Have Theater, Won't Travel Moviegoers Say New AMC Expands Social Options

Article excerpt

Perhaps in some future decade it will seem odd that a movie

theater could be such a boon to all things commercial and

social. But it's happening in northern Clay County.

The area has been a quiet bedroom community for so many years.

And let's face it, many of those who attended Wednesday night's

grand opening of the AMC Orange Park 24 said, in recent years

there still hasn't been a lot to do.

The mall has a lot to offer but . . .

The AMC 24 is not just a movie theater. It's a place that makes

you feel welcome, thanks to cushy high-backed chairs, stadium

seating and gigantic screens, as well as such amenities as a

guest services desk and hospitable employees, grand opening

attendees said.

About 1,200 people showed up Wednesday to greet the new

theater. They entered the megaplex -- some in suits and gowns,

others in jeans -- via red carpet lined by Navy sailors in dress

whites. There was live music and chicken marsala and other

delicacies. Proceeds from the $20 tickets will benefit the Clay

County Chamber of Commerce and the Ronald McDonald House in

Jacksonville.

"There's good growth, and there's bad growth. This is good

growth," said Clay County Commissioner Patrick McGovern. "This

adds to the sales tax revenue but doesn't really add to the

traffic problems. Our crowded traffic on Blanding Boulevard goes

north in the morning and south in the evening. Movie traffic

won't add to that."

McGovern and others agreed the megaplex, which seats about

4,100, will be an ideal complement to the adjacent Orange Park

Mall, which alone generates 60 percent of Clay County's sales

tax revenues. The mall brings the people in to shop; the

megaplex keeps them there with entertainment.

"For so long in Orange Park, there's really been nothing to

do," said resident Janet Cox, 22. "I never even liked going to

regular movie theaters. My back would start killing me in those

seats.

"But this is so comfortable, and there are so many choices.

It's like you're doing more than just going to the movies.

Before, I'd always go to the Beaches for fun. That's a long way.

Now I can stay here."

The location, at Blanding Boulevard and Wells Road next to the

mall, is a prime hot spot, said Rolando Rodriguez, senior vice

president of AMC's south division. AMC's former five-theater

complex there excelled, he said Wednesday. That's why Orange

Park was selected over the Regency and the Avenues malls, which

he said would undoubtedly be future sites for AMC 24-plex

theaters. …