Showtime for The Edge#039;s Felts

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 14, 2007

A smiling Marty Felts is likely one of the happiest men in town. His $6 million hunch appears to be paying rich dividends already and seems destined for a bright, successful future.

Felts is the man behind The Edge, Naos Entertainment's new eight-screen movie theater on Paul Stabler Drive across Interstate 65 near the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

A strong opening day on July 4 followed by impressive weekend traffic and flattering patron reviews bode well for the complex and on the eve of The Edge's formal, invitation-only grand opening Thursday, it appears all the marketing savvy and hard work has turned a dream into reality.

Felts, a lifelong movie buff and a former Baptist missionary in Rwanda, isn't surprised.

He saw an opportunity, did his homework, lined up his finances, made the appropriate contacts, engineered a deal and set about construction.

That the entire process took only 10 months is remarkable.

A family member in Monroeville sparked the initial interest, sharing the area's need for wholesome family entertainment. He heard Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon was &#8220passionate” about a theater and contacted him. He never looked elsewhere, energetically pushing forward on a complex he hopes will become the hub of a group that includes six to eight other similar ventures, headquartered in the Camellia City.

&#8220We couldn't be happier,” he said from behind a cluttered desk in his Commerce Street office, grinning at comparative sales figures from the first memorable weekend that added confirmation to his original hunch.

He sees nothing but blue skies ahead, noting quickly rumors of the movie theater industry's death are far, far premature.

&#8220We're approaching our first $10 billion year,” Felts said of the national prospective. &#8220Remember, VHS was going to put us out of business. Then HBO. And DVDs. And Pay Per View. And TV movies. And, well, it is always something. But we're on the verge of an all-time record year, so the future is bright and the industry is sound because people still like to go to the movies.”

He says he wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of restaurants built near The Edge &#8220in the next 6-12 months” because restaurants &#8220are drawn to people,” citing a familiar link between Carmike Theaters and eating places like Applebee's.

And &#8220people” to him mean folks from Greenville, Luverne, Evergreen, Monroeville, Camden, Fort Deposit, Andalusia and the surrounding area, not to mention the &#8220300,000 to 400,000” who drive up and down the interstate.

Besides, Felts, who is also remodeling a house at the corner of College and South so he, wife Kimberly, son Gavin and daughter Reagan can soon make their home here, and his partners have &#8220done it right.”

The complex is state-of-the-art, a rival of The Rave theaters that are now the industry benchmark. Overall, the facility has 1,294 seats with a 200-seat auditorium the largest, 114 the smallest and six others equal or in between. All have stadium seating with 18-inch risers that afford unobstructed views for everyone. Screens are wall-to-wall. The sound system is the best available and digital menu boards track the progress of each screen.

Felts, who first &#8220worked concession and tore tickets” in 1989, says The Edge will focus on showing the latest movies because most go stale after two weeks. As an example, he said Oceans Thirteen was a big hit earlier in the year, but played to less than 50 people here over the weekend.

When a routine is established, movies will change on Friday. Matinees will begin daily at noon and late nights will be observed on Tuesday.

No R-rated or horror movies have been included on the opening agenda, but they will be from time to time.

Strict enforcement of the 17-under age rule will be observed, however. The theater won't sell under aged tickets nor will it allow parents to buy and transfer them.

&#8220Parents,” he said, &#8220shouldn't have to worry about what their 14-year-old is seeing and we'll do our part,”

A &#8220competitively priced” concession stand in a central lobby serves all patrons. It also sends a message.

&#8220We could have built a bigger lobby,” he explained, &#8220but who wants to stand in a lobby? Our focus will be on customer service. You won't see 20 people standing in a line. We'll have plenty of people selling tickets and working behind the concession area. We'll clean each theater quickly after each showing and we'll do everything we can to make the experience a good one.”

It's a theme that embraces Felts' outlook on business as well.

&#8220This is a big deal for us,” he said of the opening period. &#8220And it's a big day for Greenville. We can have a positive impact on the community. We want to have a positive impact. We're interested in promoting the community, in getting involved, in creating win-win situations.”

The Edge will employ 40 people of all ages (guys wear black shirts, gals wear purple), he said, creating a family atmosphere and even making available partial college scholarships for qualifying staff members.

&#8220We're excited,” he repeated.

And busy.

Installation of permanent doors, fine-tuning little things, ironing out procedures and gearing up for the official grand opening is keeping the pace hectic.

So is planning for the future. With an ambitious goal, markets in Sylacauga and Thomasville are under study for similar complexes.

When Felts is involved, it's show time.

Ed Darling is president and publisher of Greenville Newspapers LLC. Contact him at 382-3111 or