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Southwest ABQ in line for new movie theater

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This height and elevation rendering from Carmike Cinemas shows the front of the planned 12-screen movie complex at Rio Bravo and Coors. The theater is scheduled to open early next summer. (Courtesy of Carmike Cinemas)

This height and elevation rendering from Carmike Cinemas shows the front of the planned 12-screen movie complex at Rio Bravo and Coors. The theater is scheduled to open early next summer. (Courtesy of Carmike Cinemas)

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

A night at the movies soon will get a lot more convenient for residents of Southwest Albuquerque, for the first time in about five decades.

Carmike Cinemas will begin construction “imminently” on a 12-screen movie theater at the new Las Estancias development at Rio Bravo and Coors, a spokesman said. The 45,000-square-foot multiplex will include an IMAX-branded large-format theater – just the second of its kind in the city.

Carmike intends to open the theater by early next summer.

“We’re very enthusiastic about it because it’s going to mean an element of entertainment to the Southwest sector, which is definitely needed,” said local commercial real estate executive Steve Maestas, who is developing Las Estancias with Mike Mechenbier.

The closest current multiplex to the Las Estancias area is Cinemark 14 in the heart of Downtown.

Carmike – which has 276 theaters in 41 states – recognized the gap and wanted to fill it, spokesman Robert Rinderman said. The Columbus, Ga.-based chain has a two-screen theater in Artesia, but the Las Estancias project will mark its debut in the Albuquerque market.

“We chose that area because we felt it was underserved and had a lot of potential for a theater opening,” Rinderman said.

Art De La Cruz, who represents the South Valley on the Bernalillo County Commission, said he doesn’t think the area has had a movie theater for about 50 years. He recalled visiting a one-screen movie house called “The Isleta” at Isleta and Bridge as a child but thinks it was gone by the mid-1960s.

The commissioner said community enthusiasm gradually has built around the new Carmike, a project that has been rumored for quite some time.

“Frankly, people are pretty excited about it, especially kids,” De La Cruz said. “I talked to a number of young people, and they’re anxious not just to see a movie, but to work there.”

Maestas said the theater should serve as a magnet. Las Estancias already has Dion’s, a skilled-nursing facility and leases with McDonald’s, Planet Fitness and New Mexico Bank & Trust. Talks are ongoing with several “name-brand restaurants” and large-scale retailers, he said.

“We’ve been involved with other theater projects, and we see an abundance of restaurants that want to position close to or around the movie theater for obvious reasons,” he said. “What it also brings is a use that is not represented in the trade area, so it starts to establish this vision that we have, a sense of place and create an identity for the project.

“Carmike is a top-tier, first-run operation (and) that’s the type of quality occupant that we’ve been looking for.”

Maestas, managing partner of the NAI Maestas & Ward commercial real estate firm, said he expects another round of announcements about future Las Estancias tenants later this year. Brokers from his firm, Keith Meyer and Clayton King, serve as leasing agents for the project.

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