands and video game areas.

When the digital and 3D improvements are complete, both theaters will be a little smaller. The Bridgeville theater now has 20 screens and the North Versailles, 22, but a few smaller auditoriums will close to give both sites 18 screens.

The days of multiplexes with up to 30 screens are gone, Zacheretti said, and the optimal size now is 16 to 18 screens. Since the Destinta theaters opened, the number of movie screens nationwide is up 6.6 percent to 39,580, National Association of Theatre Owners figures show. But the total theater count has dropped 24 percent since 1999 to a current 5,697, as older, smaller theaters closed.

Kim Leonard is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5606 or kleonard@tribweb.com.

 

 
 


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