WOODSTOCK – Visitors got a behind-the-scenes look at the Classic Cinemas Woodstock Theater expansion this week.
Guests got a chance Wednesday to tour the partially-completed facility and test out the more comfortable rocker seats that will fill auditoriums once the project is completed.
Downers Grove-based Classic Cinemas is more than doubling the seating capacity of the historic theater as part of a $6 million expansion. The family-owned company plans to spend about $4.8 million on construction and more than $1 million on the latest theater equipment, including some 3D screens, said Classic Cinemas Vice President Chris Johnson.
The existing theater has 421 seats. When finished, it will have eight auditoriums with 1,116 seats. Some of the auditoriums are much larger than others, which will allow the company to rotate films to different theaters based on popularity and extend the viewing period for some releases, said Woodstock Theater General Manager Mike Wozny.
Movies are being shown on two screens at the theater while construction continues. The first phase of the project should be completed by the end of June. Then movies will be shown on six screens as the second phase begins. The second phase includes renovating and restoring the original 85-year-old auditorium along with its domed ceiling.
Preserving the original look and feel of the theater is an important part of the project.
“The theater and town share a rich history so it was vital to blend into the character of the town,” Johnson said. “If we just added screens without going the extra mile it would be an eyesore.
“Once the theater is complete it will look architecturally appropriate and we believe it will help invigorate the downtown,” Johnson said.
The city of Woodstock has backed the project as a way to help revitalize the area around the Square. So far, the City Council has allocated $100,000 in tax increment financing funds for Main Street improvements associated with the project.
“The expansion would not have gone forward without the assistance of the city of Woodstock,” Johnson said.
The entire project should be done later this year, he said. Ticket prices could tick up at that time.
“We have not finalized the amount but our policy is to always provide the best value around so whatever it is we are confident it will be very competitive,” Johnson said.
Classic Cinemas, a division of Tivoli Enterprises Inc., operates 13 theaters with 100 screens in northern Illinois.