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Reel-Lux is looking forward to bringing a luxury movie experience to Willmar

Erica Dischino / Tribune The last day of operations for the Kandi Mall movie theater under current management is Feb. 22. The Willmar theater will tentatively reopen in April under new leadership, Reel-Lux Cinemas.

WILLMAR — Reel-Lux Cinemas, once it reopens and renovates the Kandi Mall movie theater, will offer movie goers a luxury theater experience while keeping prices at their current levels.

"We will not raise them," said Reel-Lux Chief Information Officer Joseph Morelli told the West Central Tribune Wednesday..

Reel-Lux Cinemas, a new venture in the growing luxury movie theater business, wants to bring theaters with expanded menus and higher-end seating to mid-level markets across the nation, with Willmar being one of its first projects.

"We want to enter markets that are underserved," Morelli said. "Willmar is perfect."

Reel-Lux Cinemas is taking over the Kandi Mall theater from AMC Theaters, which has been running it since March 2017 when it took over from Carmike. The theater will close Feb. 22 when AMC ceases its Willmar operation, and Reel-Lux hopes to reopen by April.

"We don't want people getting used to the theater being closed," Morelli said, adding the theater will certainly be open in time for Marvel's "Avengers: Infinity Wars," which opens May 4.

At first the Kandi Mall theater will look similar to the way it does today, but it won't stay that way.

First, people will begin seeing updates in the lobby, halls and bathrooms. Then in July upgrades will start in the six auditoriums.

Morelli said the theater seats will be replaced with electric reclining models. "You push a button and the seat reclines," Morelli said. "It is pretty awesome."

When customers purchase their tickets, they will be able to choose their seats, as they do for sporting events or concerts with reserved seating.

As for refreshments, Morelli said Reel-Lux will be expanding the concessions menu past the traditional popcorn, candy and soda. Items such as milkshakes, chicken wings, popcorn shrimp and iced coffee drinks are all possibilities.

Another service Reel-Lux is hoping to offer is seat-side delivery of concessions, but only before the movie starts. Morelli assures customers there won't be food delivery disruptions during the movie.

"Amenities like this aren't typical in markets the size of Willmar," Morelli said.

Popcorn lovers need not worry either. Morelli said Reel-Lux will be offering a popcorn bucket special similar to what AMC and Carmike had. The new theater owners will also allow people who purchased the AMC bucket this year to continue to use it for the rest of the year. There will also be a special movie, popcorn and pop deal on Tuesdays.

Morelli said Reel-Lux hopes to have all the updates and renovations completed by the fall, in time for the holiday movie season.

"The end goal for everything is October. Changes will happen throughout the summer," Morelli said.

Reel-Lux is already looking for staff and Morelli said they are very interested in speaking with anyone who currently works for AMC at the Kandi Mall. The company's website, www.reellux.com, has information for those interested in jobs.

"We would love to talk to all of them," Morelli said because they know the community, the theater and movies.

Morelli said Reel-Lux feels Willmar will be a great site for one of their new theaters since the community has a strong movie-going segment. Also, bringing an updated amenity like a luxury theater to Kandi Mall partners well with what RockStep, who owns the mall, is trying to do.

"The mall is working hard to revitalize. It seems like the perfect opportunity," Morelli said.

The team at Reel-Lux is looking forward to the public seeing all the upcoming changes, knowing the investment and hard work will be worth it.

"That is the most rewarding thing, when people walk in and see those seats. It never gets old," Morelli said.

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