by James Heffernan
Apple Blossom Mall in Winchester soon will offer movie buffs “the ultimate entertainment experience” as part of a host of architectural and cosmetic improvements — the retail center’s first major renovation since it opened in 1982.
Carmike Cinemas is building a 12-screen, 2,400-seat theater complex near the food court entrance. Dubbed “Apple Blossom 12,” it will be highlighted by Carmike’s “BigD” auditorium, a theater environment that includes a three-story, wall-to-wall, high-definition screen, surround sound and digital projection of both 2-D and 3-D features. “We’re providing the ultimate entertainment experience that centerpieces large-format, digital with bigger screens, bigger sound and luxurious theater seating for cutting-edge presentation and the definitive enjoyment of our audiences,” President and CEO David Passman said in a statement.
The success of recent Hollywood releases like “Avatar,” “The Avengers,” “Cars 2” and “The Lion King in 3-D” proves that audiences are excited about the new digital experience, Passman said.
Apple Blossom Mall, owned by Simon Property Group, is anchored by Belk, JCPenney and Sears stores and includes more than 90 specialty stores and eateries. Like many traditional shopping malls, it has lost some traffic over the years to newer suburban retail centers. The new theater, scheduled to open next spring, should help “enhance the ‘mall-going experience’ for all of our patrons,” says Larry Nelson, Simon’s area director of mall marketing.
More immediate improvements to Apple Blossom Mall include new guest entrances and signage, an expanded food court with outdoor terrace seating, a new play zone for young children, modern lighting fixtures, fresh ceiling finishes, upscale flooring, soft seating areas, family restroom suites and digital device access and charge stations. These projects are slated for completion in time for the start of the 2012 holiday season.
Simon announced a major lifestyle redevelopment of the mall in 2007, to include an RC Theatres 16-screen complex, two big-box stores, an additional department store and new restaurants. But that project never materialized because of the ailing economy.
“This has been a long time coming,” says Randy Collins, president and CEO of the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Some people, for whatever reason, have taken the mall for granted, but we in the business community welcome the investment. We think it will help bring people to Apple Blossom Mall.
“We don’t want our shoppers going over the mountain to Loudoun or Fairfax or D.C., or even Hagerstown or Martinsburg,” Collins says. “If Simon is willing to invest in Apple Blossom Mall, I think the community should be willing to step up as well.”
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