Screens scuffle in Bradley County as movie theaters go digital

Screens scuffle in Bradley County as movie theaters go digital

January 7th, 2012 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Moviegoers wait in line outside the Premiere Theater in Cleveland, Tenn. in this file photo.

Photo by Jacqui Janetzko

Movie theaters are battling for eyeballs in Cleveland, Tenn., with the latest salvo coming from Minnesota-based United Entertainment Corp.

The company will spend nearly $1 million to upgrade its 14-screen theater with new digital projectors in late January, at a cost of about $65,000 each, said President and CEO Mike Ross.

Ross also is slashing prices a dollar to $8 for adult ticket, or $8.50 for "mega-screens" at the site on Pleasant Grove Road.

"We want to give a very competitive price," Ross said. "We take the towns we're in very seriously."

It takes Cleveland seriously enough to own its own land, something rare in the theater industry.

With the new, better screens and lower prices, he hopes to pull in theatergoers from Chattanooga to Athens, Tenn.

"We plan on being there for the long haul," Ross said. "We're right off the interstate, so you don't have to deal with mall traffic."

UEC's announcement comes on the heels of the biggest expansion to Bradley Square Mall in more than a decade, when Carmike announced a 12-screen movie theater in October 2011.

"We think it's a key location in Cleveland," said Carmike's marketing director, Terrell Mayton, of the new site.

The Carmike site features a larger-than-usual screen that is three stories tall and stretches 65 feet from side to side.

It also will feature high-backed leather seats, and enhanced sound and projection quality.

Carmike also owns the Majestic 12 theater in downtown Chattanooga.

UEC owns 14 theaters and 124 screens. The company expects to complete its digital upgrade in Cleveland by Jan. 23, with the conversion of all its screens to be complete by midyear.