The installation of the IMAX screen at the Warren Theatre at 21st and Tyler Road has begun, with the $7.2 million project on schedule for a Dec. 17 opening.
The IMAX screen is the centerpiece of Bill Warren's $9 million renovation at the complex.
Meanwhile, builders are down to three auditoriums to renovate in the 14-year-old theater. The existing theaters got new carpet, seats, screens and digital projection equipment.
"I am excited," Warren said Monday as he toured the facility with his general contractor, Key Construction co-founder Dave Wells.
"I'm not just saying this because Dave's here, but only Key could have built this in six months. Not only building this huge world-class IMAX, but we're remodeling this whole theater in six months. You're talking something that would normally take eight months to a year."
The IMAX screen frame is being constructed this week, with the screen — six stories of delicate silver composite — set to go up in late November. IMAX officials will be in Wichita to install the dual-projection system required to deliver the films.
The 601-seat IMAX is scheduled to open with "Tron: Legacy," the high-tech 3D adventure starring Jeff Bridges, Garrett Hedlund and Olivia Wilde.
About 30 days later, "The Green Hornet" will be its second film.
There's still an "internal debate" raging at the Warren corporate office about what to charge for an IMAX ticket. Warren still is shooting for $13.
The new theater will operate separately from the rest of the complex, Warren said, including a new manager and about 50 staff.
He expects 300,000 visitors in the IMAX's first year, and "I absolutely expect it to be profitable."
"If you think about it, this will bring in a lot of tourism to our city, because otherwise, why would I do it?" Warren asked.
"If I'm just going to add to the overhead to switch customers, and not pick up any new ones, I've got a bad business model. This whole deal is predicated on bringing in people from out of county and out of state."
The total project cost is being paid through a $16 million city industrial revenue bond issue, a loan from the investors who buy the bonds.
"I've done a lot of cool things in my business and had a lot of fun, but this, I think, is the ultimate," Warren said. "People are going to talk about this."