Adult ticket buyers at AMC West Shore
will soon be able to settle into a darkened theater fortified with more than popcorn, candy, nachos or pizza. If they choose, their favorite alcoholic beverage can slip into the cup holder beside them instead of a soda.
Tampa City Council gave its approval for AMC theater exhibitors to add a MacGuffin -- a bar that sells beer, wine and liquor. MacGuffin is a term coined by director Alfred Hitchcock in 1939 to describe any plot device or gimmick that moves the story along.
Selling alcohol gives movie exhibitors, such as AMC
, a competitive edge in marketing to an adult audience. And in the Westshore Business District, new apartments, shops and restaurants are creating marketing opportunities for WestShore Plaza and its tenants, including AMC West Shore.
"One of the most exciting things taking place right now in the Westshore district is seeing the component of residential finally being developed," says Jay Botsch, WestShore Plaza
's general manager. "The economy has not been friendly to offices, hotels and residential but it is really taking off."
People are looking for restaurants, shopping and a theater that are right at their front door step, Botsch says. "The millennial generation is who is shopping and going to the AMC theater and it is a very important component as we evolve the shopping center."
AMC West Shore, with 20 screens, is the only second floor tenant at WestShore Plaza. The wet zone will cover the theater's approximately 77,000 square feet of interior space.
In a savvy technology driven society, AMC and other exhibitors are changing to keep up with an expanding entertainment menu that includes BlueRay, tablets, laptops, smartphones, HDTV and home projection systems large enough to mimic the real theater deal.
Most recently, AMC spent about $85,000 for digital 3D capabilities at AMC West Shore.
"The industry has continued to change and evolve over the last 20 years. For us to remain relevant we have to continue to re-invest in our business," says George Patterson, AMC's senior VP for its food and beverage division.
AMC is the second largest movie exhibitor in the country with about 345 theaters and nearly 5,000 screens.
Research shows that a high percentage of ticket buyers, age 21 and over, want the option of buying alcohol. "It's not a huge part of our business," says Patterson. "But it is an important part of the re-birth of our business."
The MacGuffins are staffed only by bartenders age 21 and older and everyone regardless of age is carded. AMC officials say the bars are attractive additions not simply for the movie crowd but also for opera showings, corporate meetings and other events.
Locally AMC theaters that already serve alcohol include Veterans 24 in Town 'N Country, Woodlands Square in Oldsmar, and The Regency 20 in Brandon. Other competitors that sell alcohol include Tampa Theatre, CineBistros and the IMAX at MOSI (Museum of Science and Industry).
More amenities are on the way as AMC retro-fits its theaters nationwide with self-serve Coca-Cola vending machines and offers reserved seating. Some AMC theaters offer dine-in service, similar to the concept at Cine Bistro in Hyde Park. In 2014 the theater chain expects to spend more than $200 million on upgrades.
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Jay Botsch, WestShore Plaza; George Patterson, AMC