MUSCATINE, Iowa — It’s too soon to know the weather forecast for Friday, March 8, but the thermometer at the corner of Mulberry Avenue and the Douglas King Memorial Expressway might well be hovering at 90 degrees.
That’s the day that The Palms, a 10-plex theater complex operated by R.L. Fridley Theatres of Des Moines, is tentatively scheduled to open.
Not coincidentally, the Disney film “Oz the Great and Powerful” will be released the very same day.
Great and powerful, say hello to fun and eye-catching.
Featuring bright exterior colors and even brighter design concepts, The Palms is being built to give movie-goers the sense that they’ve escaped, at least for a couple of hours, from their regular lives and even, perhaps, their decade.
With a nod to the tropics and an Art Deco feel to the 30,000-square-feet facility, it’s Jimmy Buffett meets Jimmy Durante.
During a tour of the 10-plex Thursday, Russ Vannorsdel, Fridley Theatres’ operations manager, pointed out some of the features found in the $9 million project:
Ticket-buyers can make their purchase from a ticket-seller or at a kiosk, or they can reserve an individual seat online. While they wait to make their ticket purchase, they can watch movie trailers on four 40-inch liquid crystal display screens. Ticket prices haven’t been released yet.
Once inside, a concession stand with six point-of-sale terminals will offer movie buffs a variety of treats, from staples like popcorn and candy to sliders and chicken baskets — with French fries, if you like.
A chandelier specially selected by Brian Fridley, the company’s co-owner, will light up the lobby.
The auditoriums will range from 75 or so seats up to The Palms’ signature space, a 249-seat theater with Dolby Atmos sound, which will help give movie-goers an experience somewhat akin to an IMAX film.
According to Vannorsdel, there are only about eight other such equipped auditoriums in the nation with the 40-channel sound capability. He described it as “speakers on speed.”
A $2-per-ticket surcharge will be charged for films shown there.
The sound technology at the largest auditorium is so new that The Palms will employ, for the time being, a demo model from the manufacturer.
Each of the 10 auditoriums also comes equipped with as big a screen as the space can hold. The largest is about 30 feet by 55 feet.
At each of the 10 auditoriums, 3D films can be screened. Each film will be screened digitally, cinema’s state of the art.
At any given time, one of the 10 auditoriums will be reserved for people 21 and older. A portable bar with wine, beer and mixed drinks will be available there.
Seats will be faux leather and will measure 25 inches wide, three inches wider than standard. The stadium-style seating is designed with extra-wide tiers, and each seat has a cup holder with an arm that lifts up — “to encourage cuddling,” Vannorsdel said with a smile.
Employees from the company’s four-plex at the Muscatine Mall will transfer over to The Palms, which will employ about 30 people. Vannorsdel said the current facility will close when the lease expires this spring.
Managers from R.L. Fridley facilities in the Des Moines area will be on hand for about six weeks to help with The Palms’ opening and during the weeks after.
Vannorsdel said he’s convinced that excitement among Muscatine’s 22,924 residents will be enough to make the venture work financially. But the company also plans to market The Palms within a circle 15 miles outside Muscatine, where another 25,000 or so people live.
If those additional movie-goers also find that The Palms provides them with a quality afternoon or evening’s worth of entertainment, “that will determine the real success of the facility,” Vannorsdel said.