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El Con Mall may become Tucson’s movie star

JONATHAN J. HIGUERA Citizen Business Writer

Picture it: El Con Mall as the home of the city’s largest and most luxurious movie theater complex.

San Francisco-based Century Theatres said yesterday it will build a 20-screen complex at the midtown mall, 3601 E. Broadway.

The Century El Con Mall complex will include wall-to-wall screens, state-of-the-art digital sound and a cafe serving gourmet coffees and baked goods, the company said.

Construction is scheduled to start in December, with the complex opening by July, said Century spokeswoman Nancy Klasky.

Century already owns two Tucson complexes: the Century Gateway 12, which opened in 1992 near East Speedway Boulevard and North Kolb Road; and the Century Park 16, which opened in 1989 near West Grant Road and Interstate 10.

El Con’s owners consider the 20-screen complex as a new anchor tenant for the mall, which has struggled to keep stores and customers during the ’90s as shoppers gravitated to Tucson Mall, the city’s largest shopping complex.

”I think it will help a great deal,” said El Con co-owner Foster Kivel. ”It will be unlike anything else in Tucson.”

El Con’s former movie complex, the six-screen AMC Theaters, closed on Monday.

Kivel said the new complex ”is only the first step in our ongoing large-scale renovation of El Con.”

Kivel said he is negotiating with several potential tenants, but refused to comment on reports that Wal-Mart was close to signing a deal for a 200,000-square-foot store at El Con.

Neither Kivel nor Century officials would discuss the financial aspects of their agreement.

Century has more than 500 screens in five states. It is in the midst of an aggressive expansion to have 1,000 screens by 2000.

In May, it opened a 24-screen complex in Albuquerque that is one of the country’s top-grossing complexes, Klasky said.

The San Diego-based architecture firm Fehlman-LaBarre will design the complex.

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