- May 19, 2016
Village Trustees enthusiastically endorsed a proposed new luxury theater experience at Northbrook Court, with high end, 60 inch power reclining seats in all 14 existing auditoriums, and an expanded concession area to allow movie goers to enjoy an alcoholic beverage.
The changes, proposed by American Multi-Cinema (AMC) were recently outlined to Village Board members. For the project to proceed the 1995 special permit ordinance which sets specific conditions for the operation of the Northbrook Court theaters will need to be amended. Because of the size of the luxury seating, the renovations will reduce the theatres capacity by two thirds from 3,350 to 1,184. Changes also include an updated concessions area with the installation of new kitchen equipment, projection and sound upgrades, along with lobby and box office improvements. A MacGuffins bar is to be installed to support service of alcoholic beverages to adult customers.
AMC spokesperson Frank Lewis explained to the Board that the company plans to invest several million dollars in the upgrades. He pointed out that the traditional movie going experience peaked in 1990s when numerous large theaters, including Northbrook Court, were built to meet demand. With the Internet, tablets and TVs now able to stream movies, theaters find themselves outdated and unable to compete. “There’s been a precipitous decline in attendance,” he commented. With the changes, he hopes Northbrook Court can be turned from an aged asset to the crown jewel it once was.
Trustees embraced the proposal, determining that the changes were not significant enough to warrant the need for Plan Commission review. Instead they will hold their own public hearing prior to taking a final vote later this month.
“This is a wonderful thing to reinvest in this theater,” commented Village Trustee Jim Karagianis. “These changes are obviously critically needed.” Trustees all spoke in favor of the proposal, including Trustee Bob Israel who praised the thoroughness of the proposal and expressed gratitude to AMC for investing in Northbrook. Trustees were unanimous in their vote to take the plan to the next step, although Trustee Heller warned that just because they were in favor of the plan, that the changes are not minor. “This is the trend and I like the AMC experience, but these are significant changes to the special permit.”
Trustees will need to separately approve a special liquor license category, after the permit changes are approved. Lewis noted in the AMC experience that on average, most movie goers only consume one drink and that they enjoy a 97.4% compliance rate with enforcement. All of the trustees, when straw-polled, said they favored awarding it.