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Tilt-Up Provides Real Solutions to Cinema Construction

By: Kimberly Kayler, Constructive Communication, Inc.

With its sound-insulating properties, speed of construction and economic value, the Tilt-Up method is a natural choice for movie theater construction. But until recently, the Tilt-Up method, which is a longtime favorite for warehouse construction, has been a tougher sell for glamorous, glitzy movie theaters. However, as Tilt-Up has gained acceptance for its ability to offer architectural detail and interest, more and more movie theaters are choosing this method of construction and are reaping the benefits of the efficient, cost-effective method of Tilt-Up construction. The combination of enhanced architectural variety with the structural efficiency of a single-wythe demising wall offers a total theater package concept that is virtually replacing all other wall systems on these projects.


The Mansfield Cinemark 12 Theater located in Mansfield, Texas, serves as one example of a movie theater benefiting from the Tilt-Up construction system. Overall, Tilt-Up was chosen for its speed of construction versus masonry or even conventional construction consisting of studs and sheathing. Further, the auditorium demising walls needed to be sound attenuating as well as structural. As opposed to typical box Tilt-Up structures, all interior demising walls on this particular project were tilt wall panels as well. Panels had insulation adhered to both sides to further impede sound from traveling out of the individual auditoriums. Tilt-Up demising walls served another purpose: The interior panels also were required to carry the load of the mezzanine, which is a room 309 feet long by almost 11 feet wide spanning the entire length of the project. This mezzanine houses all of the projectors and other movie- related electronics.

Although the theater’s total floor area is 38,888 square feet, a total of 81 Tilt-Up panels were cast with an average area of 841 square feet. The complete Tilt-Up panel area cast was about 68,100 square feet, or twice the slab’s area. The specification of stadium seating also meant that due to the slab’s numerous elevation changes, most of the panels were cast outside of the building on casting beds and stacked as many as three panels tall.

This project was the first Cinemark Theater to feature full-height stone veneer. Coronado stone was the main exterior feature and required close coordination among the concrete, sandblasting and masonry subcontractors to achieve a final, safe product. The stone veneer took more than two months to complete and features numerous accent bands and color combinations, combining to create a very distinctive product.

The architectural trellis at the exterior of the building was incorporated into the design to create a more pedestrian-welcome environment. Bringing in an additional design element at an elevation lower to the ground broke up the great expanse of wall and added a sense of depth and dimension otherwise potentially lost against a towering, flat-walled exterior. The tower entry façade used especially tall panels and a large amount of rustication strips and form liner.

The architectural styling of the theater lends itself to the age of The Silver Screen, with art deco reliefs displayed prominently at the exterior grand façade. Dark red colors on the theater’s interior at the draperies and wall coverings, along with the art deco-inspired wall sconces, round out the overall feel of a theater from years past, with a twist of modern day convenience and technology.

Because theaters must house vast amounts of highly sensitive equipment, including projectors, sound equipment and controls, a dust-free environment had to be maintained to prevent damage to this equipment during interior construction of the auditoriums. Large amounts of manpower were utilized during this phase of the project to ensure no equipment was damaged. Twice daily, personnel from Bob Moore Construction, the general contractor from Arlington, Texas, cleaned and swept the building, removed debris, and staged material to prevent build-up, allowing contractor access and to maintain a safe jobsite.

Further complicating the construction, a residential area was only about 60 feet west of the building, limiting access during panel erection. To overcome this challenge, the construction team created two “picking areas” located inside of an exit area and trash compactor location. The close proximity to the residential area also limited work hours to 7 a.m. through 7 p.m., Monday through Friday to reduce sound disruption.

The entire project duration was scheduled as 210 days. The project began on December 13, 2004 and was scheduled for completion on July 11, 2005. During the winter months, more than 25 days were lost due to inclement weather. In mid-May 2005, Cinemark approached Bob Moore Construction about the possibility of completing the project by June 26 to allow for projector start-up and building make-ready for the release of “War of the Worlds” on June 29.

The contractor tightened the schedule by 13 days without additional cost to the owner through close subcontractor coordination and cooperation and project management. In the end, the project was completed in 172 days without acceleration costs, despite the imposed work hours.

The Mansfield Cinemark 12 has had an impact on the community by being the first theater for this 50,000- person suburb of Fort Worth, Texas. Numerous accolades have followed the cinema’s opening, including recognition as winner in the “Sports and Entertainment” category for Texas Construction magazine’s “Best of ’05.”


The owner of the Greendale Cinemas in Greendale, Ind., selected Tilt-Up in part because the method would be cost-effective compared to other building systems, including masonry and precast construction. However, Tilt-Up would also allow for the use of intricate architectural features, including unique shaped openings, recessed sections of panels and rustication options. The Tilt-Up panels could be erected quickly and efficiently, and the life-cycle costs were low. In addition, minimal layout area was required since the Tilt-Up panels could be stacked on site.

