KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – The company that owns the Fort Henry Mall in Kingsport made an announcement Tuesday afternoon, announcing plans to bring an IMAX theater to the mall.
Leaders from Kingsport and Sullivan County joined representatives of Hull Property Group Tuesday for the announcement.
President of Hull Property Group James Hull took to the podium first and reflected on the state of the mall when the company took ownership of the property in 2016.
“It was in terrible bad shape,” Hull said. However, he said investments and work with the help of the City led to the company attracting and maintaining tenants, which ultimately led to Tuesday’s announcement.
Hull Property Group Vice President of Government Relations John Mulherin was next to the podium and said the investment being made into the mall represents millions of dollars.
“We’re going to make an almost $8 million new investment in property,” Mulherin said. “What we plan on doing is creating the premier entertainment complex here in Kingsport.”
Mulherin said despite the company being told by outside sources that bringing that level of entertainment to the area was not feasible, Hull Property Group worked with the City of Kingsport and the Kingsport Economic Development Board to make it happen.
“I am pleased to announce today that Kingsport will soon be home to a standalone 7,000-square-foot IMAX theater,” Mulherin said.
Mulherin said the theater will be connected to the existing NCG theater by a breezeway. It will feature a screen that is 70 feet wide and 40 feet tall and roughly 200 seats.
“It is massive. It’s their best technology, and we’re getting it here in Kingsport,” Mulherin said.
According to Mulherin, the closest IMAX theater to Kingsport is about 150 miles away, making the new theater a regional draw.
NCG Theaters will also be making improvements and renovations to the existing theaters in the mall.
Bids for architectural plans will soon be sent to bid, Mulherin said. Hull Property Group expects construction to begin in the second quarter of 2024, and a grand opening could take place in the late first quarter of 2025.
According to Mulherin, work on the IMAX theater will coincide with other projects at the Fort Henry Mall.
“We’re also pleased to announce that we have a signed LOI (letter of intent) and are working on the development of a multi-tenant restaurant outparcel out here,” Mulherin said.
Among the future restaurants at that outparcel are an Eggs Up Grill, a New York Butcher Shoppe and one other future tenant. The building that will house those three restaurants will be 6,300 square feet when constructed.
A new tenant will also be working to renovate and prepare the former JCPenney location at the mall, Mulherin told members of the media.
Kingsport City Manager Chris McCartt was also at the announcement calling the news of the theater and other projects a “very exciting day for the City of Kingsport.”
“I have seen malls across this country go many different directions, and they have not always been positive,” McCartt said. “This group kept to their word, they held the line, and they continue to work with us to bring success.”
McCartt said Kingsport has been working on “magnet projects” to draw people to the City while maintaining the people and businesses who already call Kingsport home. He referenced a citizen’s survey conducted a few years ago that told city leaders more entertainment options were needed in Kingsport.
“We have now the region’s only IMAX theater coming to the City of Kingsport,” McCartt said.
Mayor Pat Shull also spoke Tuesday and thanked the Hull Property Group for keeping up their commitment to the Fort Henry Mall while malls across the country close.
John Rose, Economic Development Director for Kingsport, closed out the announcement and said the mall is on the right track to become a regional attraction.
“On top of that, it will become an even larger economic driver,” Rose said. “With the announcements made today and the other national retailers opening up, the economic impact annually to Kingsport will exceed $25 million. That does not happen overnight.”
Rose thanked the Kingsport Economic Development Board, the board of mayor and aldermen, the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce and others for their role. The City’s hotel and motel tax also played a role in securing enough funding for the project, Rose said.
News Channel 11 streamed the announcement Tuesday, and the full video can be viewed above.