Movie lovers in Lawrence are in Hollywood heaven with the opening of the Southwind 12 last year.
Special to Journal-World
Movie mania is blowing through Lawrence, and a new theater is stirring up moviegoers' passions.
The Southwind 12, owned by Hollywood Inc., is the newest addition to the movie theaters in the Lawrence area.
The theater, 3433 Iowa, opened on May 22 last year becoming the only 12-theater complex in the city.
``We get any film that is a potential blockbuster,'' said Lloyd Kirk, the general manager of Southwind. ``Lawrence is the kind of city where you won't have one movie showing at two different theaters.''
But, he added, the theater receives multiple prints of movies to show in two or three of the auditoriums at one time.
``Business is such that if you limit one movie to one auditorium, you will lose business,'' said Kirk.
``We have multiple prints, so that people won't face sellouts. Take `Titanic' for example. It is now at the 10-week mark, and we still sold out this past weekend,'' Kirk said in an earlier interview.
Swimming in advances
The theater, which cost an estimated $8 million to build, is geared toward a family-oriented setting. A big feature of the new theater is its sound systems. It's the only complex in Lawrence to have three digital processing sound systems. It has the DTS, DDS and SDDS sound systems. DTS, which stands for digital sound, is played off a compact disc player.
DDS (Dolby Digital Sound) and SDDS (Sony Dynamic Digital Sound) both enhance the sound quality in the movie, making it seem more real to life.
The elaborate sound system and the blockbuster movies are just part of what makes the Southwind 12 such a draw.
Southwind is the only theater in Lawrence to have the stadium seating, where the seats are elevated so moviegoers can see over the heads of others. It also has a cup holder in the armrest of every seat in the theater.
The auditoriums are designed to let people with disabilities enjoy movies, too. The wheelchair accessible seating differs from other theaters in that wheelchair-using patrons are not forced to sit all the way in the front, on the side or in the back, Kirk said.
``There is room right in the middle of the theater, so people don't feel set aside. And for the hearing-impaired, we have an infrared system that is like listening to your stereo at home,'' Kirk said.
Changing theater scene
Shortly after Southwind arrived in Lawrence, Hollywood Inc. bought out Dickinson Theatres, 2339 Iowa, and Hillcrest 5 Theatres, 925 Iowa. Jim Speicher, assistant manager of Dickinson, said that since Hollywood acquired the theaters in October there have been numerous changes.
``The biggest change was that the prices went up here, and that was a decision made by the home office,'' Speicher said.
The other changes included increasing the number of employees and the price of concessions, he said. Dickinson was designated as the college-oriented theater, and that business has dropped off substantially since the Southwind was built, he said.
The Hillcrest, however, was changed into a dollar moviehouse, showing movies in an extended release or that did not do well at the box office.
Kirk said that in his 20 years of being in the movie business he hasn't seen anything more impressive than the lobby at the Southwind.
``Another thing that no one else has is the lights and sirens flashing in the lobby when you come in. If you add that with the previews showing on the televisions, it really gets people in the mood to watch movie.''
Jessica Buttler, a Kansas University junior from Fredonia, said she loves going to the Southwind to see a movie.
``When you walk in they have the previews showing and the lights flashing, it really makes you feel like you're getting your $6 worth.''
She said she was impressed with the sound system.
``The sound system is what makes or breaks the movie, and here you can really get into the movie.''
Lawrence also is the home to Liberty Hall, 642 Mass., which shows independent movies and foreign films. Liberty Hall opened in 1986, showing independent and foreign films and some classics. Patrons generally were most interested in the independent and foreign offerings.
``That's kind of the niche that we've found,'' said Scott Bliss, manager of the cinema.