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Is IMAX coming to county?

Tony Holt Hernando Today
Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 06:29 PM

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The local movie-going experience is about to get extreme — and reach heights of up to four stories.

If all goes according to plan, a Georgia Theatre Extreme auditorium — an IMAX-style theater — will be added to the Beacon Theatres building as early as June 2013.

The news was confirmed Wednesday by Bo Chambliss, president of George Theatre Company, which owns the 10-auditorium facility at the corner of State Road 50 and Mariner Boulevard.

"The whole area is growing," said Chambliss. "We just wanted to do something to improve and enhance the movie experience there."

If all the approvals go through, the renovations at the theater will offer several more choices for moviegoers.

The interior wall of one of the 10 existing auditoriums will be knocked down and the lobby will be expanded — giving visitors more room and more food and beverage options.

Instead of sticking to the basics — popcorn, sodas and candy — the theater will offer guests more entrée-type foods, including pizza, burgers and more, Chambliss said.

In all, after the renovations are complete, there will be one IMAX-style theater and 13 standard-sized auditoriums. The addition is expected to be about 40-feet high and 70-feet wide. Other than hospitals and the old courthouse, the theater is expected to be one of the tallest buildings in Hernando County.

Traffic will flow along the north side of the facility and a new parking lot will be built in what is now a vacant lot.

A couple of box stores, which house Cards-R-Less and Pueblo Viejo Restaurante, will need to be demolished to allow for the drive-through traffic.

The rest of the shopping center — in particular the stores that face the highway — will remain unchanged.

"I don't think anyone in this plaza is going to complain about it. That's for sure," said Stacey Cross, a manager at Jersey Café.

After all of the paperwork is submitted and reviewed, a staff report will be submitted with a recommendation to the planning and zoning board.

Planning and zoning commissioners will submit their own recommendation to Hernando County commissioners, who then will decide whether to approve the construction.

Christopher J. Linsbeck, a county zoning supervisor, said the conversations between his agency and Georgia Theatre Company have been light on details thus far.

"It's all been very preliminary," he said.

Chambliss, when contacted over the phone Thursday, didn't wish to hold anything back.

"It's really going to be the only large-format theater within a 45-mile radius, so I'm sure we'll draw a lot of out-of-town (customers)," he said. "It's also going to be a big building. It will definitely stand out."

Chambliss predicted construction will begin by the end of the year. He said he would like to see it completed prior to summer movie season, but it likely won't be finished in time for the May 3 opening of "Iron Man 3."

It should be ready by the time "Man of Steel" is released, which is scheduled for June 14.

"I really think it's fantastic," said County Commissioner John Druzbick. "This obviously will bring visitors to the area … Just in the last six months, you've really started to see a lot of businesses expanding or moving here. The horizon looks really good." (352) 544-5283

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