A look inside the Aksarben Cinema Center

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By Sean Beckwith – Contributor

For years, Cinema Center, located on 84th and West Center Road, was the local theater for people who lived in the Aksarben area. When the big orange theater closed a few years ago, it left a huge void.  When the new Aksarben Cinema opens today, that void may finally be filled.

The 10-theater, 17,000-foot complex is dramatically smaller than the monstrous Cinema Center. The main theater is the 425-seat, 60-foot screen theater. The other nine theaters host 30-foot screens and have 115 to 300 seats. Half of the theaters have maroon leather seats, and the others have gold fabric seats.

Bill Barstow, the owner of Aksarben Cinema, admits  that he is borderline obsessive-compulsive about every detail. He even sets his own show times. The theater is 100 percent digital with full Dolby 3-D capabilities. It does not have a single projector room and uses no film.

The box office, located to the right of the entrance, looks more like a hotel’s front desk than a theater box office. To the left are digital ticket kiosks. Theaters outline the outside of the blue, yellow and red donut-shaped hallway. A concessions stand and bar make up the donut hole. The concessions stand has traditional movie favorites, as well as abstract items such as green bean fries, hotdog sliders and cheeseburger egg rolls. The bar has bottled and draft beer, as well as mixed drinks. A two-drink maximum is in place, but two 32-ounce beers in the span of a two-to three-hour movie is hardly a two-drink maximum.

However, Barstow takes pride in this theater’s versatility.

“We plan to exploit this building during the day,” he said.

Every theater is capable of Microsoft Power Point presentations. Two rooms are available for meetings or birthday parties, and the back part of the theater can be blocked off for catered events. Private parking is available behind the theater for such occasions.

Barstow said the theater’s primary use will be for blockbusters, but said he would be open to working with Film Streams at the Ruth Sokolof Theater. He also eventually wants to show live 3-D sporting events, such as a Husker Bowl game.

The theater is expected to create up to 70 jobs, with many other jobs such as projector operator and box office attendant fulfilled by technology. Barstow was enthusiastic about the Aksarben area, as well as the proximity of UNO’s campus.

“We have the highest population density within a mile of any theater in Omaha,” Barstow said.

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