A new look is now showing at the Towne Centre 6 theater in East Naples.
And the scene is about to get even better.
A major renovation undertaken by the new owner, B&B Theatres, is nearly done. But one of the biggest changes is still to come — the plush leather chairs.
“We just put in the order. That will be the big final touch,” said Brock Bagby, a business development analyst for B&B, a family business that has operated since 1924.
There’s a sample of the new chairs in the lobby, which is much busier these days with moviegoers who appreciate all the changes.
On a recent rainy Friday, the theater saw one of its biggest crowds.
“We had close to 1,600 people show up and I don’t think we’ve ever had business like that,” said Matt Howell, the theater’s general manager.
Howell, who worked for the old owners, described the difference since the theater sold as night and day.
Gone is the dingy carpet and the outdated wallpaper. The lobby looks brand new, with a throwback Hollywood theme.
Other improvements include updated sound and screens. The theater now takes credit cards and there’s a new website for show times at www.bbtheatres.com.
There are plans to sell wine and beer as soon as the license is approved. The theater attracts an older crowd and has begun to offer Retro Nights and Classic Nights, featuring famous movies of the past.
“We are not a 20-plex, but we think there is a niche for us to be a boutique, kind of upscale theater for Naples,” Bagby said.
A busier theater means a busier shopping center. Restaurants in the Towne Centre, off U.S. 41 East and east of Airport-Pulling Road, are among the businesses seeing more customers.
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“It’s season. So it’s always our busy time of the year, but we’re busier this year than last year at this point, saleswise,” said Janis Fleisch, an owner/manager for Beef O’Brady’s, a few doors from the theater.
She hopes the theater will only get busier. Her restaurant offers 10 percent off to customers showing their movie tickets.
On a Friday night a few weeks ago, the parking lot was so busy that Fleisch decided to go home and do her paperwork for the restaurant at another time.
“I left because I couldn’t find a spot,” she said.
After the remodeling is complete, Olga Bekarevich, the general
manager of the Rib City at the front of the shopping center, said she expects to see a bigger rush of business before movies start and after they let out. She hasn’t noticed a huge change yet, she said.
Towne Centre has more than a half-dozen owners. The owner for the section with the theater recently made upgrades and had a grand reopening, which is benefiting the theater and its neighbors.
“The whole plaza, it does look much better,” Bekarevich said. “I think it does help a bunch.”
The improvements to the shopping center included painting, paving, landscaping and roofing. A representative for Tampa-based RMC Property Group, which manages the center, could not be reached for comment.
Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala, whose district includes the shopping center, said the improvements there have lifted its character tremendously.
The movie theater renovation is another big plus, she said.
“People want to go to something that looks nice and they have indeed improved their appearance,” Fiala said.
“East Naples is in a marvelous period of growth, upgrading and improving.”