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King of the big screens opens

The biggest and poshest movie theater in north Hillsborough County opens this afternoon on Van Dyke Road.

The Hollywood 20, as the name implies, features 20 auditoriums. Each has tiered seating, with each row 12 inches higher than the row in front of it.

"Stadium seating is the hottest new wave in the motion picture industry," said Phil Zacheretti, director of marketing for Regal Cinemas, the theater's owner. The high-back seats have extra padding and cup holders in the arm rests, Zacheretti said.

Today, Saturday and Sunday, Regal plans to give free T-shirts to the first 100 movie ticket buyers each day. Ticket prices for shows before 6 p.m. are $4.50. After 6 p.m., tickets cost $4.50 for senior citizens and children, and $6.50 for adults.

The 80,500-square-foot Hollywood 20 changed owners in the midst of construction.

The theater was begun early this year by Cobb Theatres, a Birmingham, Ala. chain that owned 67 movie houses in the Southeast, particularly Florida. But this summer, Cobb was acquired in a $200-million deal by Regal Cinemas, a Knoxville, Tenn. chain. Now, Regal boasts 242 movie houses with 2,134 screens. It operates in 22 states.

The theater opening, timed for the holiday movie season, is the biggest event at Northgate Square since the shopping center opened with a Publix two years ago.

The new Burger King at the shopping center is adding employees and extending its hours to 1 a.m. in anticipation of business from late-night moviegoers, said manager Dianne Frey.

"We'll stay open until that last car leaves," Frey said. "Whatever their needs are, we're here."

Frey said she and a theater executive also agreed to "bounce back" coupon promotions. For example, the Burger King may give customers coupons for popcorn at the theater; while the theater's ticket stubs may entitle bearers to french fries at Burger King, Frey said.

A Blockbuster Video store, at the N Dale Mabry Highway end of the shopping center from the Hollywood 20, expects the big movie house to be an ally rather than a competitor, said manager Carol Lavoie.

In anticipation of a tide of movie fans, Blockbuster lowered the rental fee Tuesday for most of its movies. But for feature releases, it raised the fee 7 cents to $3.49, and shortened the rental period to two days from three.

"I think it'll help us," Lavoie said of the Hollywood 20. "Folks are going to be in the mood for movies and are just going to take a jaunt over here."

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