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Mega-movie theater opens in Oldsmar

AMC officials hope to attract customers from Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough.

By ED QUIOCO

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 17, 2000


OLDSMAR -- A splash of eye candy and a dose of razzle dazzle along with buttered popcorn and the newest flicks have come to the city at the top of Old Tampa Bay.

American Multi Cinema Inc. has opened its flagship Pinellas theater at the Woodlands Square Shopping Center on Tampa Road in Oldsmar.

AMC Woodlands 20, the county's newest and biggest theater, provides stadium seating and all the bells and whistles of a state-of-the-art megaplex.

"We want you to walk in and say, "Gee, it's fun to come to the theater,' " said Jim Lee, AMC marketing coordinator.

The 67,000-square-foot building, which can seat 3,275 moviegoers, has a theme park feel with a swirl of art deco. Interior colors are bright yellows, reds, greens and purples.

"It's pretty amazing," said Nick Staszko, Oldsmar's community development director. "If you go inside, it's got a lot of rounded features. It's pretty impressive."

AMC officials hope the mix of movie theater innovations and a focus on customer service will draw more than 1-million movie buffs a year from Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, said Roland Palot, the theater's managing director.

"The theater should easily draw people in a 15-mile radius," Palot said. "We are projecting it to be a very popular theater."

The theater boasts extra-wide rows and plush, high-backed seats with retractable armrests so you can have snuggle time with your movie partner. Each row of seats is on a riser 18 inches higher than the one behind it so even children get an unobstructed view of the screen.

The theater features high-tech projectors and digital sound systems featuring Sony Dynamic Digital Sound. ATM-like machines allow people to purchase tickets with credit cards without standing in line at the ticket booths.

Woodlands Square merchants hope the theater's business will spill over to other stores in the shopping plaza, which has had trouble keeping tenants for years.

Major renovations in color, landscaping and new awnings are planned for the plaza to help it match the sparkling new theater. Two restaurants, a Beef O'Brady's sports pub and a San's Pizzeria, and a third unnamed restaurant are on the way, thanks to the theater.

Nearby business owners said they have been anxiously awaiting the theater for years. City officials approved the theater in 1996, but the project ran into engineering and financial delays.

"This will be the best thing for the plaza," said Ruth Jallo, president of Ruth Fashion Inc., located near the theater. "It was a sad plaza before and now it's a very happy plaza."

Debi DeLong, 47, who lives on Race Track Road in Hillsborough, said she would gladly go to the new theater instead of theaters in Hillsborough like AMC Veterans 24 and Citrus Park 20, because the one in Oldsmar will be closer.

"It will be a welcome addition to the area," DeLong said.

The AMC theater is the first of three large projects underway in the city. Pinellas County's first Wal-Mart Supercenter also is slated to be built in the city and a claims processing center for a national health-care company is underway and will employ about 700 employees.

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