AMC Highwoods 20, the target of recent criticism over its appearance inside and out, may be looking at a major $6-million facelift.

According to plans filed by Kansas City-based BRR Architecture with the City of Tampa, the AMC Highwoods 20 location just off Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. could be receiving major interior renovations that include an upgraded lobby, new carpet and paint, larger bathrooms and new projection and speaker systems, with roomier recliner leather seating inside the theaters.

AMC Theatres public relations director Ryan Noonan did not confirm any specific enhancements, but did tell the Neighborhood News that “the renovation process is in place” and, if permitting goes smoothly, it could begin sometime around June and be completed by the end of 2020.

A woman who identified herself as one of the AMC Highwoods 20 managers declined comment.

Noonan said that the New Tampa location would likely receive the same upgrades AMC is putting in at many of its other theaters across the country.

“The new recliner seating is always the star of the show,” he said.

According to the plans, the renovations on the 82,815-sq.-ft. movie theater would cost roughly $6.6 million dollars. 

“That’s great news,” said Tampa City Council member, Hunter’s Green resident and frequent AMC 20 patron Luis Viera, whose district includes the theater. 

Viera wrote to AMC’s corporate management in November of 2019 stating that the New Tampa theater was “unkempt and not properly reflecting the exterior standards of New Tampa” and could use some TLC. 

Many on social media agreed.

Posters on various platforms shared their horror stories, while others said they would rather drive 20 minutes to see a movie in Wesley Chapel.

Noonan acknowledged that AMC was aware of the bad press the theater had recently received.

“They have been discussing (renovating) the Highwoods 20 before any of that came to light,” said Noonan.

An upgrade would be a big boost to New Tampa’s only movie theater, which opened in 1999 and pales in comparison to the nearby and newer Cobb Grove 16 in Wesley Chapel when it comes to amenities like food, comfortable seating and offering a more modern experience.

AMC is currently renovating a number of its nearly-700 theaters across the country and has been for the last decade, Noonan said. He said there are less than a handful of new theaters built by AMC each year, with the company instead focusing of renovating its existing properties with better and reserved seating, touch-screen ticketing kiosks, eco-friendly restrooms and a full-service MacGuffins Bar.

Any AMC Highwoods 20 renovations would typically not cause the entire theater to be closed, just certain sections.

Most of the 20 auditoriums will have their current capacities reduced to make room for the larger, more comfortable seating. Auditorium 4, for example, currently has seating for 284, but plans indicate that once renovated, there would only be seating for 140.

“There will be a 40-60 percent reduction in seating,” Noonan said. “With the new seating it’s no longer an elbow-to-elbow experience.”

Viera said he hopes those that have been unhappy will support the effort to modernize the theater.

“They are taking the steps to fix it, and I would hope New Tampa recognizes that and supports it,” Viera said. “I’m thrilled to see this happen.”

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