Upgrades on the way for University Mall movie theater megalex in Tampa

Frank Theatres has flicked the lights back on at the University Mall 16 megaplex that Regal Entertainment closed a year ago.

The Jupiter-based operator of 26 movie houses is working up plans to renovate the 15-year-old theater that anchors the food court in the Tampa mall but chose to open the week before Christmas rather than wait.

"The plans have not been approved yet, but they're talking about making more than $500,000 in renovations," said Kiely Potter, University Mall marketing director. "This was the last new theater in the Tampa market built without stadium seating."

Frank promises a first-run film venue. The upgrade plans include new digital projection equipment, including 3-D, and, so far, installing a modified type of stadium seating in the 12 upstairs theaters. The ceiling may be too low to fit it into four theaters on the ground floor.

Lenders took back ownership of University Mall in 2010 and have been trying to sell it to a new landlord. It's anchored by three department stores and a Burlington Coat Factory and has held on to a large contingent of chain and local retailers, many with a flair for urban fashion. Founded in 1906, Frank claims to be a movie business pioneer, from running nickelodeons to the first talkie theater in Philadelphia in 1921.

The local flavor

What will higher-end restaurateurs say they are dishing out in 2012?

Four of the top 10 menu trends in 2012 will be "locally" sourced foods, concludes a poll of 1,800 chefs compiled by the American Culinary Federation. That includes "local" meats, seafoods, produce, and wine and beer.

Two other top trends deal with healthier options for kids, two with choices for people on restricted diets and two others with sustainable agriculture and seafood themes.

It remains to be seen whether commitments to "local" will be genuine or more marketing fluff, such as buying from a local wholesaler as opposed to local growers, ranchers or fishing fleets. So diners who care about such matters should press for details. A third of the chefs surveyed said they are "hyper-local," meaning they have gardens on site.

A relative newcomer to the bay area food scene, food trucks came in 13th on the list.

HSN falls behind

HSN lost some of its sheen in 2011, according to two independent surveys.

When Stella Services tested shipping speed by the 25 largest online merchants, HSN came in next to last, ahead of Toys "R" Us. Standard shipping orders tested from HSN arrived in 5.5 days, as opposed to first-place Zappos (which builds free overnight shipping into prices) within two days.

Meanwhile, ForeSee Results said HSN slipped from a 79 to a 76 in its latest ranking of overall customer satisfaction among the top online retailers. That dropped the St. Petersburg e-commerce giant to 28th of 40 online retailers rated and just below the average score. Rival QVC, meanwhile, scored 83, enough to rise to fourth best behind industry-leading Amazon.com's best-ever 88.

HSN did thump QVC for faster returns, a big deal in mail order, scoring sixth best with a five-day average behind Amazon's 4.3 days. QVC and Zappos both took 13 days, according to Stella Service.

Upgrades on the way for University Mall movie theater megalex in Tampa 01/03/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2012 12:10am]

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