Rockaway Movie Theater Project
Overcomes Early Drama
started in October on the $15 million AMC Rockaway
16 movie theater in Rockaway, N.J., on an aggressive timetable
But then the sky opened up - as it is apt to do in the Northeast
- and brought the wettest month on record for New Jersey dating
back to 1895. After the rain, the fall temperatures dipped
The rain and freezing temperatures thwarted early foundation
work and eventually delayed the start of the "main feature."
The 68,000-sq.-ft. theater will have 16 screens and nearly
3,400 seats when it opens this fall at the Rockaway Townsquare
Mall next to Interstate 80. It was originally scheduled to
open in August.
The wet weather caused major adjustments, starting with the
need for the project team to pump rainwater out of the site.
Then the team realized it would not be able to use the foundation
it had dug prior to the rains, said project manager Stephan
Butler of New York-based Stegla Group, the general contractor.
"We had only been onsite for a few days - the foundation
had been dug - when the rains came," he added. "Our
building pad could not sustain the bearing loads, so we had
to re-excavate. We had to dig deeper and build back up to
what would have been the original foundation level."
The team also had to add imported backfill over a geotechnical
material to provide ground support for the theater, said Melanie
Bell, vice president of corporate communications for AMC Entertainment
of Kansas City.
The team could not make up all of the lost time, but it did
limit the damage, Butler said. He estimated that the new foundation
work could have resulted in nearly a three-month delay, but
by working weekends and overtime the project team was able
to only fall behind by 6.5 weeks.
Still, the delays pushed concrete pouring tasks for the foundation
into the winter months.
"We had to put concrete blankets down in the area where
we did concrete work," Butler said.
The project's aggressive phased schedule called for treating
the two wings of the buildings - each containing eight movie
theaters - almost as separate phases, with the team working
from west to east. As workers were erecting steel on the east
side of the project, others were already building walls in
the west wing.
"It allows you to get in and get work completed more
quickly," Butler said.
Although this type of phasing has been used with other projects,
"you generally don't want to do it in the extreme that
we did it in," Butler added, because of the confusing
The building uses non-load bearing, precast concrete insulated
wall panels that are lighter than composite concrete wall
sections and offer better energy efficiency, Butler said.
Installing the 80,000-sq.-ft. worth of VersaCore panels, manufactured
by Fabcon of Savage, Minn., took 15 days, which Butler said
is faster than the erection pace for traditional panels.
In addition to the rainy conditions, the project team also
faced a corporate >> merger. The theater originally
had been designed and permitted as a Loews Theatre, but early
on during construction, AMC merged with Loews Cineplex Entertainment,
with the combined company taking on the AMC name.
To address the change in ownership, Kevin Istas, AMC's vice
president of construction, attended an owner, architect, and
contractor meeting shortly after the merger was finalized
in January and outlined expected changes to the ongoing project.
The team modified the design in stride to meet AMC specifications,
The changes affected interior and exterior colors, the configuration
of operational and concession spaces, and other features.
The result is a unique design that blends Loews and AMC theater
elements, said Eric Hugger, principal of Fishbeck, Thompson,
Carr and Huber of Grand Rapids, Mich., the architect, which
Loews had originally hired.
The theater will have stadium-style seating, two party rooms,
and a wheelchair-accessible mezzanine level.
Bell said movie theater designs need to account for a high
volume of "people traffic" of up to a few million
customers a year, and the Rockaway facility is no exception.
The volume factor requires strict attention to fire and life
safety codes, acoustic transfer, picture quality, sound quality,
heating and cooling, Americans with Disabilities Act regulations,
vertical transportation, food preparation and handling, and
security and cash management.
The building's design already called for a "larger-than-life"
quality, Hugger said. The design mixes the heights of a 60-ft.-tall
center tower, 44-ft.-tall flanking towers, and 36-ft.-tall
towers on the ends of the building.
"The varying heights help to break up the mass of the
structure," he said.
The entryway also is meant to stand out, Hugger said.
"We're using a metal panel arch system that integrates
hidden cove lighting that gives the entry a dramatic look
at night," he added.
Owner: AMC Entertainment,
Thompson, Carr & Huber, Grand Rapids, Mich.
General Contractor: Stegla
Group, New York
Structural Steel: Lorvin
Steel, Brampton, Canada
Concrete: M&R European,
Excavation: J&B Excavation,
Mechanical, Boonton, N.J.
HVAC: McCloskey, Linewood,
Electric: EJ Stewart
Electric, Parsippany, N.J.
Concrete Panels: Fabcon,
Metal Panels: Bamco,
Carpenter: Avon Contractors,