For example, locally-based Consolidated Theaters is openingManchester Cinema, a 12-screen megaplex in Rock Hill, SC justacross the state line about 30 miles south of the Queen City. Thenewly-opened Manchester Cinema in Rock Hill is just a screen shoutaway from an older eight-screen cinema, and across town from athird seven-screen cinema. The managers of the older theaters hopeto compete with Manchester Cinema but already are consideringchanging their format by showing older movies at discountprices.

Although analysts say too many theaters spread the audience toothin, advantages of the new theaters include stadium seating thatoffers comfort and unobstructed viewing, surround-sound andconcession stands offering everything from soup to cider. The newstate-of-the-art houses are forcing other theaters to renovate orgo out of business. Half of the country's largest theater operatorshave filed for bankruptcy protection since August.

Yet according to the Motion Picture Association of America, thenumber of movie screens has jumped to almost 38,000 from 28,000since 1995. In Huntersville, for example, just 20 miles north ofCharlotte, a chain is planning to open 16 screens next spring offInterstate 77 near the Palace Stadium 12, and just one exit from adozen screens in nearby Cornelius, NC.

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