By Jeff Gallatin
A group of area business and government officials unwrapped Great Northern Mall’s and Regal Cinemas’ Christmas gift to the Westshore area Sunday night.
The new multimillion-dollar 10-screen Regal Cinemas complex was opened up for an invitation-only party and special movie screening for the group. A series of charitable movie events was set to run at the complex from Monday through today. The opening for the general public is set for tomorrow. The new theater complex and adjacent restaurants encompass about 55,000 square feet and include 10 cinema screens as well as the state-of-the-art RPX 2-D and 3-D viewing system. Officials said it is one of only 20 such systems throughout the country, and the first in Northeast Ohio.
Mall general manager Mike Walsh was pleased Sunday night.
“It’s exciting to finally have it ready to go and open for people to enjoy during the holiday season and beyond,” he said. “It’s going to get even better when the restaurants open up in the next few days and people will be able to come to (a) movie, eat at the restaurants or in the mall, and then go shopping and enjoy different activities. We’ve been working on upgrading the family experience in the mall the last few years, and this is a major part of that.”
People attending the event were treated to live music, a wide range of foods and speakers explaining the complex and upcoming events, and could attend movie screenings for either “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” or “Frozen.” Fox 8 personality Lou Maglio hosted the ceremony.
The project got underway more than two years ago when the mall was owned and operated by the Westfield Group and completed shortly after the mall was one of seven sold by Westfield to the Starwood Group. The first major piece of the work was the planning and demolition needed to build a new food court, which opened last year. Westfield officials had initially planned to have a major retail store go into the complex, but continued work when that did not come about. Officials then formally announced last year plans to put in the Regal Cinemas complex as well as restaurants, which will include Mama Fu’s Asian House and The Rail, as well as the Le Grand Orchid Salon and Spa. The old food court and office complex was demolished earlier this year and construction on the cinemas and restaurants begun.
Frank Nunley, Regal’s vice president of marketing, said the cinemas with RPX and the Sony Entertainment Access system (which aids the deaf in utilizing the cinemas) are state-of-the-art equipment.
“We only began putting them in in 2009, and there are only 20 of them in the country,” he said. “This is the first one in Ohio. We’re looking forward to it being able to serve the residents of the area.”
He said putting the systems in normally takes about 18 months from the design phase up to actual use.
North Olmsted Mayor Kevin Kennedy was enthusiastic about the addition to the business community.
“Not only will this make the mall and city better, it will make North Olmsted a better place to live because of the people and benefits it will bring,” he said.
North Olmsted Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Herwick also was pleased.
“This is something that has been missing in North Olmsted since the last theaters closed in the late 1990s,” he said. “It’s going to help businesses throughout the city and area, because people who come to the movies will often shop and eat in the area as well.”
North Olmsted fire Chief Ed Schepp, who helped inspect the complex, said he was impressed.
“It’s a beautiful facility with top equipment,” he said. “They told me that if all the theaters were full at once, it would hold about 1,900 people,” he said. “Just think of all of those people out spending money in North Olmsted and seeing what else it has to offer.”