Box office hits like Zootopia and Batman v Superman proved to be an ideal start in a rejuvenating Spring for B&B Theatres. While many of the circuit’s patrons were busy packing away winter coats and sweaters and shopping for new spring wardrobes, B&B took advantage of the warmer weather to debut a new look of its own at its Hutchinson Mall 8 location. The renovations to the Hutchinson, Kansas, theater included multiple top-of-the-line upgrades that made it the company’s largest remodel to date—a record it won’t be able to hold for very much longer.
B&B has several more remodels and new builds remaining on its schedule, representing a period of investment for the Missouri-based circuit that will culminate with a flagship 14-screen theater and corporate office in Liberty, Missouri, that begins construction this fall. Two more remodels are planned for locations in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Emporia, Kansas—both of which are expected to boast similar upgrades to those unveiled at Hutchinson this March. That means a revamped concessions area, new carpeting, digital signage, updated sound systems, and recliner seating among other enhanced features. “We’ve had success with recliners in other Kansas communities; we did a recliner remodel in Junction City in November of 2014, and it was a huge success, so we thought it made perfect sense for the community,” says Brock Bagby, B&B director of programming and business development, about the Hutchinson remodel. Recliner seating has been so successful across the circuit that B&B is looking to add screens in some locations, as evidenced in Junction City earlier this year. With four of that location’s auditoriums already hosting recliners, B&B went ahead and leased space next door so they could add a fifth screen to the location.
Recliner seating isn’t the only premium offering in B&B’s new builds and remodels. “Anywhere we can, we are bringing in our premium luxury offering, Grand Screen,” Bagby says. “In Hutchinson we didn’t have enough ceiling height to install a Grand Screen. We’re really careful not to convert something and call it that unless it’s done right. We don’t want people going to one Grand Screen and then going to another one in a different location and having a completely different experience. They need to meet certain specs to make sure our customers know that they’re getting their money’s worth for every Grand Screen experience.”
An expanded menu is also part of B&B’s strategy. Marquee Suites is the chain’s dine-in concept, already present in three of its locations and popping up across the circuit on a market-by-market basis. B&B is also installing bars in select locations, featuring USB slots and Wi-Fi access designed to keep patrons inside their doors before, during, and after a movie. “In every remodel we try to expand our food options. Some places we have room and we put in a full kitchen, and others we put in self-enclosed fryers, and in some cases where codes or space are a concern we’ll just expand the concessions area,” explains Bagby. “We’re building more and more to the self-serve option: from soda to butter to candy. We’re looking to expand that out even further with multiple self-serve options. Customers seem to react well to it.” A new build expected to open in early 2017 in McComb, Mississippi, will host a full kitchen and Marquee Bar but no dine-in service, an example of B&B’s versatile approach to their expanded concessions strategy.
Bagby says he is most excited, however, for B&B’s upcoming flagship location in Liberty, Missouri—which will also house the company’s corporate offices. The land for the new Liberty location has already been acquired with an expected opening in summer 2017. According to B&B, the smallest screen in the new iteration of the Liberty Theatre will be bigger than the largest screen in the current location. “We could have built a 16- or 18-screen cinema in the same footprint, but we wanted to make each screen as big as possible,” says Bagby. “We’re beyond excited. We’ve redrawn the plans twice now, but we think we’re finally done and happy with them. It’s going to be the grandest thing we’ve ever built. I think it’ll be one of the nicest theaters in the industry.”