Alaska's first IMAX theater to open Friday

June 4, 2010 

Let's talk about the bigger and betterness first.

The aisles between your tall, comfy seat and the row in front of you are practically as wide as sidewalks at the new 16-screen Regal Cinemas theater near Muldoon Road and the Glenn Highway.

The movie projectors are all digital, not film -- meaning no hair or dust jittering across the screen. The place smells like a new car and the theater houses a more than 70-foot IMAX screen that's so big it's hard to look at the whole thing at once.

Indeed, no Alaska movie house boasts a bigger picture than the Regal Tikahtnu Stadium 16, opening next week in the mushrooming Tikahtnu Commons shopping plaza.

Now for the prices. Yeah, you're gonna pay more.

The theater is equipped with the latest weapons in a film industry growing more expensive for theater-goers. Movies will cost anywhere from $6.75 for seniors and children to $17 for an adult IMAX ticket. Watching a movie in 3D raises the price $4, according to the online ticket clearinghouse Fandango.com.

Standard adult tickets at the Stadium 16 will be $10.50 per show. That's 50 to 75 cents more than at Regal's Dimond Center theater in South Anchorage, depending on the day of the week, according to the website and a theater employee.

The competition, Century 16 in Midtown, charges between $9.75 and $10.25 for adults depending on the day of the week, Fandango says.

Still, 3D movies are expensive wherever you go. And for now no one else in Alaska is offering blockbusters on IMAX, which is a brand of shooting and displaying images in larger sizes and higher resolution.

Add the new movie house's location, between Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson, and some customers are ready to pay.

"I think it's pretty awesome that soldiers have something pretty close," said Sgt. Michael Truesdell, who is stationed at Fort Rich.

Paying less than a dollar more per movie is worth saving money on gas, said Truesdell, who was on his way to see the sci-fi flick "Splice" on Friday when he spotted the new theater and stopped in.

Truesdell slipped his Pontiac Grand Prix into the quiet parking lot, idling the engine as news crews and workers wandered through the doors. The place looked open. Were any movies playing yet, he wondered.

The answer is almost. And early birds are in for a bargain.

Regal plans to hold a "soft opening" of the theater on Monday, playing more than a dozen movies that are mostly now out on DVD for just $2 a ticket. As the company test drives the new cinema you'll be able to buy popcorn and soft drinks for $2 each. Proceeds go to local charities.

The movies begin with a 11:40 a.m. showing of the John Cusack disaster flick "2012."

Expect lines, said Robbie Arrington, marketing manager for Regal Entertainment Group.

The low-cost movies continue on Tuesday and Thursday -- Wednesday is reserved for a VIP event where the arcade room will serve as a bar -- with the theater opening for real on Friday.

That's when new releases such as "The A-Team" and "The Karate Kid" hit the screens and normal ticket prices begin.

Along with the 350-seat IMAX auditorium, the theater includes an additional five 3D screens. The seats, with their faux-leather headrests, are called "rocking recliners," Arrington said. "I'm 6-foot 2, and I could sit down and you could easily walk in front of me."

There are kiosks that look like automatic teller machines, where you can buy tickets, rooms to rent for parties and places for employees to wash 3D specs between viewings.

As for concessions, expect the classics: Nachos and soda, candy and hot dogs. The theater has added "Skinny Cow" ice cream sandwiches in a nod to health-conscious customers, but Arrington said that while people say they want healthy food at the movie theater, they don't necessarily buy it.

The new cinema promises to change movie-going in Anchorage in the near future. First, Regal's Fireweed theater in Midtown is scheduled to close Sunday. Soon after, the company's Totem 8 Theaters in East Anchorage will become the chain's new budget theater, offering $3 movies.

The IMAX theater is part of a mega-mall called Tikahtnu Commons, which has also landed a Best Buy and Alaska's first Target store. Cook Inlet Region Inc. is developing the project.

Workers have broken ground on a Red Robin nearby, and Regal hopes to see more restaurants follow suit as thousands of customers file through the cinema on a given weekend, said Arrington.

Even more exciting to Alaskans than movies is the idea of a fresh restaurant chain, but CIRI spokesman Jim Jager said it's too early to say who might move in.

"We are talking to a number of restaurant chains and I expect to have some restaurant announcements before the end of summer," he said.

Stadium 16 and IMAX

1102 N. Muldoon Road

• Preview screenings begin Monday, with slightly older movies such as "Sherlock Holmes," "Leap Year" and "The Blind Side." Tickets are $2, with popcorn and sodas available for $2 each.

• The theater opens for real on Friday, with new releases such as "The A-Team" and "The Karate Kid" and, on IMAX, "Shrek Forever After 3D." Full price tickets, with a free soda and popcorn with paid admission until June 24.

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