The biggest movie event in years in the Tri-Cities is nearing, and it’s not the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
The new Fairchild Queensgate 12 is scheduled to be open in time for the Dec. 18 opening of the long-awaited film.
“It’s going to be the biggest movie in probably a decade,” said Kevin Fairchild.
But the amenities the theater offers are what’s expected to keep people coming back even after the last droid leaves the screen.
A major difference between The Force Awakens and the previous six Star Wars movies is that no one has to wait in line for hours to see it at the Richland theater. All the seats will be reserved in advance.
Queensgate 12 ticket sales for Star Wars and other movies will be available on its website starting at 11 a.m. today. Fairchild, a member of the family which owns the theater, as well as cinemas in Pasco and Moses Lake, also hopes to start selling tickets at the same time from the box office window at 2871 Duportail St.
Those who do not reserve online before arriving can choose seats on touchscreens at the box office.
And what seats to behold — each chair is leather, with leg rests that adjust with built-in controls. They also each have an attached table to hold the food offerings.
We are anxious to have people experience it and enjoy the movies here.
Kevin Fairchild, owner
The theater will start off selling basic movie theater food like popcorn and candy, but will add entrees like pulled pork sliders in the next couple months. Fairchild said this will coincide with the addition of beer and wine sales. Fairchild has applied for a liquor license and eventually plans to set aside four of its 12 screens for 21 and older audiences where alcohol will be allowed.
The theaters range in size from 65 to 159 seats, Fairchild said.
“It’s dramatically less than what we’re used to because they are wider and more laid out,” he said.
Fairchild also takes pride in the sound system at the new cinema. Two of the theaters come equipped with Dolby Atmos audio, which surrounds the viewer with 360-degree sound. Star Wars fans should be able to feel their seats vibrate as X-wings and TIE fighters swoop by.
“Dolby flew out here themselves and equalized the room,” Fairchild said. “So it’s good to go.”
Workers were still putting finishing touches in place Thursday afternoon. Fairchild said they are waiting only on building inspections to be complete before screenings can start, but he expected the theater to be open in plenty of time for the first Star Wars showings.
Only state electrical inspections need to be completed, said Jennifer Schuster, a permit technician with Richland.
“We’re just waiting for Labor and Industries so we can issue that (certificate of occupancy) to them,” she said.
Theater tickets will cost $12.50 and $10.50 for matinees. That compares with $10 and $7.50 matinees at the Pasco Fairchild location, which has more traditional theater seats.
Order tickets online at www.fairchildcinemas.com
Opening the theater will be a relief and exciting at the same time, Fairchild said.
“We are anxious to have people experience it and enjoy the movies here,” he said.
The 43,000-square-foot theater is the first part of the 14.5-acre Lincoln Landing development, located between Duportail Street and Interstate 182. It also will be accessible from Keene Road.
Rob Ellsworth with Windermere Real Estate Tri-Cities said construction will start soon on a new Home 2 Suites by Hilton. Developers also are working on securing restaurants and retail for a nearby five acres.
Richland has been without a movie theater since the Uptown Cinemas closed in 2006. Since then, the combined population of Richland and West Richland have grown by more than 10,000 people.
“The Tri-Cities is ready for another theater,” Fairchild said. “We have a lot of sold out shows in Pasco and we need to expand. We think this is a great opportunity.”
Fairchild isn’t worried that people might want to stay home and watch movies on their high-definition setups.
“They complement each other,” he said. “The people who want the biggest and best picture at home also want it at the movies.”