AMC Main Street Theater officially opens to the public on May 1st, as 12:01 showings of X-Men Origins: Wolverine will hit the screen. Until then, they’re running some special events – including a special invitation to Kansas City area bloggers & guests on April 22nd. Special thanks go out to Justin Gardner, Social Media Manager for AMC Theaters.
We received a full tour of the building, and take my word when I tell you that the amount of time, work, and forward thinking that went into the overhaul of this place is phenomenal. This was originally the Empire Theater. Opened in 1921 as a vaudville/movie house, housed such legends as Charlie Chaplin and George Burns. Other live shows took place as well, as one of the downstairs theaters sits where large holding tanks used to house seals and other aquatic life (due to a movie in progress for the KC Filmfest, we did not go in to that particular theater). Later becoming the RKO Theater, it eventually shut down and became dormant for two decades (1985-2005).
Taking a walk through the modern-day facility, you will see many features which detail its history. Old brick walls and original iron railings & wooden handrails on the grand stairwell stand out upon first glance, and welcome you with open arms. Visitors can also see parts of the underside of what used to be the upper seating balcony for the original theater, which held upwards of 2,300 visitors. The current setup, with its six all-digital screens, holds a total capacity of 545. Those of us on the tour were treated to certain areas of the theater not accessible to the general public, including the actual upper balcony of the old layout. We had to be careful where we stepped, so as not to have an unwelcomed run-in with the building’s original air-cooling system. Since actual air-conditioning was not around that long ago, the theater set up massive blocks of ice in the lowest level of the building, and large fans would blow the air up into the above floors through conveniently-located holes in the flooring.
Also included on the “not-for-the-public” portion of the tour were the housing areas for the theater’s electronics. Each of the six theaters has its own housing area, holding the computers that power the all-digital players and their respective projectors. One main control room allows staff to monitor quality control over all six rooms. Also, we learned that AMC headquarters (located a very short distance from AMC Main Street Theater) has the ability, from the headquarters building, to remotely monitor quality control over not only the six rooms at this theater, but also every room at the other 10 all-digital AMC locations around the country (and one in Toronto).
Let us not undervalue the work that has gone into the new materials that are now housed within historic walls. All restroom facilities are energy-efficient: low-flow toilets, low-powered (but plenty of light output) LED lighting, and motion-sensored faucets. Many of the new walls, as well as carpets, are environmentally friendly, and when the time comes for carpeting to be pulled up and replaced, it is 100% recycleable. If you get a chance to visit AMC Main Street, look around. You’ll see markers here and there showing what AMC has done to be very Green with their renovation. It all seemed very appropriate, as our tour was taking place on Earth Day 2009.
The old lobby at street-level along 14th Street is now the Marquee Bar & Grill. In this area, you can grab a bite to eat and a choice drink, as well as utilizing a lounge seating area equipped with very comfortable couches and three HD flat-panel screens (at the time of our visit, they were airing playoff hockey as well as the Royals and Cardinals baseball games). Three theater rooms are on the first floor – two of which seat 76, the third room will hold 283. The upper level holds the other three theater rooms – all with smaller capacity (the larger holds around 65, the smaller two will hold around 24 each). Interesting fact: the circular entryway for the 2 restrooms and three Cinema Suites on the upper level is perfectly acoustic. Stand in the middle and talk, and listen to your voice echo in all directions around you.
Our actual movie-going experience was a surprise. We had been informed ahead of time that we would be seeing Valkyrie (starring Tom Cruise). Just before dimming the lights, we were informed that “due to an inability to get ahold of the movie in time”, we would not be getting to see Valkyrie. Instead, we would be getting to see The Brothers Bloom (starring Rachel Weisz, Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo), which won’t even be released nationwide until May 29th. Without giving much away from the movie itself, let me simply say that the seat transducers (aka the “Butt-Kickers”) that fill your seat with low-frequency vibrations got their workout and gave an extra dimension to the overall experience.
Once again, AMC hits a home run in the category of class. To steal a quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: “If you have the means, I highly recommend it. It is SO choice”.