PROGRESS: Renovation greets visitors to AMC Southern Hills 12

April 7, 2019

SIOUX CITY -- When the AMC Southern Hills 12 unveiled its multi-million-dollar renovation in December 2018, the theaters received a lot of the typical amenities: all-new carpets, screens, speakers and heated reclining seats.

Plus the Southern Hills Mall multiplex got plenty of things that made them unique.

For instance, the concession stand sells loaded hot dogs, chicken-and-waffle sandwiches and flatbread pizzas.

If that wasn’t enough, beer and hard liquor is also available for film fans of legal age.

As movie theaters across the U.S. face headwinds from streaming services like Netflix and Hulu -- attendance has declined consistently since 2002, according to American Cinematographer -- AMC and other theater chains have focused their energy on patron experience. AMC, the world’s largest first-run theater chain, entered the Sioux City market in late 2016 after buying the former Carmike Cinema chain.

AMC’s extreme makeover began in July, according to Kimberly Sanden, coordinator of corporate communications.

“Our patrons are in love with our new leather seats,” she said.

Zachary Redenius and Chris Steemken, two attendees during an afternoon matinee of “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” gave their thumbs up for Southern Hills 12′s heated seat with foot rests.

Steemken also enjoyed seeing the expanded beverage options.

“I see they sell alcohol, too,” he said. “I drink beer.”

Indeed, AMC McGuffins (named for director Alfred Hitchcock’s name for an unexpected plot device) stocks beer, wine and cocktails before, during and after the movies.

And if you need a stiff drink to endure “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” please note you can also take it into the theaters.

″(We’ve noticed) a need for (alcoholic options) since our guests are asking for it,” Sanden said. “They’re coming out to spend a whole evening with us. Our guests really love being able to grab a beer with their movie.”

More than only the traditional popcorn and candy, the theater’s food options now resemble a drive-in restaurant.

“We’ve upgraded our food menu,” Sanden said. “We now have pretzel bites, flatbread pizzas, chicken-and-waffle sandwiches, loaded hot dogs, cheeseburger sliders, French fries ... everything you want.”

She added, “You can really grab dinner and your movie right here at the theater.”

With new food and new drinks at the concession stands plus plusher seating in the theater, it seems like there’s more of everything. That’s true, except for one thing: theater size.

Sanden said overall seating capacity has declined about 60 percent.

Currently, the 12 auditoriums have seating capacity of between 47 and 74 people, with the smaller ones dedicated to lesser-known titles while the biggest ones are set aside for the blockbusters.