Forget the old AMC; Celebration! Cinema plans to reinvent the defunct Meridan Mall theater as Studio C!
Thursday, June 7 — In Steve VanWagoner’s eyes, the shuttered
AMC Meridian 6 Theatres complex could one day be an upscale cinema, with
refreshments whipped up by chefs, plush stadium-style seating and possibly even
a liquor license. He envisions an enormous difference between the old AMC, almost
apologetically tucked away behind the Meridian Mall, and Celebration! Cinema’s
latest venture, Studio C!, which VanWagoner hopes will be open before the end
of the year.
“We want it to be different than any other theater in the
area,” said VanWagoner, vice president of marketing for the Grand Rapids-based
theater chain. He visited the theater Thursday with Jeremy Kress, Celebration!
Cinema’s director of marketing and promotions.
“We want a service staff that’s second to none. Hopefully,
if you want to, you’ll be able to buy your ticket online and go straight to
your seat, if you don’t want to stand in line.”
If you’re in no mood to wait around for popcorn, that won’t
be a problem at Studio C!: “We’re thinking about a service that will deliver
(snacks) to your seat, if that’s what you want,” VanWagoner said.
The menu is still being put together, but it will definitely
offer a few options besides Twizzlers, Gummi Bears and Goobers. “We’re not
going to use the word ‘concession,’” VanWagoner said. “We’ll have a full menu,
and it will be chef-prepared from our own recipes. You can call it ‘VIP,’ or
‘premium,’ or ‘premiere,’ if you like.”
VanWagoner said Studio C! will be an environment unlike
Celebration! Lansing, the 20-screen complex on the south side that boasts the
area’s only IMAX screen.
“We could have come in and just created a theater like our
others, but that didn’t make sense. We wanted to have a place where we could
experiment, a test kitchen. We’re really proud of our other theaters and think
they’re state-of-the-art experiences. But we’re going to raise the bar a bit
with this, especially in terms of the food we’ll provide.”
One of the very few things Studio C! will have in common
with the former AMC property is its size: “It will remain six theaters,”
VanWagoner said. “We won’t extend the boundaries of the theater.”
Last summer, while the AMC Meridian was still operating,
there were reports that the property would be taken over by American Theatre
Corp., which also had plans for a cinema that could serve restaurant-style
cuisine and alcohol. The company never moved forward with the project. Around
the same time, the Scripps Howard News Service reported that American Theatre
Corp. CEO James T. Duffy and his various companies had been sued at least 69
times and racked up $24.6 million in judgments for unpaid rent or broken
VanWagoner is aware that getting Studio C! in shape in the
next six months or so will be a challenge. Although AMC closed the theater last
October when its lease ended, it looks like the company gave up on maintaining
the facility long before that. The exterior of the building has patches of
peeling paint and well-weathered glass; the dcor inside is pure late-1980s,
with shopworn Formica counters, a shabby-looking box office and a half-moon
concession stand, its back walls plastered with glossy magenta and
cherry-cola-colored tiles. Looking around, you can almost hear Debbie Gibson’s
“Electric Youth” or Martika’s “Toy Soldiers” booming out of the lobby sound
The outdated design extends into the theaters, “which are
now sloped-floor and will be changed to stadium-style seating,” VanWagoner
said. The “premium seating” that will be installed will give customers more
room to relax; it also means the capacity for each theater will be reduced. “We
expect to have less than 1,000 total seats” in Studio C!, Van Wagoner said.
The lineup of films may also be distinctive. “We hope we can
bring in some independent movies that will be exclusive to the area,”
VanWagoner said. “We’re looking at an environment that caters to more of an
adult audience that wants to watch movies.”
The cost of the remodel has yet to be determined; the same
is true of the admission prices at Studio C!, although VanWagoner acknowledges
the fees “will reflect the service and atmosphere — you will be getting a
premium seat in a premium location.”
Celebration! Cinema is asking for local input on the Studio
C! project at both its Facebook page and its website.