• New cinema has screen as big as Green Monster

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    November 20, 2017
    Original article at Sentinel & Enterprise

    New cinema has screen as big as Green Monster

    By Chris Lisinski, clisinski@lowellsun.com
    UPDATED:   11/16/2017 09:05:25 AM EST

    LITTLETON -- Managers of the new O'neil Cinemas about to open in The Point describe it as the most advanced movie theater out there.

    The multiplex does certainly have some striking amenities, be it hundreds of reclining leather seats -- which are becoming more and more common in the industry -- or the gigantic Grand DLX Auditorium, with its IMAX-rivaling 72-foot-wide screen. And with tentative plans to open Friday, the theater's management is hopeful they will quickly make an impression.

    "I live an hour and 15 minutes away without traffic, and I would drive here on my day off to watch a movie because it's so nice," said Jennifer Desmarais, the theater's operations manager.


    O'neil executives gave The Sun a private tour of the facilities on Monday while dozens of construction workers buzzed about, finishing up final steps ahead of Friday's opening.

    The multiplex located in the back of The Point offers a familiar movie-going atmosphere, touched up around the edges with new conveniences. Every theater is full of leather, reclining seats that can be chosen and reserved in advance. Food can be ordered at the restaurant, called the Backstage Lounge, and delivered into any theater by staff. The restaurant will only offer Regina Pizza at first, but the menu will likely expand in the coming months.

    Even the concession stand has some new twists, such as fried green tomatoes and poutine nachos.

    (Concession prices follow a larger industry trend: a medium popcorn will cost you a full $6.75.)

    The theater's eight auditoriums range in size from 75 seats to 289 seats. O'neil officials tout the Grand DLX Auditorium, the largest, as the crown jewel: it features a 72-foot-wide, 37-foot-high curved screen -- as tall as the Green Monster at Fenway Park -- that workers on Monday needed a towering, multi-story piece of scaffolding to reach. For comparison, the standard screens are between 40 and 50 feet wide.

    The Grand DLX is not part of the IMAX brand, but it does offer a similar large-format experience, the first such venture into that territory from the small, family-owned O'neil Cinemas, which owns three other theaters.

    Dan O'Neil, executive vice president of the company alongside his brother, Tim, and their father, also named Dan, said the small size allows them to be ahead of the curve on offering modern, unique facilities.

    "Being a small company, we're flexible, whereas a bigger company has to roll things out over so many locations," the younger Dan said.

    The O'Neils -- who stylize their name with a capital N and the theaters with a lower-case n -- also own one theater in Epping, New Hampshire and one in Londonderry, New Hampshire.

    They had owned a theater Lisbon, Connecticut, before selling it in 2012.

    The new multiplex is their first foray into Massachusetts, and much of their interest in the location stemmed from the other restaurants and shops in The Point. Littleton will likely provide a strong market as well. The only major movie theaters in the area are in Fitchburg, Lowell and Tyngsboro, leaving a gap for many of the suburbs.

    "We felt there was a hole in the market," Dan said. "There's a nice pocket here that wasn't being serviced."

    Executives say the theater will open to the public on Friday once the building passes its final inspections. The timing coincides with the typically busy late-year movie season, including a certain forthcoming "Star Wars" release.

    Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisLisinski.
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