A winner of a 2006 Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA) Tilt-Up Achievement Award, the 33,500- square-foot theater included detailed architectural elements and massive panel sizes and therefore required close coordination between architect and the panel erector, Maxwell Construction of Greendale. Panel details include horizontal-spanning, movie-reel themed main entry panels with an intricate layout. A vertical strong back column was integrated with the interior design because of large lateral loads. The theater’s intricate panel layout also included recessed filmstrip panels along the front elevation of the building in addition to the complicated rustication pattern on all elevations. At visible corners along the front façade, mitered panel joints were incorporated to minimize the number of visible joints. Large door openings in each of the three skewed main entry Tilt-Up panels required heavily- reinforced narrow columns on both sides of each door and the tops of these panels were braced by the low roof framing that continued beyond the envelope of the building out to a large semicircular canopy. The sound transmission between cinemas was minimized by using 30- foot tall double stud walls with sound absorbing material on the inside face of each wall.

Architectural treatments included a 35-foot-tall movie reel around the main entry that is visible from the nearby highway and horizontal ribbons depicting an actual movie film spanning across the front of the building. The bright and distinctive gold and maroon with gray accents color scheme attracts attention. The front elevation of the movie theater includes the top half of the 70-foot diameter movie reel, including four windows in the movie reel. The panel spans 48 feet horizontally. The front entry doors are recessed within the envelope of the building using diagonal offset panels. Each side of the main entry is flanked by two four-foot-wide by two-foot-deep faux columns that extend above the main entry. These columns are three-sided Tilt-Up columns that are laterally braced to the adjacent Tilt-Up panels. The radiused front canopy includes an architectural metal panel façade.

Upon opening, the cinema’s revenue exceeded budget projections, and the facility has garnered tremendous praise from the local community.


Sometimes Tilt-Up may be the obvious, but not the initial choice. Case in point is the Mount Pleasant Towne Centre, located in Mount Pleasant, S.C. With 60 storefronts totaling 425,000 square feet, the center is designed to replicate the look of an established, traditional town center where a variety of storefronts were individually developed over time. Citadel Contractors of Apex, N.C. was hired as the Tilt-Up design builder by developer Konover Property Trust of Cary, N.C. Glenn Doncaster, President of Citadel Contractors, noted that the original design for some of the 17 varied structures was not Tilt-Up. However, as the project developed, the owner quickly recognized the advantages of Tilt-Up and other methods of construction dwindled in comparison. An example of this was the conversion of the 16- screen movie theater to the Tilt-Up method, resulting in a cost savings of $250,000 and two months’ time on the theater alone. Four other 5,000-square-foot buildings were redesigned to Tilt-Up, and another $200,000 was saved on the entire project.


Construction has now completed more than a dozen movie theaters for this owner, the most recent of which – Palladium Theater in High Point, N.C. – won a 2006 TCA Tilt-Up Achievement Award. The 49,540- square-foot Palladium Theater utilizes Tilt-Up for the entire facility, resulting in reduced costs, shorter schedule, increased durability and better sound control. The exterior architecture features a mix of fine coatings, trimmed box offices, a curved canopy, arched inlaid brick and glass. The front entrance features thin brick set into a series of Tilt-Up arches, which required four arched panels set front-to-back with a half-inch joint. The largest curved panel weighed 131,670 pounds. With a 45,000-square-foot footprint, the theater required multiple stack- casting in an unusual environment where all the demising walls are Tilt-Up. Some panels were stack-cast because of the limited size of the building’s footprint.

Not only did Tilt-Up deliver on the promise of aesthetic appeal, but the method provided other significant benefits to the owner as well. The Palladium Theater was completed within the owner’s schedule requirements; the project was under roof in 10 weeks. Quality was enhanced through superior sound transmission ratings achieved with the Tilt-Up method and Palladium Theater has become a popular destination in the area.


As Tilt-Up has become more widely accepted for its ability to offer fine architectural elements as well as time- and money-saving benefits, it has become an optimum choice for movie theater construction across the United States. The method’s natural sound-dampening properties and ability to structurally support independent roof systems offer added advantages for building movie theaters. As Americans continue to increase demand for movie theater seats, Tilt-Up will become more prevalent as the construction method of choice for these entertainment venues.

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TILT-UP TODAY, a publication of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association, is THE source for Tilt-Up industry news, market intelligence, business strategies, technical solutions, product information, and other resources for professionals in the Tilt-Up industry. A subscription to TILT-UP TODAY is included in a TCA membership. Subscriptions for potential TCA members are also available. If you would like to receive a complimentary subscription to the publication, please contact the TCA.