The United Artists Citiplace theater will undergo a major renovation beginning in January that will turn it into a Movie Tavern in time for the summer movie season.
George Solomon, CEO of New Orleans-based Southern Theaters, which owns Movie Tavern, said the work will cost about $6 million and involve reducing the number of screens in the theater.
“We’re converting one of the screens into a kitchen,” Solomon said.
That will bring the number of screens at Movie Tavern to 10 once it reopens in May.
The number of seats in the theater will be drastically reduced to make room for luxury reclining seats, folding tables and wide aisles to accommodate servers.
“The number of seats will probably go down by half,” Solomon said.
New projectors also will be installed in the theater.
Southern Theaters said the 45,193- square-foot complex will support more than 200 full- and part-time jobs, and close to 100 construction jobs during the renovation.
The Citiplace complex and a 6.8-acre site around it were sold for $8.2 million to National Retail Properties, of Orlando, Florida, in a deal that was filed Monday. Movie Tavern has a deal to lease the building.
UA Citiplace, which opened in 1997, was one of the first stadium-seating theaters in Baton Rouge. But Solomon said it faced competition from newer properties such as the AMC Baton Rouge 16, the AMC Mall of Louisiana 15 and Cinemark Perkins Rowe.
“The location of Citiplace is probably one of the best in Baton Rouge,” Solomon said. “It’s easily accessible.”
Converting it to a Movie Tavern will breathe new life into the property, he said.
Movie Tavern specializes in showing first-run movies and selling casual fare such as hamburgers, homemade pizzas and chicken wings, along with beer, wine and mixed drinks. Customers are able to order food and drinks from their seats by pressing a button and employees will discreetly drop off their dishes and beverages.
“We bought Movie Tavern a little over a year ago,” Solomon said. “What they’re doing is about the only true growth segment for the theater industry.”
Solomon has family and business ties to Baton Rouge. T.G. Solomon, his father, opened the city’s first drive-in theater in 1949. In the 1980s and 1990s, he owned video stores in Baton Rouge.
“We’ve been looking at Citiplace for a couple of years; we never thought we would get there with it,” Solomon said. “But this deal fell together in the last month and a half.”
Movie Tavern, founded in Dallas in 2001, has 19 locations across the U.S., including an eight-screen theater at 201 N. U.S. 190 in Covington. An 11-screen Movie Tavern is under construction in the Juban Crossing mixed-use development near Denham Springs and is set to open in the summer.
The Livingston Parish and Baton Rouge theaters are far enough apart that Solomon said he doesn’t anticipate the Movie Taverns cannibalizing each other’s business.
News of the Movie Tavern comes after Tommy Spinosa, who developed Citiplace, announced that an Alamo Drafthouse Cinema will open in his Rouzan mixed-use development off Perkins Road in mid-2016. Alamo Drafthouse, which opened its first location in Austin, Texas, in 1997, launched the concept of allowing patrons to order food and drinks from the comfort of their movie seats.
“There’s always concerns about competition, but we will be open well over a year before they will be,” Solomon said. “That will give us time to develop our own clientele.”