Theater project on track

Posted by on January 6, 2014

MARQUETTE – The owner of a new state-of-the-art multiplex theater being built in Marquette Township said despite crews battling challenging weather conditions, the Thomas Theatre Marquette project is on schedule to hit its target opening in mid-May.

“I couldn’t be happier about where the project is right now,” said Tom Andes, whose family-owned business also operates the Tri-City Cinema 8 in Quinnesec and the Willow Creek Cinema 8 in Escanaba, which both opened in 1994.

Andes, who is keeping many of the details about his new multiplex theater being built along Commerce Drive quiet until the grand opening, said all of the concrete block is up, 95 percent of the roof is finished and interior steel work has begun.

Work on the Thomas Theatre Marquette, shown above in Marquette Township, is moving ahead on schedule, or slightly ahead of plans, to complete the project for a mid-May opening, according to the owner.

All steel columns and bracing have been erected and the sheeting laid for the projectors’ booth. Pouring of concrete on the west side of the structure was completed before Christmas. An initial layer of asphalt was laid on the parking lot and the curbing and parking islands have been added.

A dozen heating and cooling units for the roof have been delivered, as well.

“I’m very happy with how the building is looking at this point,” Andes said.

The $6.9 million building project will include a 31,667 square-foot theater with 10 screens, with eventual plans to expand to 14. With all 10 theaters at full capacity, the multiplex will hold 1,115 people in stadium-style seating. The development will also include a 280-space parking lot.

In all, Andes said about $10 million will be spent on the theater, which is being built by Gundlach Champion on a 7-acre parcel located at 1525 Commerce Drive near Wright Street.

Andes said the theater will have a decidedly “Marquette feel.” Staff from a Kansas City design firm working on the project visited mines and other sites in the Upper Peninsula, looking for features to include in the theater’s decor that will showcase the region’s geography and mining and timbering history. The theater will have a view of Lake Superior.

Andes won’t divulge his greatest surprises – wanting the public to be “blown away” at the grand opening – but he said the theater will by no means be ordinary.

“There was a lot of thought involved in the design of this theater,” Andes said previously. “Nobody else has the things we’re talking about, so it will be unique not only to the Marquette area, but to multiplex theaters as a whole.”

Andes said Michigan construction crews are being used on the project and he’s proud money spent at the theater by the public will help support U.P. jobs and families. He said the 35 to 50 jobs the theater is expected to create will push the total number of workers at the company’s three theaters to more than 100, a milestone he considers significant.

Andes said the project began in February 2011, with engineering, architecture and financing developed since. A groundbreaking was held in August and work began shortly afterward.

Bitterly cold temperatures and some snowy, windy days plagued the early winter construction work.

“We got dealt a pretty bad hand concerning the weather,” Andes said. “I think all these union trades people stepped up.”

Andes said he continues to receive “fantastic” support from the community for the project.

“It’s been a real fun time, even though it’s been a stressful endeavor,” Andes said.