Mall brings dining to the movies

The cinemas of the Grove at Wesley Chapel will serve alcohol and food.

Published March 9, 2007

WESLEY CHAPEL - Here's a question you never thought you'd hear as you're settling into your cinema seat: "Would you like some wine or beer to go with that burger?"

But when the Cobb Theatres 16-screen multiplex opens at the Grove at Wesley Chapel mall next spring, that's the question patrons should expect.

The cinema will be the first in Pasco County to offer 350 "premium seats" in six upper-level auditoriums, where patrons can have alcohol, beverages and food served directly to their seats before the screening starts.

That's not all, Jeremy P. Welman, Cobb's chief operating officer said at the mall's groundbreaking Thursday.

Imagine this:

One would enter the cinema and take either a "grand staircase" or a glass elevator to the upper floor, where Cobb is building a lounge; a 140-seat restaurant offering burgers, sandwiches and salads; and a bar that can fit about 20 people.

A concierge on that floor would sell tickets for the balcony auditoriums, featuring oversized leather seats that have holders for wine and entrees, Welman said. The premium seats would be priced "a little bit more" than the regular seats downstairs, although Cobb hasn't finalized prices yet.

One more thing - 21 and over only, please.

"It's a kid-free zone," Welman said. "It's an adult experience."

Well, it's not as if you'd be ditching your kids altogether. The young ones can still be dispatched to the 2,600 ground-floor seats for a more traditional cinematic experience.

Cobb Theatres is in the final permitting stages to build a five-screen cinema with similar premium seats in Miami, Welman said. The Miami theater is expected to launch about the same time as the Pasco one.

The $175-million Grove will open a few months ahead of the theater, in time to catch the 2007 holiday shopping season, said Bill Krahe, managing partner of the mall's developer, ECHO Real Estate Services.

In addition to confirmed leases with Bed, Bath & Beyond, Best Buy and Dick's Sporting Goods, among others, the developers are still negotiating with Toys R Us, Babies R Us, T.J. Maxx and "a national book retailer," Krahe said.

This would mean Barnes & Noble, Borders or Books-A-Million.

ECHO is spending $8-million to widen County Road 54 and Oakley Boulevard, which leads into the mall off Interstate 75. Work is ongoing.

Krahe is betting that the northward expansion of central Pasco's growth would place his mall in a better position than rivals farther south.

"Granted, south-central Pasco might be where the growth is now, but if you look ahead five to 10 years, we're in a more central location and we've got visibility along the interstate," he said.

Chuin-Wei Yap covers growth and development in Pasco County. He can be reached at (813) 909-4613 or cyap@sptimes.com.

By the numbers 

16 Number of screens in Cobb Theatres at Wesley Chapel mall.

350 Number of premium seats at cinema.

21 Minimum age of clients for premium seats.

140 Number of seats in upstairs restaurant.

2,600 Number of seats on ground floor.