New movie theater mixes plush with enviro-friendly

AP News
Posted: Nov 13, 2009 9:58 AM

With plush lounge chairs, gourmet appetizers, a VIP auditorium and the latest digital and 3-D equipment, Chattanooga's newest movie theater complex doesn't need toilets that flush rain water to sell tickets.

Carmike Cinemas Inc. and the RiverCity Co. went beyond creature comforts and high-tech gadgetry to build and open a theater that they claim is an environmental first. The Columbus, Ga.-based theater company's Majestic 12 opened last weekend, just a short walk from Chattanooga's redeveloped riverfront and the Bijou 7 it is replacing.

U.S. Green Building Council spokeswoman Ashley Katz said Carmike has applied for LEED certification for the 70,000-square-foot building.

LEED Gold certification means it adheres to the greenest building standards, requiring use of recycled materials in construction and environmentally friendly amenities to reduce energy consumption.

The 12-screen, 2,500-seat theater building, representing $12 million invested by RiverCity Co. and local private foundations, is catching rain on the roof for toilets and landscaping, using low-energy lighting and making electricity with solar panels.

Movie-goers are more likely to notice the adult-only VIP auditorium, the Ovation Room, which serves beer and upscale snacks like crab cakes, salads and specialty desserts and delivers them to customers at their seats.

"People will be able to sit in La-Z-Boy type seats, push a button and a foot rest comes out," Carmike corporate spokesman Dale Hurst said.

Kim White, chief executive of RiverCity Co., said in a statement that the theater is expected to more than double the number of moviegoers downtown, to between 375,000 to 400,000 people annually.

The theater, built by EMJ Corp. and designed by Artech Design Group, has two 60-foot screens, each almost three stories high. Rick Thompson, an owner of Artech, said the theater building will be unique when it is LEED certified.

Katz said the Green Building Council does not keep records that would show if the theater is the first to get LEED certification.

"As far as we can determine this is the first one in the country," Thompson said. "We have done a lot of research on that."

Janice Kelley and her son, Mike, came out of the theater after paying $10 each for a showing of the new 3-D animation version of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" saying they were very favorably impressed, especially with the quality of the picture and sound.

"I love the theater," she said. "I love the chairs. I like the way they have it arranged."

A 58-year-old credit union executive from Rossville, Ga., Kelley also said the theater's environmentally friendly features are a "big plus."

"I'm all about the environment," she said.