Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

Can Riverview support two new theaters?

RIVERVIEW

This fast-growing community south of Brandon has a smattering of grocery stores, bars and restaurants.

But movie fans keen to catch the new Star Wars or Avengers epic on the big screen must endure the traffic and crowds of Brandon Town Center or risk mosquito bites at the Ruskin Family Drive-In Theatre.

That is set to change this year when Riverview gets not one but two brand new multiplex cinemas.

Goodrich Quality Theaters is building a 14-screen multiplex on Gibsonton Drive that could open by the end of October. Just five miles north on Progress Village Boulevard, construction is under way on Xscape Riverview 14, another 14-screen theater expected to open in the fall.

But can Riverview really support two multiplexes and fill 28 movie auditoriums on a regular basis?

"It was a surprise to be getting two at the same time," said Debbie Kirkland, membership director of the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce. "The developers feel there is plenty of population and businesses in this are to support both of those."

As an unincorporated area, Riverview has no official boundaries but it is defined in the U.S. Census, which logged roughly 125,000 inhabitants here in 2010. That number is estimated at 137,000 now, according to planners at the Hillsborough City-County Planning Commission.

Kirkland said the cinemas will draw from Gibsonton, Ruskin and Apollo Beach, as well as Brandon, where residents want to avoid traffic.

"When you put those together, you have a large population base to pull from," she said.

Whether that is sufficient to sell enough popcorn, hot dogs and soda — the main profit drivers for movie theaters — is tougher to gauge.

AMC's the Regency 20 in Brandon, which has 20 screens, is just 6 miles north of Xscape. The success of the new theaters will depend as much on the income of theatergoers as on how many seats are filled, said Patrick Corcoran, vice president and chief communications officer at the National Association of Theater Owners.

There is no one formula for how many people are needed to make a multiplex viable, he said.

"It's a market-based analysis. You may have a different formula if you have a higher income population," he said.

Heightening the competition is that both cinemas plan to be first-run venues, the industry term for theaters showing recently released blockbuster movies that attract most of their audience in the first few weeks.

Chief operating officer Martin Betz said Goodrich did not know another multiplex was planned.

"We had announced prior to them and gone so far down the path we decided to stay the course," he said. "The opportunity to back off would have been theirs, not ours. We were already much further along. We'll see how it shakes out."

With plans including a gastro-bar and patio, Goodrich is planning for the venue to be a destination even for people not intending to take in a movie.

Both venues are promising state-of-the-art cinema experience.

The Goodrich cinema will include an auditorium with a 80-foot-wide GDX screen, similar to an IMAX screen.

All the auditoriums at the 80,000-square-foot venue, close to Interstate 75, will include luxury recliner seats and Dolby Atmos sound systems.

The Xscape Riverview 14, across the street from the Enclave at Tranquility Lake apartments, will have two floor-to-ceiling screens that it calls "Xtreme Theater," accompanied by a 360-degree surround sound system. Every auditorium will have luxury recliners with footrests.

"I think they will draw more from the south and we will draw more from the north," said Scott Bagwell, Xscape's vice president of operations. "We see no reason for people to drive past us when they're offering the same thing."

Contact Christopher O'Donnell at [email protected] or (813) 226-3446. Follow @codonnell_Times

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