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Construction continues on the movie theater located on 40th and Walnut streets, which is predicted to open in November - two years after Sundance Cinemas withdrew from the project. [Angie Louie/The Daily Pennsylvanian]

While the credits aren't rolling yet, the once-uncertain fate of the cinema located at 40th and Walnut streets is shaping into a happy ending.

In spite of the series of delays that have plagued the construction of the theater, the complex's doors are finally scheduled to open this November -- two years after the date that was originally promised.

"We are tracking really well on schedule for a November opening," Vice President for Facilities and Real Estate Services Omar Blaik said. "We actually made progress to the point that we are projecting very well on schedule now."

The second of National Amusements' "Bridge" line of cinemas, the theater will feature a mix of major box office and independent films when finished. Complete with six auditoriums, a "media immersion room" and valet parking, the complex will be a step up from the standard movie-going venue, according to National Amusements officials.

"The theater has a very unique look to it -- it's definitely not your average movie theater," National Amusements spokeswoman Jennifer Hanson said.

Over the past few months, the theater's site has been transformed from the vacant framework of a building to a structure that vaguely resembles a cinema. A lot of the progress has been made in the interior, according to Blaik, although those changes won't be evident to returning students.

"Five of the screens have been completed and delivered to National Amusements -- they are done, and now National Amusements is installing the seating and projection equipment," Blaik said.

Blaik added that within the next two months, the University will deliver the completed construction project to National Amusements, which can then put furnishings, equipment, concession stands and other amenities in place.

While construction has been moving along smoothly in recent months, the complex has been a work in progress for much longer than anyone originally forecast.

Originally proposed as a joint venture between the University and Sundance owner Robert Redford, workers broke ground on the theater in the summer of 1999 with the intention of it being completed a little more than a year.

In November 2000, however, Sundance pulled out of its deal to operate the theater due to the financial downfall of its partner General Cinemas.

After construction was halted, the half-completed building was an eyesore on the 40th Street corridor for over a year as administrators scrambled to find a new partner to run the cinema.

In April, Penn announced that it had struck a deal with National Amusements to occupy the theater, and since the remaining funding was secured by the University Board of Trustees, building construction has begun to pick up again.

Looking ahead to the fall, Blaik said that passersby can expect to see even more signs of the theater's progress as construction workers patch up the building's exterior and surroundings.

"The public side of it -- in terms of the sidewalks and the alleyway between the Rotunda and the cinema -- should be completed in the next couple of weeks," Blaik said. "We'll be able to move the fences and really get the sidewalk back into operation."

Still, theatergoers will have to wait an extra few months for the final product, as the additional real estate spaces within the complex have yet to be signed over to outside vendors. In the past, administrators have proposed retail operations ranging from a tapas bar to a record store, although Blaik was unable to comment on the specifics of any of these arrangements.

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