Malco Theatres will add an IMAX screen to its Razorback Cinema Grill in Fayetteville this year, the company announced Tuesday (Sept. 12).
The theater’s planned debut is Dec. 15, screening Walt Disney Studios’ “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” It will mark the first-ever IMAX theater opening in the Northwest Arkansas market, according to IMAX.
Malco operates about 350 screens at 34 locations in the South, and the Razorback is one of two Malco cinemas chosen to get the IMAX format upgrade, according to a release from the company. The other is Paradiso Cinema Grill in Malco’s hometown of Memphis, Tenn.
“Two of our largest theatre regions are in Memphis and Northwest Arkansas,” David Tashie, senior vice president of operations, said in a statement to Talk Business & Politics. “With the proximity of the University of Arkansas to the Razorback Cinema Grill, we decided Fayetteville was the best location to serve the NWA area.”
IMAX screen sizes, at an average of 52 by 72 feet, are larger than traditional theater screens, and they are often curved or domed. Seat rows are often set at a steep angle.
“We looked at all of our options regarding a large-format solution and came to the conclusion that no one has a better combination of quality, full-immersion cinema and brand awareness than IMAX,” Malco President and CEO Stephen Lightman said in a statement.
As of June 30, there were almost 1,300 IMAX theaters in 75 countries, according to the publicly-traded company.
“We are excited to welcome Malco Theatres to the IMAX business, and together look forward to introducing the world’s most immersive cinema going experience to new audiences across Tennessee, Arkansas and the mid-South,” Mark Welton, president of IMAX Theatres, said in a press release.
Cinemas throughout the country are upgrading their facilities and offerings amid slowing ticket sales due to competition with home theater systems and other entertainment forms. Nationwide, there were 1.3 billion movie tickets sold in 2016, down slightly from the previous year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. The number of tickets sold has hovered between the 1.2 billion and 1.4 billion marks since 2006. Box office revenue was $11.25 billion, down slightly from 2015 at $11.29 billion, according to the MPPA.
Rising admission prices will result in modest box-office revenue increases for the industry, according to a report from PWC. The average ticket price is expected to increase from $8.68 in 2016 to $9.15 by 2021.
Other upgrades to Razorback Cinemas are underway, including reclined seating and a renovated kitchen to accommodate an expanded menu. Malco is also exploring the idea of adding beer and wine sales. It is one of several theaters throughout Arkansas that has added or is in the process of adding luxury seating and expanding concessions.