SCRANTON — Northeastern Pennsylvania will soon have a luxury movie theater, complete with electric reclining leather seats, a full bar and bistro and steampunk style decor.
Phoenix Theatres Entertainment announced Monday morning it plans to complete $4 million in renovations to the former Marquee Cinemas/Steamtown 8, which closed in December, 2014, at The Mall at Steamtown, corner of Penn and Lackawanna avenues. The company plans to open the new theater during the first quarter of 2016. The 30,000 square foot facility will feature eight auditoriums, each furnished with leather padded reclining seats with attached trays and cup holders.
“In the theatre industry, we say that during your visit to a movie, you’ll spend about 90 percent of your time sitting in the chair,” said Phil Zacheretti, president and CEO of Phoenix Theatres Entertainment. “And we thought, ‘Why not make it the most comfortable chair that we could possibly put in here?’”
“Hopefully, the movie is exciting enough that you won’t doze off in a chair like that,” he quipped.” But it’s absolutely the most comfortable.”
Named the “Iron Horse Movie Bistro” in celebration of the city’s history, the theatre will be the first of its kind in the region.
Phoenix Theatres Entertainment is based in Knoxville, Tennessee and is named for the symbolism of a bird “rising from the ashes.”
“We have a tendency to go to theaters that have either been closed or are in bad shape and we renovate them,” Zacheretti said. “And by taking this old Steamtown 8 theatre in its old colors that you can see around here, and remodeling it into what we think is going to be one of the nicest theatres in the state, we think we can live up to our name.”
The full-service bistro and bar will be open during all movie times and, in addition to the option of eating inside the auditoriums, seating will be available in the lobby. The menu will include “chef-driven” small plate food items, handmade cocktails, craft beers, draft beers and wine.
Standard movie theatre concessions, from popcorn and candy to Coke products, will also be available. The popcorn will be made with real butter, a rarity in theatres today, according to Zacheretti.
In order to offer the reclining chairs, each of the eight auditoriums will accommodate about half the capacity as that of the previous tenant. Each theatre will be handicapped accessible and hold between 60 and 90 chairs. Seating will be assigned with numbered rows and chairs. Online reservations will ensure patrons the seating of their choice.
Although ticket costs are not yet set, the company plans to offer competitive pricing close to that of other theatres in the area.
“It’s going to be affordable for all patrons — I don’t want the word ‘luxury’ to throw anybody off — everyone is going to afford to be able to come here,” said Zacheretti.
The theater is part of the nearly-deserted Steamtown mall complex, recently purchased by John Basalyga. Iron Horse Movie Bistro is the second of two major new tenants announced within the past week. The first is the gym chain Crunch Fitness, which will occupy the former space of Boscov’s Furniture Outlet.
The mall’s management and the theatre company both hope the new business will bring a boost to the city’s economy.
According to Zacheretti, the theatre will generate between 40 and 45 part-time and full-time jobs, as well as an influx of traffic to the downtown shopping district.
Joe Gibbons, representing the mall and JBAS Realty, spoke of the importance of the project to downtown Scranton during the press conference.
“The presence of the mayor (Bill Courtright) and a member of city council (Wayne Evans) demonstrates to our new tenants the importance of the mall in the fabric of our community — a fabric that is going to be enriched by (the new theatre),” he said.