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SCRANTON -- A movie with some food and a cocktail, that's the big announcement about what's coming to the Mall at Steamtown in Scranton.

It was another announcement of a new tenant for the Mall at Steamtown in downtown Scranton in less than a week, and this one will be bringing the movies back to the mall's shuttered theater.

The theater has been part of the Mall at Steamtown property since the mid-1990s. Marquee Cinemas closed at the end of last year.

Now, the mall's new owner announced this will be a theater again, but it might not be what you would first think of when you think of a movie experience.

In a news conference Tuesday morning, the people from Phoenix Theatres announced that they will take over the old theater and open "Iron Horse Movie Bistro."

Plans are to provide restaurant-style food and a full bar with a steampunk theme. Customers can indulge in an electronic recliner.

The theater's new owners say they think that formula will work because it's unlike any other movie theaters in the area. Phoenix Theatres from Tennessee is moving in. It's what they do. It's in their name.

"We founded this company in 2011 and we named it Phoenix Theatres, obviously, for rising from the ashes, and we have a tendency to go to theaters that have either been closed or are in bad shape, and we renovate them," said Phil Zacheretti of Phoenix Theatres Entertainment.

The owners of Phoenix Theatres think one of the reasons why Marquee Cinemas failed is because it never converted to digital cinema. There are still 35-millimeter film projectors in the projector booth. And to switch everything over to digital will cost about $1 million.

Workers will gut the theaters, which will have assigned seating.

"It's just a lot more enjoyable to watch a movie in a nice comfortable recliner."

Jaclyn Witko is willing to travel for a movie. She came to Cinemark in Moosic instead of going to one closer to her home in Luzerne County. She thinks the new type of theatre in downtown Scranton will be a draw.

"Yeah, definitely, and then if they show different movies also from Wilkes-Barre, that's why we'll come up to Scranton a lot. But, yeah, I think it will."

"We lived in Massachusetts for a little while and there's a lot of movie theaters like that up there and they're pretty popular," said Ashley Alt. "I think Cinemark is a little bit more well-known now, it's been around for a little while, so this being something different and new. I can see it working out."

"The closest theater is in Dickson City so, we also, as college students, we don't have a car to commute from here to Dickson City. So I would be really excited to have a movie theater downtown," said Shuli Li, a University of Scranton student.

It seems that University of Scranton students have missed the downtown movie theater most and though it's only one part of the mall still needing rebuilding, it could make a big difference.

"Actually, I was thinking about transferring, because the downtown is kind of boring but now that I've heard of this news, so, I would be really excited to see that," added Li.

The owners of the Iron Horse Movie Bistro plan to keep their prices competitive with the area's other theaters, though some moviegoers say it won't completely change their habits.

I don't know if it's competition though, because those theatres are different. They're not really luxury theatres, so I don't really know if it's competition. But to have the option is nice. To have more than one option around the area, that's good," said Rahajee Miree of Archbald.

The Iron Horse Movie Bistro is expected to open in the middle of next year. There's a lot of work to do before then, including converting the whole theater from film to digital.

In total, they think it will cost about $4 million to renovate the old theater.

13 comments

  • rnasca

    I don’t think it’s going to attract many of the “pants hanging down below the butt” crowd. Perhaps the scumbags that ruined the mall will find a new place to congregate.

  • jenniferlynn329

    With my daughter just becoming a teenager, I had hoped to hand her $10 and tell her to walk downtown and go see a movie with her friends. I wonder what the price of movies in this theatre will be… Would kids be welcome in this type of ‘fancy’ theatre…?

  • bobc74

    Yes, it is nice to sit in a comfortable recliner to watch a movie, while drinking an adult beverage. That’s why I usually watch them at home. And it’s cheaper too!

    • Christopher Humphries

      Your TV and sound system can’t match the theater size and experience though. Sure you can watch things at home, like you can do most things in life at home… but people still want to “go out” to do things. It is not an unpopular concept.

  • 2tearzinabucket

    If I had to guess, this theater is probably going to be marketed to a more “sophisticated” crowd, i.e., not children. They may serve microbrews and other fancy alcohols and they will probably show independent films. It’s actually a pretty great idea considering how many artsy people hang around downtown Scranton on First Friday. It could bring that crowd out on other days of the month.
    Everyone has griped about the Steamtown Mall for attracting the bad element for years. The new owner is obviously trying to attract a different echelon of people but people still complain. There are two other theaters within a short distance of Steamtown Mall. We don’t need another of the same.

  • Jason Daniels

    Not interested in paying for a movie and having to sit with people eating dinner and boozing it up. Strike three on these new tenants. None are any place I’ll be spending any time or money at.

    • Christopher Humphries

      I’ve been to them in other cities and it is generally other adults that want to sit down and enjoy a movie with a cocktail. Doesn’t really attract much in the way of a frat boy crowd, honestly. I think your impressions are what this will be like are a bit off, at least compared to other places like this that I’ve experienced. It isn’t even here yet, you can’t see into the future. MAYBE it will be a good thing for Scranton. They’re spending millions on it, you can at least give it a chance before completely trashing the idea.

  • whatever831

    Just what they need. An excuse for people to be even more obnoxious in the theaters. I don’t think it’s a good idea. Then watch, underage drinking will become the new headline. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

      • Jason Daniels

        Popular with alcoholics. I can just imagine the incidents of dui’s downtown going up after this place opens. And like we really need another place for University of Scranton hoodlums, I mean students, to get hammered on weekends.

      • Christopher Humphries

        Totally not a place for alcoholics. Not everyone that drinks has a drinking problem. And I don’t know of any person that is out to get hammered that is willing to sit through a movie, much less get others to do it. It is a nice adult experience.

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