SALEM — Cinemark plans to open its first cinema in the state by November.
The 44,000-square-foot, 12-screen cinema is being built in an overflow parking area of The Mall at Rockingham Park adjacent to the old Sears Auto Center, which will be redeveloped into restaurants and retail.
“We are excited to bring our first Cinemark theater to the state of New Hampshire,” Cinemark’s marketing manager, Ashten Conroy, told the Union Leader. “The new development surrounding The Mall at Rockingham Park will be a perfect opportunity to introduce an upgraded movie experience to Salem and the surrounding communities.”
Town Planner Ross Moldoff said the project was granted conditional approval by the planning board in October 2017, with waivers for reduced parking and additional signage. It was also granted a variance for its 45-foot height.
Construction began in October 2018, and Conroy said the goal is for the theater to open in mid- to late November.
“I think it will be great to get the first run movies here and not have to go out of town for that,” Moldoff said.
After Salem Tri-Cinemas closed in 2002, residents have had to drive south to Methuen, Mass., or north to Londonderry, for their closest options. Salem Tri-Cinemas originally opened in the 1970s, and was so named for its three screens, Moldoff said.
Moldoff said there will be 12 screens, 1,157 seats and 927 parking spaces.
Cinemark is building the theater in partnership with Seritage Growth Properties, which is also overseeing the redevelopment of the Sears Auto Center, Conroy said.
Conroy declined to comment on the cost of the project, but a cost estimate provided to the town pegged the construction at about $8.6 million, Moldoff said.
The cinema will feature luxury electric reclining chairs with heated seats and swivel tables, according to Conroy. A special XD (Extreme Digital) theater will include a 65-foot-wide floor-to-ceiling screen and 55 surround sound speakers on the walls and ceiling.
“It’s the best way to see a movie,” Conroy said.
A concession stand and cafe will have expanded food offerings including burgers, chicken tenders, hot-wings and Pizza Hut personal pizzas. There will also be Starbucks Coffee and some bottled Dunkin’ cold drinks.
Conroy said it is still to be determined whether the cinema will serve alcohol or not.
Typically, a cinema this size employs about 75 to 80 full- and part-time employees, Conroy said.
Cinemark Holdings Inc., based in Plano, Texas, has 344 theaters across 41 states, plus 205 in Latin America, according to the company website.
Conroy said there are presently a handful of Cinemark theaters in Massachusetts and Connecticut, but none in Rhode Island, Vermont or Maine. There are plans to open one in Portland, Maine, in the spring of 2021.