St. Petersburg Times Online: News of southern Pinellas County
TampaBay.com
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
tampabay.com

printer version

It’s showtime again

ParkSide 16 theaters debut to rave reviews by cinema-goers and some nearby mall businesses.

[Times photo: Jamie Francis]
Clarissa Roach polishes the glass outside the ticket window at the new theater at the ParkSide mall in Pinellas Park.

By SHARON L. BOND and ANDREW MEACHAM

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 1, 2001


PINELLAS PARK -- It was 12:50 p.m. Friday when Mark Poor, house manager, knocked on the door of the ticket booth at the ParkSide 16 theater complex and said, "Sell tickets."

A crowd of several hundred waited outside to enter the new, $15-million movie house that features stadium seating and a state-of-the art sound system.

Tickets are priced at $1 until the grand opening Friday. Movies showing until then are second-run family pictures such as Apollo 13, Titanic and Chicken Run. Proceeds from ticket sales go to charity.

Poor's late starting flag wasn't just live drama. Movies were scheduled to start at 1 p.m., but a last-minute switch of screens held up the ticket sales until the changes were recorded in the computer.

Preparations for the informal or soft opening of ParkSide 16 at ParkSide mall continued almost to the last minute.

Glitches abounded, from nacho trays of the wrong size to an upward-bound escalator that shut down at 6:20 p.m.

"Who on the radio knows about napkins that don't fit the napkin holders?" David Phillips, an R/C Theatres vice president, asked into one of the many two-way radios in use. Phillips is in town for the opening but will return to the corporate offices in Baltimore later this month.

Savannah Harvey was first in line for the 1 p.m. show, there with her grandmother and sister at 11:27 a.m. She was seeing Rugrats in Paris for the third time.

"We're taking our grandmother so she can see it," explained Savannah, who is 7. Her sister, Devan, is 4.

"I think it's the nicest theater I've ever been into," grandmother Eleanora Harvey said.

Donna and Michael Mudaro of Pinellas Park were there to see Meet the Parents. They liked the new theater.

"We've been for months without movies in Pinellas Park," she said.

"This looks like Tomorrowland at Disney World," he said. "This techno look is cool, man."

Mudaro said he hopes the new movies help ParkSide rebound after a decline during which the mall lost half of its tenants.

"Looks snazzy, don't it?" mused Pinellas Park resident Cindy MacFarlane, 34, after sneaking a peek at the $20,000 movie preview screen that plays constantly above dining tables in the lobby. Her son D.J., 6, slurped an ice cream cone and nodded. "Looks like the new millennium," his mother added.

ParkSide businesses gave mixed reviews on the benefits of opening-day traffic. Mall operations manager Forrest Massa called the effect "overwhelming," and Bresler's Ice Cream and Yogurt manager Leeann Bethard had recorded 100 customers by 5 p.m. -- compared to 90 by Thursday's 9 p.m. closing.

Managers at Lee Nails and Waldenbooks said movie traffic was negligible, as did Pradia Bavishi, who owns Almond House. Almond House and Waldenbooks are on the ground level, one floor down from the movie theaters, and Lee Nails sits toward the mall's east end, by JCPenney.

Perry's Coffee and Tea Co. sits right beside Bresler's, but owner Harry Murphy noted that people who come to dollar movies may not be filling the seats -- or the stores -- once prices return to $7 on Friday.

"It took 15 years for this mall to go down the tubes," said Murphy, now in his fifth year at the Pinellas Park location. "It's going to take time to bring it back."

As for those movie prices, matinee customers will pay $5, a discount from the $7 evening price. Seniors who buy a $1 card will pay $5 at any time. The theater will not offer a twilight discount, which retired mechanic Stan Flowers used Thursday at Crossroads when he saw Heartbreakers for $3.75.

Curious customers Friday sold out early screenings of Space Cowboys, Charlie's Angels, and Meet the Parents. Others did not patronize the movies at all.

Mike Gundock, 33, killed time and a variety of ghouls with an automatic weapon between his advertising sales appointments. "The House of the Dead" is one of 13 video games in a darkly lit arcade on the ground level. The theater expects to add more video games.

Other amenities include three birthday party rooms, right down the hall from the upper-row access to movie theaters. The rooms, which hold picnic tables and small kitchenettes, will be available free of charge on a first-come, first-serve basis.

ParkSide now employs about 150 staff and expects to hire as many as 50 more, said Tom Elder, the general manager. Some, such as Kira Howe and Steve Ball, both 18, took the job to stay close to the movie industry. Howe said she won an award for a project she filmed while a student at Pinellas Park High School. Ball, a Gibbs High School graduate, is an aspiring actor.

Others, such as beauty-school student Kristin Roth, 20, and roommate Jaime Willis, 19, are there to pay bills. Roth, Willis and Gibbs sophomore Stephanie Waller, 16, were all looking for a place to punch their time clocks Friday. Most jobs start at $5.50 an hour.

Seniors Estella Blevins and Roberta Reed of Pinellas Park emerged from The Perfect Storm complaining only that the sound was too loud -- a point both were willing to overlook. Blevins pointed to the history of Pinellas Park theaters closing in recent years.

"We're kind of starved," she said.

Asked how ParkSide compared with the old Pinellas Square theaters, Blevins replied, "There's no comparison."

By 8:45 p.m. Friday, mechanics had fixed the escalator. Ticket sales at around 9 p.m. were just under 3,000, with several late shows still to come.

Back to St. Petersburg area news

Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
 
Special Links
Mary Jo Melone
Howard Troxler


From the Times
South Pinellas desks
  • Fischer goes out a quiet winner
  • City braces for Blind Pass Road disruption
  • It's showtime again
  • Developer considers Gateway Centre site
  • More bike lanes signal a progressive county
  • Robbery suspect still in critical condition
  • Man injured in fall at construction site
  • Town considers switch in policing
  • Youth teams compete on fields -- and for them
  • Revamped library opens today in Pinellas Park
  • Publix turns in site plans for store
  • What's up on campus
  • The week ahead
  • Chamber to sell bus passes
  • Landmark business may sport expansion
  • Doctor elected as group's governor
  • Coming in from the cold
  • Festival maintains a tradition of change
  • Festival schedule
  • Rain can't mar fete for departing mayor
  • All official meetings to appear on cable TV
  • Rain spoils ditch repair, so city workers fix it again
  • Senior job fair to be held April 21
  • A tricky lane-ending awaits I-275 travelers
  • Housing for low-income disabled, seniors available
  • Community Day puts focus on recycling
  • Child-care subsidies rescue waiting moms
  • Government calendar
  • School needs vendors for Mayfest event
  • Treasure Island bridge to close again
  • Public input asked on new area water sources
  • New council, mayor installed today
  • 'Great experience' is coming to end for Slavik
  • Florida Senior Stars let good times roll
  • For the record
  • Teats makes Oldsmar proud in Armadillo Run

  •