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Big changes coming to Cinema 18

One Charlestowne's few successful businesses Classic Cinemas will get new lobby new seats an easier access from parking lot. |

One of Charlestowne's few successful businesses, the Classic Cinemas, will get a new lobby, new seats and an easier access from the parking lot. | Dave Gathman~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 21, 2014 3:01PM

ST. CHARLES — Classic Cinema 18, which may be the most successful business remaining at Charlestowne Mall, will join the shopping center’s “Quad St. Charles” era with a major remodeling of its own. But the management is playing its cards close to the vest as to what exactly those changes will include.

“I won’t go into all the details at this particular moment. But we have just finished upgrading the technology. We have digital projection and 100 percent 7.1 sound,” said Chris Johnson, vice president of Downers Grove-based Tivoli Classic Cinemas. “So now we will be focusing on upgrading the comforts and the look of the theaters.”

But “we are committed to this location,” Johnson said. “We are excited about the reconstruction, and we are definitely going to spend some significant money to make this location fantastic.”

“There aren’t too many malls that come back from being a ghost town” like the interior of Charlestowne Mall now is, Johnson said. “But I think this one will. I’m sold on these new plans.”

Chuck May, project director for the Charlestowne/Quad St. Charles rebuild, said the theater will change its lobby and its seating. But he also declined to give specifics.

Several of the area’s movie theaters, such as AMC Lake in the Hills 12 and the Marcus Addison, have replaced all or part of their seats with motor-driven reclining seats similar to those used in home living rooms. They also have added liquor sales, increased the menu of food available, started selling tickets on a reserved-seat basis that can be ordered ahead of time online, and added sodapop machines that can mix up to 100 taste varieties.

Johnson declined to say which if any of these new developments will show up at the Cinema 18. But he noted that although it promises the luxurious feeling of a home-theater experience, switching to reclining seats reduces the total number of seats available and thus increases the risk that a weekend show of a given movie will sell out.

He said that since the AMC Lake in the Hills 12 converted to recliners, his company’s Cinema 12 in nearby Carpentersville has gotten more business, from moviegoers who first tried to go to LITH 12 but discovered all seats to their movie had sold out there.

Johnson said the Charlestowne theater remodeling will begin sometime by the end of this year. Meanwhile, he noted, Cinema 18 began this week to offer all seats for $5 on Tuesdays. That matches a marketing ploy by the competing Marcus Elgin Cinema, which began holding $5 Tuesdays last November.

Charlestowne Cinema 18 was built by the nationwide chain Regal Cinemas in 1999. But when the Johnson family’s regional chain bought and remodeled the smaller Foxfield Theaters complex a few blocks away a year later, Johnson said, the Regal Charlestowne theaters began to lose customers.

Johnson said the mall manager “called us up and asked what it would take to convince us to take over the mall theaters from Regal and close our Foxfield.” He said his firm reached an agreement with the Charlestowne people and in 2001 that changeover took place.

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