After 17 months of renovation, Mall of America’s movie theater reopens next week under a new owner who built a food hall and, after considering higher ticket prices, kept them in line with the local market.
Called CMX Market Cinema at Mall of America, the remake is so focused on food that the theater’s general manager has a background in restaurants, not theater management.
“An investment in culinary is the key to this theater’s success,” said Frank Stryjewski, chief operating officer for CMX Cinemas, the Mexico-based theater operator that took over control after the mall closed the theater in December 2016.
“CMX Market Cinema at Mall of America represents a new threshold for us,” he said. “It’s a lot of new innovations, particularly in food and beverage.”
It’s the first time CMX has built a theater in the U.S. around a food-market concept, with stations similar in form to the former Macy’s Skyroom in downtown Minneapolis. As in most food halls or eateries, guests pick up a tray and head to handcrafted pizza, burgers and shakes, cheese and charcuterie platters, salads or gourmet sandwiches. Traditionalists can still load up on Red Vines, Skittles and popcorn.
“The new amenities will attract a movie customer looking for a heightened experience,” said Jill Renslow, head of business development at the mall.
Originally, the remodeled theater was going to have 14 screens and 1,100 seats. With extra space taken for the food and beverage area in the lobby, the theater now has 13 theaters and 872 seats. Before the remodeling, there were 14 screens and more than 2,000 seats.
“We have an extensive kitchen installation that cannibalized one auditorium,” Stryjewski said. He declined to disclose the cost of the remodel but said it went beyond the company’s original budget. “This is a new experiment, so food and beverage created new costs,” he said.
The bar features wine, local craft beer and cocktails. Any mall visitor can purchase drinks or food in the market concessions area, with or without a ticket.
Prices on the menu start at $4.25 for a pizza slice, $5-$19 for deli grab and go, and $10-$12 for burgers and hot sandwiches.
While that’s steeper than a pop and popcorn fix at most theaters, ticket prices will be less than at some CMX locations around the country. “We spent time studying pricing,” Stryjewski said. “It’s a more traditional pricing market competitive in this market.”
The stratified price structure ranges from $5 to $14. All seats are reserved. Online ticketing adds $1.99 per ticket. It’s $5 all day on Tuesdays, and $8 for seniors (60+), military and kids any day except Tuesdays. Weekday matinees cost $8.50, weekend matinees $10, weekday evenings $11, and weekend evenings $14. Starting June 12 on Tuesday through Thursday mornings in the summer, CMX will also show free classic kids movies. CMX Cinemas also accepts MoviePass.
The newly set prices are a far cry from the $20-$25 at some CMX theaters where patrons can order food and drinks from their seats.
The theaters offer culinary variety and luxury, although not quite state-of-the-art. The leather-like recliners allow patrons to put their feet up at the touch of a button, just like at more than a dozen theaters in the Twin Cities. But there’s no seat heating option as at some Marcus Theatres and CEC in Andover. Nor is there a call button for drinks and dinner as in CMX Miami.
“We’re conducting more research on that [the call buttons.] Some people don’t like the interruptions,” Stryjewski said. Still, there are charging stations at each seat and a rotating table for refreshments.
Three of the theaters will feature Real D 3-D technology ($2 extra) and all 13 will include Dolby 7.1 sound. Dolby Atmos, the newest sound technology, was rejected as being less effective in the mall’s somewhat smaller auditoriums. The USL Closed Captioning System and descriptive narration equipment are also available for visually or hearing-impaired customers.
While about 40 percent of Mall of America’s visitors are tourists, mall executives view Twin Cities residents as the primary audience for the theaters, Renslow said. “The theaters have always generated strong, consistent revenue,” she said. “We chose to transition to a movie partner because we always want to try new things to help differentiate our theater.”
Stryjewski said locals will find some similarities to Kerasotes, Marcus and AMC theaters. He added, “What we’re attempting here is an extraordinary game-changing experience that will be a benchmark in how people eat at the movies.”
The mall’s theater has been previously owned by General Cinema, AMC and then the mall itself. Under CMX, the theater will employ about 120 people, including about 40 in the kitchen and bar.
CMX Cinemas is the eighth-largest movie theater operator in the U.S. with 32 locations and 354 screens. It is owned by Cinemex of Mexico City, which has 323 sites and nearly 2,800 screens.