Lights! Camera! Renovate! Pavilion theater about to receive makeover

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— The sequel to the nearly 30-year-old Pavilion Cinemas may be better than the original.

The North Naples theater soon will receive a $3 million to $4 million facelift, as Deerfield Beach-based Paragon Theaters announced Monday that it has acquired the cinema.

The move means moviegoers will have two competing luxury theaters to choose from, with the Silverspot at the Mercato on the other side of U.S. 41 and north of Vanderbilt Beach Road.

“We think it will be better,” said Michael Whalen, CEO of Paragon Theaters. “The consumer is the ultimate arbiter of luxury. We saw how Silverspot was doing in the Mercato and we believe there’s room for another luxury theater in that market.”

Mercato officials were unavailable for comment Monday. A man who said he was manager at the Pavilion theater, and who declined to reveal his name, said he heard about Paragon possibly buying the theater but didn’t know much more about the upcoming changes.

Pavilion Cinemas, which first opened in the mid-1980s, will continue to show movies for the next several months before closing for renovations.

The Paragon Pavilion is expected to open later this year, in time for the holiday season, with the current six auditoriums all remodeled. The goal is to build a seventh, 300-seat Imax theater featuring a 65-foot wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling screen, Whalen said.

In addition to stadium seating, the new Pavilion cinema will feature carpeting on all floors, swivel tray tables next to seats, a light on every arm rest and design work from local artists. Customers also may buy food and drinks beyond the usual popcorn and soda.

There will even be a place to hang a purse, he said.

“Naples obviously has a very high demographic,” said Whalen, formerly on the executive team for Muvico that once operated the Coconut Point mall theater in Estero. “We’re very familiar with the market.”

He said the proximity to Silverspot is a positive, as movie-goers will have another option. And Whalen said many will choose his theater for easy parking access, compared to the parking garage adjacent to Mercato.

Paragon has purchased five older theaters and renovated them in Minnesota and on Florida’s east coast.

Paragon is majority-owned by the Mexico-based Cinepolis, the largest theater exhibition company in Latin America and fourth largest in the world.

“We’ve done a lot of these retrofits before,” Whalen said, pointing out sales have doubled at theaters after the upgrade.

Other Southwest Florida movie theaters have attracted developers in the past year. A remodeled Towne Centre 6 theater reopened in East Naples, Edison Park 8 Cinemas in Fort Myers recently was involved in a $2 million overhaul in its shopping center, and a Bonita Springs theater reopened along U.S. 41 last year.

For the Pavilion, the longtime shopping center on the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Vanderbilt Beach Road received a boost when LA Fitness opened there a couple of years ago.

Pavilion Cinemas has fallen behind the times and new ones have arrived, offering stadium seating. Walking into the Pavilion theater is like walking into a cinema from yesteryear, and patrons have complained about showing up for a movie there only to find it was no longer playing.

Whalen said he realizes he will need to market the new Pavilion, but believes it will succeed.

“We have a term we use called ‘affordable luxury,’ ” he said. “We want to provide amenities that are a good price point for our guests.”

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