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Imax Superplex Eyes 'Best Launched Theatre'

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

The Fusion Superplex's developer is targeting a late November "soft opening" for the IMAX cinema-centred entertainment destination, telling Tribune Business over 400 jobs will be created.

Carlos Foulkes, the Atavus Group's chief executive, said more than 300 jobs have been created during the construction phase for the 100,000 square foot facility located at the JFK Drive/Gladstone Road roundabout, with roughly $50m invested to-date.

Speaking with Tribune Business following a tour of the facility yesterday, Mr Foulkes explained: "We currently have remaining about 123 persons employed in the construction of the interior outfit, and about 60 persons are employed directly with Fusion right now. That will ramp up to 406 employees when we open Fusion Superplex. All of those employees will be Bahamian."

"We went through a great deal of people to select the best. The unemployment numbers are a bit high, and we hope to take a dent out of that when we bring on our 400 persons. That will assist the local market in alleviating some of the pressure on the unemployment numbers."

Mr Foulkes added that IMAX will provide long-term support for the facility, and said: "They have remote monitoring systems connected to our projection devices, which allows them to be able to help us from Canada and troubleshoot with us.

"The facility has about 30 days left of work, and then we are going to take about 30 days to get the remaining employees up to speed. We already have management and senior members on board, and training going on right now in food and beverage. For a facility like this the staff has to be of equal greatness. Given the 30 days of work left and the training, late November is the earliest we can open."

Mr Foulkes said the opening date now depends on how quickly the Government can address nearby road upgrades. Atavus Group wants an expansion to the northern entrance of Gladstone Road to accommodate the extra traffic its project is expected to generate.

"The final date will be dependent on how soon the Government can get the roadworks together for the entrance to the facility. That is also about two months' of work. We may be able to squeeze it down to six weeks, but we'll work with the Ministry of Works to get that started. If we're to start the road next week, as we hope, by the time of the soft opening that will completed," said Mr Foulkes.

"The project is $50 million; that's the land, the construction, the technology, the systems and furnishings. That includes the cost overruns. They happen, as you can't predict everything. We have had changes in the design.

"We expanded the profile of the project and added some new technologies. The security systems and the online platform required intense security measures for the processing of credit cards and so on. We also have the servers being hosted in different countries to ensure the data is secure." The project was initially scheduled to open on April 20 with an initial investment budget of $42 million.

Atavus expects the Fusion Superplex to attract "north of 800,000" persons annually with its nine theatres, including the five-storey IMAX and 4DX (four dimensional experience) cinema.

"We believe we are coming in very competitive. Bahamians just want a place to hang out. When we decided to build the facility we thought about where we would like to hang out," said Mr Foulkes, revealing that the group's marketing strategy extends beyond the local market.

"When we built this facility we did not have a local comparison. This is a hybrid of many things, and we had to look outside our country to see similar facilities," he explained. "We found good representation of what we wanted to do, and tied those together to create Fusion, with 17 brands.

"We are delivering a product that has not been done locally. We are interacting with the film community outside the country; the Hollywood Film Journal, the Hollywood Reporter and people who look at theatres around the world and rate them. We are trying to go after the best launched theatre this year."

Targeted at all age ranges and tastes, the Fusion Superplex will include two restaurants, nine cinemas, including IMAX, 4DX, XS3 and PURE VIP theatres, an indoor supervised kids play zone, a two level arcade, a Starbucks coffee lounge and Sub-Zero ice cream that is made from liquid nitrogen.

Tekoyo Bridgewater, an Atavus director and in-house legal counsel, told Tribune Business: "We have had an amazing uproar in the Bahamian community for something like this. We have designed our model to ensure everyone comes, they feel secure and, when they leave, they want to return. We promise that we will maintain the level of customer service moving forward. We find this to be very important to provide the ultimate customer service and maintain that throughout."

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