The signs are unmistakable, even if the smell of popcorn isn't wafting into the mall just yet.
On Tuesday, workmen peeled away script along a wall proclaiming: "This Way to Adventure, Romance, Intrigue and Laughter" -- and to a 12-screen Cinemark theater at Monroeville Mall opening to the public Thursday.
A theater once located next to the mall closed in 1998 and Showcase Cinemas East went dark in 2004. This location, known as Cinemark Monroeville Mall and XD (short for Extreme Digital Cinema) can be accessed from the parking lot opposite Dick's Sporting Goods or inside the mall across from Kay Jewelers, Cache and White House/Black Market.
Cinemark operates theaters in Center Township, Beaver County, Frazer near Tarentum and Robinson (plus the former Rave along McKnight Road in McCandless) but this is its first "NextGen" design in the market with auditoriums accommodating anywhere from 117 to 300 patrons with a total capacity of 2,108.
"As in next generation of theaters," Bryan Jeffries, marketing director of the Plano, Texas-based chain, said Tuesday in the lobby of the theater crowned by a colorful mural celebrating the movie experience.
"That has more to do with everything is modern amenities, all the way from online ticketing to we have our own butter station," not that he's calling that groundbreaking technology, but it gives customers the control. A traditional box office with multiple stations is also available in the lobby to the left.
"In the auditoriums, it's all state-of-the-art digital sound, digital projection. All 12 auditoriums have wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling screens," Mr. Jeffries said.
"To be overly simplistic about it, that's what we think the future of movie theaters will look like. We know we're building every one of our theaters using this general footprint, and we think most movie chains will be the same way."
Mr. Jeffries says Cinemark isn't reinventing the industry but striving to make for a nicer experience for customers.
Part of that is the XD option, Cinemark's exclusive large-screen format in an auditorium with leather-like burgundy-colored seats, columns of drapes in beige, burgundy and gray along the walls and carpeting in coordinated colors.
A test drive watching trailers for "Frozen," "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," "Thor: The Dark World" and "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" -- the latter pair in 3-D -- showed off the XD theater to perfect advantage with crisp, clean picture and sound.
All told, the venue has RealD 3-D capability in six auditoriums and 4K digital projection powered by Barco projectors, which promise brighter pictures.
The projection booth (actually a spacious room) looks nothing like the one in "Cinema Paradiso." There are no coils or cans of film and oversize platters but movies that arrive on hard drives each about the size of an iPad mini but a little heavier and requiring a special studio-sanctioned "key" or code to unlock and play.
The theater will open with: "Thor: The Dark World" in 2-D, 3-D and XD RealD 3-D along with "Ender's Game," "12 Years a Slave," "Gravity," "All Is Lost," "Last Vegas," "Free Birds," "About Time," "Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa" and "Captain Phillips." It also will show George A. Romero's "Dawn of the Dead," filmed at Monroeville Mall, at midnight through the weekend.
The theater will employ roughly 80 full- and part-time employees, with Andrew Koytek serving as general manager. A concession stand with typical fare (including Coke) is in the lobby, which moviegoers pass through on their way to the auditoriums.
A full list can be found at cinemark.com, but ticket prices include: adult evening, $8.75; adult Friday/Saturday after 6 p.m., $9.25; children ages 1-11, $6.50; seniors (62-plus), $5.50; military with active ID, $7.25; early bird, first matinee seven days a week, $5.50; adult matinee before 6 p.m., $6.50.
Mondays are Seniors Day, any movie and any showtime, $5.50. Discount Tuesdays reduce all tickets to $5.25 with additional fees for 3-D or XD. The theater also features a party room designed for small groups.
Cinemark operates 504 theaters and 5,794 screens in the United States and Latin America. It's the third largest chain in the U.S. with 332 theaters and 4,434 screens in 40 states. In May, Cinemark will open a newly constructed theater at McCandless Crossing.
Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: email@example.com or 412-263-1632. Read her blog: www.post-gazette.com/madaboutmovies.