UPDATED WITH VIDEO: Sanctuary Cinema coming to Alpena

News Photos by Steve Schulwitz Alpena Marc LLC owner Jeff Konczak, left, and Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary Resource Protection Coordinator Stephanie Gandulla unveil Sanctuary Cinema as the name of the new movie theater in Alpena at a groundbreaking event on Thursday.

ALPENA — Alpena is one step closer to having a downtown movie theater again.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held at the site of former Royal Knight Theater on Thursday, during which the name of the new theater was revealed to be Sanctuary Cinema.

The name was met with approval from the more than 100 people in attendance, including local government officials, business leaders, and members of the community.

Owner Jeff Konczak, of Alpena Marc LLC, addressed the crowd and, after thanking his family, partners, the community and gave a special tip of his cap to his staff, who he said make improvements in Alpena possible.

Check out the video below. Viewing on mobile? Turn your device horizontally for the best viewing experience. Story continues below the video.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Local dignitaries scoop up shovels of dirt during the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Sanctuary Cinema in Alpena on Thursday. The new theater will have three screens and state-of-the-art sound, and seating.

When it’s open, Konczak said, the cinema will offer popular blockbuster movies people want to see along with state-of-the-art seating, sound, and picture quality. There will be three screens in the cinema — a large one and a pair of smaller and more intimate ones.

He didn’t provide a date when the theater will be open, but he said he was confident the construction phase would be complete by the end of the year. Konczak said the ongoing computer chip shortage is also slowing the project because computer chips are needed for the audio and visual equipment.

After the groundbreaking, Konczak allowed everyone to enter the facility — complete with a temporary concession stand — for a peek at the project’s progress.

Konczak said crews will begin work on the exterior of the building, which will mimic the old JC Penny store from the early 1900’s. He said the renovations on the interior will begin after that is complete.

“I’m pretty sure my mom and dad bought my grade-school clothes in this building, which was a heck of a long time ago,” Konczak said jokingly.

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz A Sanctuary Cinema sign was unveiled during a groundbreaking ceremony outside of the old Royal Knight Theater. Construction is expected to amp up in coming weeks on the facility, which will feature three screens.

The name for Alpena’s new theater came after a family meeting where Konczak said many good ideas were suggested. While driving, Konczak’s mother sent him a text with the Sanctuary Cinema name and he knew instantly it was perfect.

Konczak said the cinema will have large roomy chairs, and there also could be some reclining options. He said people will be able to purchase their tickets online, which could include selecting their seat when they do.

He said in order to ensure the most current movies are available, and the outfit runs properly, he intends to hire someone with the needed knowledge to work with the movie industry.

Doing so, Konczak said, will allow the Sanctuary Cinema to offer the viewing options people desire, coupled with top-notch amenities.

“Rather than come in here and pretend that we know the business, we want someone who does know, because it is difficult,” he said. “We need to focus on what we do best and that’s build buildings and let someone else worry about the movie business side.”

Before the groundbreaking, representatives from Alpena, Northland Area Federal Credit Union, and lead contractor Clark Construction, made remarks regarding the project and what it means for the downtown and surrounding areas and how important the partnerships are moving forward.

Alpena Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Anne Gentry said the cinema’s location is pivotal to the downtown.

“This is literally in the heart of our downtown and next to one of our most busy intersections and we are excited for this project for what it is going to do to beautify the downtown and it is going to be great to have a movie theater again,” she said.


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