Theater changes name; Rue 21 shop to close

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Exterior signs still carry the Carmike Cinema branding, but customers of Wilson’s 10-screen theater will notice some changes associated with the recent acquisition by AMC.

Among the changes are self-serve Coca-Cola Freestyle machines and new menu items such as pretzel bites and all-beef hot dogs served by employees in AMC-branded uniforms. The theater is no longer accepting Carmike Cinemas Rewards cards, but AMC is letting members transfer their points over to the free AMC Stubs Insider program and be bumped to the next reward for a limited time by signing up using the same email address associated with Carmike rewards. The chain also has a $15 a year reward program called AMC Stubs Premiere that includes free concession upgrades and more.

“This acquisition allows us to bring the AMC experience to more guests nationwide,” said AMC Director of Corporate Communication Ryan Noonan. “We have this proven guest experience enhancement innovation we’ve been doing the last few years that has really helped drive attendance and get guests excited about coming out to the movies.

The company, which is based in Kansas City, often uses my hometown theaters to pilot new ideas, such as a convenience store-style of concession stands with premium offerings like gourmet popcorn and quality food. Noonan said the acquisition of Carmike added 260 new theaters under the AMC brand — 21 in North Carolina — so the specific changes of each cinema is under development.

“It is way too soon to know what changes are coming and what aren’t,” he said. “If a theater was already in the process of a remodel or renovation, that will continue. If it wasn’t, we need some time to go through each and figure out what makes sense.”

Noonan said price changes are not anticipated, but “an elevated customer experience” is guaranteed under the AMC brand. For more information on the transition from Carmike to AMC, visit amctheatres.com/carmike.

Entrepreneurial Environment Shines

Wallethub.com recently announced Wilson’s placement as No. 6 out of 1,261 communities for the best small cities to start a business. The list raised Wilson from No. 12 in 2016.

“This is a flattering and reassuring piece of news,” said Wilson Chamber of Commerce President Ryan Simons. “It shows that despite an extensive number of challenges facing entrepreneurs everywhere, Wilson is in the top 1 percent of its peer communities at building an ecosystem where these small businesses have a better chance at success.”

Wallethub.com ranked the cities based on 16 metrics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Tax Foundation. Wilson was one one-hundredth of a point behind Jefferson City, Missouri, to fall out of the top-five ranking. Simons said the ranking highlights behind-the-scenes work to improve the business environment of Wilson.

“Now is the time to invest in Wilson,” he said. “In five or 10 years, I don’t want entrepreneurs to look back and say they should have done something now — whether it was to relocate to Wilson or expand their footprint in our market.”

Wilson ranked especially well in terms of average revenue per business.

“One thing I will caution readers about is that this news shouldn’t be confused with any type of end-goal,” Simons said. “It is a pleasant recognition, but I can speak not only for the Wilson Chamber of Commerce, but for many other community organizations when I pledge that we will not rest until it is universally accepted that Wilson, North Carolina, is the best place to live, work and do business.”

To view the list, visit tinyurl.com/lk7rbn2.

Extra! Extra!

Large “store closing” signs recently were put up in the windows of the Rue 21 shop at Heritage Crossing.

The national teen clothing retailer announced Saturday that nearly 400 stores would be closed as the company pushes toward online sales, noting it was a “difficult but necessary decision” in a Facebook post.

“As part of our ongoing business transformation into a more cost-efficient operator, we are closing unprofitable stores across our fleet in order to focus on our many hundreds of highly profitable locations,” according to a statement released by company spokesperson Ethan Lyle. “The exact number and timing of these closings will be determined in the coming weeks.”

Got an idea for news to include in next week’s Main Street Minute? Don’t hesitate to reach out to me at 252-265-7821 or bhandgraaf@wilsontimes.com.