- By Alexandra Clough Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
iPic Theaters’s upscale movie house in downtown Delray Beach will finish construction earlier than expected in 2019 and feature an extra luxury twist: Viewing “pods,” the latest in seating technology.
iPic Chief Executive Hamid Hashemi said the company plans to install these two-seat pods, akin to the first-class sleeping pods used in airplanes, to wrap around guests and create a private personal space.
The theater complex, dubbed 4th and 5th Delray,is under construction just south of Atlantic Avenue. The complex features eight screens, office and retail space, plus a parking garage.
With the addition of the viewing pods, a night at the movies soon will feel like a trip on Air iPic. The seats still will recline and be extra comfy, but they will be surrounded by a curved privacy barrier, too.
The reason for the upgrade? Continued innovation is the key to drawing people to the theaters, Hashemi said.
The industry “went from a single auditorium, to 4 then to 12, to stadium seating, to gourmet foods and reclining seats,” Hashemi said. “This is the next step….You have your own space within the space. It adds another level of intimacy to the experience.”
Comfort and convenience are paramount, he said. For instance, the pods feature helpful touches, such as hidden cup holders, in addition to the pillow and blanket.
The new seat design will reduce the number of seats in the complex. Although iPic was approved for 528 seats, Hashemi said the seat number now will total 443, with auditorium’s ranging from 40 to 80 seats each.
Pods are planned, too, as part of an upcoming redo of the iPic at Mizner Park in Boca Raton. The pods will be added as soon as the Delray theater is completed, Hashemi said. iPic has been adding pods in other theaters, such as Houston.
iPic began construction on the Delray complex in July 2017, after three years of efforts to win city approval. The 50,000-square-foot complex will have a six-level, 326-space garage and a rooftop garden open to the public.
Completion was expected in mid-2019, but Hashemi said it looks like construction will wrap up in the mid-first quarter of 2019, barring any hurricanes or other natural disasters.
Hashemi said iPic, which is moving its headquarters to the project’s office space in early 2019, has started leasing the office and retail space at 4th and 5th Delray. About 25,000 square feet of office space is available, and Hashemi said he’s received interest from wealth management and financial firms.
There also is 7,500 of retail space available for lease on the ground floor of the garage, he said.
Although iPic is building eight auditoriums for films, one auditorium will also be outfitted for live performances such as magic, comedy or musical acts, the same way iPic has set up a theater at its Boca Raton location.
Competition for theater attendance isn’t just from at-home streaming films, Hashemi said. Sports events and other distractions also vie for consumer attention.
By making iPic more diverse, Hashemi hopes to create added reasons for people to venture from their homes. “We really want to make the theater a destination for all types of performances,” Hashemi said.
Wine Bar winds along
The iPic Theater already is drawing new businesses to downtown Delray Beach. One of them is a food hall, coming to a site formerly slated for condos.
Another is The Wine Room, a popular wine bar and retail shop from Winter Park.
The Wine Room is under construction in the former Caffe Martier restaurant space at 411 E. Atlantic Ave. A November opening is planned, about two months later than expected.
The Wine Room managing owner Bruce Simberg said he decided to make Delray Beach the second location of The Wine Room due to the activity taking place in the city. In addition to iPic, new condominiums and apartments are planned or under construction downtown.
Dennis Max, the restaurateur behind the Delray City Market, also cited iPic as a reason why he and developer Craig Menin decided to build a 30,000-square foot food hall at 33 SE Third Ave., half a block south of Atlantic Avenue.
Simberg said Atlantic Avenue is a walking street, very similar to Winter Park, where he has had The Wine Room on Park Avenue for 12 years. Sampling wine before or after a movie is something he expects Delray Beach patrons will enjoy, just as they do in Winter Park.
Hamid Hashemi, the iPic chief executive, said his movie theaters are a good compliment to nearby businesses, bringing new foot traffic. “People always want new, they always want different,” he said.
Construction on The Wine Room has been a labor of love, and money.
Original construction estimates of $2 million now have ballooned to $3 million after Simberg discovered that the space’s electrical, floor, roof and air conditioning all had to be replaced.
“I was a little more optimistic than I should have been,” Simberg said. “The space was built in the 1920s, and it was in terrible shape.”
Simberg, a Boca Raton resident and managing partner of the Simberg Conroy law firm based in Hollywood, joked about how he’ll pay for the added costs: “I’ll have to raise my rates,” the lawyer said.
Even The Arcade Room, the Prohibition speakeasy accessible only by walking through the historic space, was in serious need of care, Simberg said.
Water, alcohol and syrup had seeped down the sides of the bar and settled to the bottom, which sat on bricks. The bar’s front, made of pecky cypress wood, was renovated and preserved, and other parts of the bar that had been fixed with varying types of materials through the decades were also preserved, using cypress wood from the walls, he said.
The entire space was akin to an archaeological dig, with varying construction materials in evidence. Some fixes made through the decades were done poorly; Simberg said he estimates the speakeasy bar was probably renovated four or five times.
With the bar in better shape, a dining room next to it will be designed in a similar, speakeasy style, Simberg said.
Extra touches are being added all the time, too.
For instance, Simberg said he learned that cartoon artists used to live upstairs, so he’s planning to have cartoon artists decorate the dining room, which he’s dubbed The Moonshine Room.
Another feature planned is a rare-wine room featuring about 2,000 wines. Some of the wines are from Simberg’s collection and others will be from other sources, including other collectors.
There also will be a retail component where customers can purchase artisans’ cheese, meats and, of course, wine. Some 600 t0 700 bottles will be available for sale.
The entire space will eschew the cold, industrial look so in vogue right now and instead serve as a cozy retreat, filled with barstools and banquettes and warm finishes. “This will be be different than anything on the avenue,” Simberg said.