AMC Braintree's movie theaters will extend their hours of operation on the weekends, under a proposal approved by the Board of Licensing Commissioners on Tuesday.
Only three out of the Board’s five members were in attendance at the meeting, and the extended hours were approved in a 2-to-1 vote.
According to Licensing Board Chairman and Town Clerk Joe Powers, until now, the latest starting time for a movie was 11 p.m., seven days a week.
Now, start times for the last show of the day have been extended until 12:30 a.m. on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings, with a proviso that no movie end later than 2:30 a.m.
Committee members Russell Forsberg, the building inspector, and Police Chief Russ Jenkins were in favor of the extension, and Powers opposed it.
“I opposed it. The licensee did not make a compelling argument as to what benefit the town of Braintree in general and those neighbors in particular would have by extending their hours into the early morning hours of the day,” Powers said.
Powers said the 11 p.m. cutoff has been in place since AMC Braintree entered the town in 1992. “If it worked for 20 years, I don’t know why it won’t work now,” he said.
Ryan Noonan, Director of Public Relations fro AMC Theatres, said the later movie times was mainly due to the number of seats.
The theater recently renovated its facilities and changed the seats, reducing the seating capacity from 2,800 seats to 974 seats.
"We're very excited about the changes going on, including replacing every seat in the building with a power luxury recliner," Noonan said. "To ensure we have enough space for these new luxury recliners, we did have to reduce seat count significantly. We've also found in past locations where we've made similar changes, the theatre becomes a favorite among guests, and demand rises significantly. To ensure we can continue to meet demand, the additional flexibility with programming time is important."
In addition to the seat renovations, the theater is remodeling the concession stand tand installing Coca-Cola Freestyle machines.
"In every location where we've made these kind of changes we've seen attendance double and in some cases triple. We're very excited about bringing theses enhancements to our guests at AMC Braintree 10 and we feel our guests are going to love the changes," Noonan said.
The excuse wasn't good enough for Powers.
“If you remove two-thirds of your seating capacity…you need to change how you do things. The way they are doing that is to add additional show times…but to me they didn’t have to change their seating capacity and I don’t see the benefit to the community to extend those hours,” Powers said.
Nearby residents did not attend the meeting, and Duane Keegan, president of the neighborhood group Granite Park Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Even without apparent neighborhood opposition, Powers said that allowing businesses to stay open later and later threatened the culture of the town’s entertainment industry.
“We could be turning into a town that’s open 24 hours a day seven days a week…and I don’t think that’s the kind of town we want,” Powers said. “And once we go down that slope, it becomes more difficult to deny that to others.”
Yet other officials didn't feel the same.
"I believe that it will increase business at the theater as well as some of the businesses at the newly developed complex at the Hyatt Hotel," said Police Chief Russ Jenkins. "This is good for our economy. I also believe that this increase in business will have a negligible
impact on the neighborhood, specifically the Granite Park area. The
theater itself is somewhat isolated and doesn't generate noise complaints
from the neighborhoods surrounding it."
As for traffic, Jenkins said, customers typically will drive down the hill and turn right or left on Granite Street to go home, and it shouldn't cause much of a problem.
"During the earlier movies, we will have a detail officer to ensure that traffic exiting the
theater does not create a problem," Jenkins said.