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New seats among recent improvements at Janesville movie theater

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Greg Little
Thursday, March 16, 2017

JANESVILLE—If you're among those who've complained about the seating at Movies 16, Sarah Lehr wants you to know you've been heard.

As part of ongoing renovation efforts, the theater at 3100 Deerfield Drive in the Pine Tree Plaza recently installed recliner and high-back rocker seating in 12 of its 16 individual theaters, or “houses.” This comes on the heels of adding two self-serve soda machines, improved aisle lighting and flat-screen TVs to display movie titles. Exterior painting also is planned later this year.

The reason? It was time.

“We didn't see a decrease in attendance, but we knew we needed to update the theater and do something to show appreciation to our customers so they want to come in here,” said Lehr, the theater's general manager.

According to Lehr, Movies 16 had seen few changes since it was built in 1999. As is often the case, money was a factor.

“There is one owner to our theater, so we're an independent company,” she said. “If we were owned by one of the big companies like Marcus or AMC, things might be different … who knows? But we are doing the best we can.”

Lehr declined to share the costs associated with the renovations but noted, “Even though we raised ticket prices, we're not going to recover the costs for quite a while.”

With respect to other upgrades, the most noticeable has to be the seating. Lehr hopes that, along with increased comfort, patrons find fewer seats make for a more intimate viewing experience.

“We lost a lot of seats because of the way you have to set them (the new seats) up at an angle,” Lehr said. “One recliner would take out three chairs. Our old attendance (in the upgraded houses) was 2,520. Now it's 1,208.”

And when it comes to those seats, don't expect to see the same red-leather recliners you often see at other theaters. Instead, Movies 16 opted for a style Lehr considers more versatile and dependable.

“They're black, and they're wider than the old seats,” she said. “They also have an adjustable armrest that fits into the back of the recliner, so if you are with your significant other or your kids, you can have a full couch or loveseat.”

Unlike their button-powered counterparts, the new seats at Movies 16 also are manually operated “because the tech can't always be 100-percent guaranteed, but something you can do yourself is,” Lehr said.

Along with installing recliners in six houses, the theater also has put high-back rockers in six others. Lehr describes the rockers as being taller, wider and having more “give” than the theater's original seats.

Because it would demand major reconstruction to upgrade concrete slopes in the remaining four houses, the original seating in those will remain.

For the most part, Lehr feels patrons appreciate the upgrade.

“We have had a lot of feedback from a lot of regulars who come in all the time saying they really like it (the changes) a lot,” she said. “Unfortunately, we have had people complain, but I think that's just because some people are not huge fans of change.

“Overall, I feel like a lot of people who had been driving further away (to other theaters) are starting to stay local, and they are supporting our business a lot more.”



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