As I entered the newly-opened Victory Square Stadium 9 Cinemas this past Saturday afternoon, I was caught off guard by an unexpected rush of exhilaration.
It had literally been years since I took in a film at this particular location, and I must admit, it felt very nice to return. I’d seen plenty of motion pictures in the building since my arrival here in 1986, but for many years now, this multiplex had lain silent and shuttered. Stuck in a state of suspended animation, the perplexing mystery behind its failure to reopen after being closed by its last owners, Regal Entertainment Group, hung over the drab facade like a shroud.
Despite the occasional rumors which circulated —at various times it was supposedly set to become either a dollar theatre specializing in second-run features, or an Evangelical church— the location remained dark and ominous until it was recently bought and re-developed by a commercial investment firm.
Let’s be honest. There are few things more creepy and depressing than an abandoned movie theatre. But, truth be told, I heard few complaints when the axe fell on the old Regal Victory Square 9. By the time the curtain closed on the only Eastside movie house, it had been allowed to fall into a fairly sorry state.
Regal it surely wasn’t.
Of all the multiplexes in Savannah, it was usually the most filthy and unkempt. It also seemed as though it got little respect or oversight from the parent company. The prints they screened always seemed more worn than those at Regal’s other area outlets. And, as time went by, it became a haven for disrespectful, aggressive youth, who I don’t have to tell you are more than a match for the average “assistant to the Assistant Manager.”
Yet, as I stood there in the updated and redesigned lobby of this new and improved set of auditoriums, it was actually a little hard to recall what had come before.
Though the lack of a large, bright marquee (one can only assume it’s on its way) makes it seem as though the place is not yet open for business, they in fact held their Grand Opening this past weekend, and my visit there was encouraging.
The new owners, Trademark Cinemas, are a small, fast-growing chain based in Central Florida. In addition to this branch, they operate multiplexes in Lake Mary, Fl., Yorktown Heights, N.Y. and will soon open three more locations, including one just outside Atlanta in Stone Mountain. They advertise clean and pleasant neighborhood theatres which boast of “outstanding customer service and superb presentation,” with lower admission prices than most chains.
Based on my first trip to the Victory Square Stadium 9, most all of this is true.
The decor they have chosen is sparse yet comfortable and seems more minimalist than frugal. The staff was a little green, but personable. The popcorn was fresh and well-made (a small box was given away with each ticket during opening weekend), and Trademark is known for offering self-serve drinks with free refills — something akin to heresy in their industry.
As for the auditorium itself, the high-backed chairs were most comfortable and included what seemed like a little more legroom than usual. The sound system could have been a bit louder, but it did the trick, and —most importantly— the film was in focus right off the bat (something that’s almost unheard of in this town)!
A few minor technical glitches with the projector were rectified by management in a prompt and professional manner, and, despite the fact that the temperature in the theatre became shockingly chilly about halfway through the picture, the entire moviegoing experience was, as promised, clean and pleasant.
Along with the recently-confirmed Target and Staples stores which will soon grace this long-undervalued shopping center on the corner of Victory and Skidaway, this multiplex should prove a wonderful asset to Savannah’s Eastside community.
Now, if they’d just set aside a couple of screens for second-run flicks at no more than $3 a ticket...
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