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Grand Cinema on George O'Neal set to undergo makeover, expansion into entertainment center

July 22,2016 21:13

Seeing a nationwide trend toward entertainment centers and Movie Tavern-style food and beverage offerings, the Grand Cinema 8 on George O'Neal Road will soon undergo a top-to-bottom makeover and expansion. The two-phase renovation will see a bar, ...


Seeing a nationwide trend toward entertainment centers and Movie Tavern-style food and beverage offerings, the Grand Cinema 8 on George O’Neal Road will soon undergo a top-to-bottom makeover and expansion.
The two-phase renovation will see a bar, kitchen, laser tag arena, expanded arcade, bowling lanes and two auditoriums added to the eight-auditorium cinema at 15365 George O’Neal Road.
Roger Black, director of operations for Celebrity Theaters, which owns and operates Grand Cinema, says the renovation is needed to keep up with the demand across the country for expanded food and beverage options that are sprouting up. He estimates the theater was last renovated about 15 years ago.
“We’re seeing this transition in America right now, even here in Baton Rouge,” Black says, referring to the Movie Tavern locations in Baton Rouge and Livingston Parish and the renovations at the Cinemark in Perkins Rowe. “We need to stay current with everybody.”
Black, who has worked in theaters a long time, likens the current trend toward the plush seats to when theaters moved from sloped floors to stadium seating.
“It just steamrolled into if you didn’t have stadium seating, you were struggling if not out of business,” he says. The lounge chairs will also allow Grand Cinema to offer reserved seating, which Black says is another major trend.
The first phase of the project will begin around the start of the school year, when the cinema will close for 13 weeks for the major facelift.
“In the movie theater business, we’re very seasonal. Once the schools start back up, our business drops dramatically,” Black says.
Workers will replace the carpets, draperies and add the plush, recliner seats that are in vogue. A small arcade and bar will also be added in the first phase, and the front of the business will be expanded. The bar will feature a few frozen daiquiri machines and a small beer selection, Black says.
The property is not zoned for liquor sales, so Black has applied with the city-parish Planning Commission to have the property rezoned from LC3 light commercial to HC1 heavy commercial, which allows for alcohol sales. The theater also must apply for a liquor permit with the city-parish department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and Gaming Enforcement. The application is set for an Aug. 15 hearing before the Planning Commission.
Black estimates the theater’s eight auditoriums hold about 850-900 seats. Each new plush seat takes up the space of roughly two normal seats, so the seating count in the eight auditoriums will drop by half. But with the addition of the two new, large auditoriums, which are planned to each hold about 160 of the plush recliner seats, the overall seating of the renovated cinema is estimated to be slightly under its current occupancy.
If everything goes according to plan, the theater will reopen sometime before Thanksgiving and be rechristened as a Celebrity Theater, Black says.
For the second phase, the cinema will stay open as workers expand the building. New additions during that phase will include ticket and prize kiosks in the arcade, bowling lanes and a laser tag area. The bar will be expanded and a kitchen will be created as well.
Black says Celebrity Theaters is working on plans for phase two and does not have a construction timeline for it yet.
—Ryan Broussard

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