In the Know: CMX CinéBistro project comes back to life, The Collective update and a touch of Fifth Avenue South at the Mercato

Phil Fernandez
Naples Daily News

I think we're getting a pulse. Beep ... Beep ... Beep ... .

Like the zombie reaching out of a grave on Halloween, the Coastland Center's CMX CinéBistro project is coming back to life after not opening as planned this year.

Expected to draw big screen fans from Collier, Lee and other parts of Southwest Florida, the luxe theater is now slated to debut in the second quarter of 2021, CMX's Monika Sanchez told me, after months of my pestering.

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"We're really excited for this project," said Sanchez, CMX's director of marketing and communications. "Right now we are aiming to open and launch this location."

In trying to nail this down, I had reached out to so many people in and outside the company that it gave her an opportunity to catch up with a lot of old friends she hadn't been in touch with for awhile as they alerted her that I was on the prowl. Yep, Freddy Krueger-style except without all the gore and blood. That stuff gives me nightmares. Even movie previews frighten me.

"Actually, it was great to see because I worked with all those agencies through the years," said Sanchez, based with her colleagues in the absolutely gorgeous 24-story Latitude One overlooking the Miami River in the heart of Brickell on the very same street my abuelo called home a few blocks up in Little Havana.

In the Know: New construction at the Naples Coastland Center including the CMX CinéBistro, which has been revived with a new target open date of the second quarter of 2021. It had been scheduled to debut this year.

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With her company in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and other cinema enterprises closing doors for good, a lot of questions had been up in the air on the Naples spot as the coronavirus rages on.

"The pandemic has really hit the movie industry really hard, as you know. You've seen the news. Even us, the whole company had to unfortunately file for bankruptcy protection back in April," Sanchez said. "We're still under the supervision of the court. All the reopenings are part of that plan. We're in that process still. We're trying to emerge in a better place."

And if you're going to crawl out of the darkness, there's no more excellent locale than Naples, which is getting a lot of attention from CMX as the next CinéBistro, its 13th in what's a pretty exclusive club.

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"We have another project that is up north," Sanchez said of a site that isn't going to see the light of day for awhile in the suburbs of the nation's capital. "That is the only (other) project that we have, and it's most likely by the end of next year or the beginning of 2022. We have 12 CMX CinéBistros nationwide."

Sanchez's crew is in bounce back mode as they've "little by little" unlocked the doors of 10 of the existing CinéBistros, along with other types of more conventional plexes largely in the South in Georgia, Alabama, Virginia and on our Peninsula. If you want to test out the extravagant experience, Sarasota's venue reopened this weekend. Tampa's already in full gear, but Miami and Chicago remain in a holding pattern.

"We're working hard with the Coastland project," Sanchez said. "So far, it is under construction. Even though you can see the exterior, but you know how it is: That sometimes the inside is where the fun part comes in. That takes longer. A lot of details. A lot of finishing. A lot of connections."

And mighty fine features, they are. The level of luxury you'd expect around here.

The wide leather chairs in the Cobb Liberty Luxury 15 & CineBistro recline. All seats are reserved. Movie goers will be impressed by the Dolby Atmos surround sound.

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"They're not like the small seats you see in a traditional theater. We're talking about leather seats that are recliners, and they have swivel tables where you can eat during the movie," Sanchez said. "Movie theatres that offer elevated dining theater experience that is fine dining, chef-crafted cuisine, signature cocktails, the whole premium experience of having a night out."

The idea now is to survive the night out.

"We have taken incredible, above and beyond measures too, in terms of sanitation, safety measures to provide a safe environment for all our guests. Coastland would not be the exception. On the contrary, I think this is something we're going to have to live with for awhile," Sanchez said. "We have implemented an automatic booking system that when you purchase your tickets either online on our website or in person at the box office. Let's say you go together with another guest. Immediately, after you book it, all the seats around you are blocked. You will not have people sitting next to you, at least six feet. Sometimes it's even more. Another part of that is the whole sanitation micro-cleaning and micro-sanitation that we have every single night and after each show. The air ventilation system that we've always had."

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Capacity at the moment is limited to 50 percent, and face coverings are required for patrons when they are not seated, she said.

As I reported early on during the COVID-19 crisis, our behaviors look to be changing forever, no matter how we come out of all this. The way we shop. The way we have fun. The way we live.

It's illustrated in the dramatic fizzing out of Retail-tainment that CMX is part of, and has meant challenges for even long-running pioneers like Dave & Buster's and Chuck E. Cheese.

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"It's a situation that we definitely need to acknowledge," the refreshingly candid Sanchez said. "The pandemic has affected us all when you have all these experiential retail businesses out there that require contact, that require going out there. Many people are still not ready to go there regardless of our efforts."

We're waiting to hear back on other stalled plans at the mall, but clearly this is the one with all the buzz, based on your many questions and feedback. And while the project is lurking around the corner, it's not totally out of the woods yet.

"To answer another question you had, 'how has the pandemic affected our business?' Definitely. Absolutely. But we are making the efforts. Right now, the main challenge is to get the content from the studios, hoping that the studios do not move the release dates even further, more than what they have done," said Sanchez, who remains confident. "There (are) two types of bankruptcy. One is like you are closed for good, and the other one calls for a restructuring. We have the latter one."

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The Collective perspective

The Collective, comprised of curated home furnishing businesses and art galleries, officially opens with its full slate of more than a dozen merchants on Nov. 12 in the Naples Design District.

A few of the tenants, which serve the public and professional home builders, renovators and decorators, moved in earlier this year after completion of the first phase of the three-story structure at 111 10th St. S.

Showcasing a mix of transitional to contemporary products and services for those wanting to build, renovate or freshen up their homes through design, the 63,000-square-foot hub includes a wide range of opportunities, such as architecture, decor and other retail.

Marking the grand opening, an evening event, where social distancing will be observed, is scheduled.

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In the Know: Construction is beginning in the Mercato of a second Bar Tulia, which already has a location on Fifth Avenue South. The goal: To have a similar look and vibe as the original, according to Stevens Construction.

Mercato upgrade

Brought in by client Campagna Hospitality Group, Stevens Construction has started its work on a brand new Bar Tulia at Mercato, 9118 Strada Place, Suites 8145-8150.

With an outpost already on Fifth Avenue South, this will be its second location, which is led by chef Vincenzo Betulia. The idea is to provide the similar look and vibe of the original, with more outdoor options, which certainly is welcome in the pandemic age.

With reclaimed lumber, brick flooring and built-in seating, the Stevens renovation of the 3,200 square feet includes a main dining room, bar, full commercial kitchen with pizza oven and mezzanine level dining, according to Daniel Adams, vice president/principal at Stevens.

Based at the Naples Daily News, Columnist Phil Fernandez ( writes In the Know as part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Support Democracy and subscribe to a newspaper.

In the Know's new columnist, Phil Fernandez. The photo was shot in Naples Daily News studio Thursday, September, 12, 2019.