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Rosemont in bloom

Rosemont, that steadfast northwest 'burb with little draw other than conventions and concerts, is scoring some major interest with The Rosemont Walk, a $500 million development of shopping and dining, anchored by (yes, more) hotels and Illinois first Muvico, which bills itself as a premiere movie theater and entertainment complex.

Looks to us like conventioneers stuck near the airport won't have to bother making the trip into the city with a mini-Chicago right in town. The dining options slated here, aiming for late 2007/early 2008 openings, read like a greatest hits of Chicago big names: Osteria di Tramanto (from the folks behind Tru), McCormick & Schmick's, John Barleycorn, and a yet-to-be-named venture from Phil Stefani (Riva, Tuscany, Tavern on Rush). Construction crews are already at work on an Intercontinental and Aloft, an urban-inspired concept by W Hotels.

Muvico, opening on September 14, is the aims to set itself apart from local names like AMC and Loews with upgraded features that are no-brainers as far as audience appeal: Bigger seats, better food and entertainment that moves beyond movies. The theaters themselves take a cue from notions of first class and coach, with general seating on the main floor and an elevated VIP area, where you can lounge in a 36-inch wide seat or a 74-inch wide loveseat for two.

So, you can stash the kids in on-site childcare for $9 a head, upgrade your $9.50 general admission ticket to a $15 one ($12.50 on weekdays) and score free valet, free popcorn, reserved VIP seating and access to the 21-and-over bar and grill, Bogart's, ran by Levy Restaurants.

Most Muvico theaters are named for their themes and number of screens, such as Egyptian 24 and Parisian 20; The Rosemont one has 18 theaters with high-def Sony digital sound and picture (six have the VIP seating) a grandiose palace theme, jiving with the intricately adorned Rosemont Theatre nearby. The wall-to-wall screens will not only screen movies, but also Nascar tourneys, sporting events and even live broadcasts of Broadway shows.

You can still get your Whoppers or Twizzlers, says Amanda Wurzback, director of marketing for Levy Restaurants, but the eating options offered leave nachos and hot dogs in the dust. "There are a number of items that we specifically created with the idea of, how can you eat this while watching the movie, and not ever take your eyes off the movie?" The result: Truffle-grilled flatbread sandwiches stuffed with skirt steak, Dungeness crab quesadillas, cheesecake milkshakes and even a tree of mini gelato-filled, chocolate-lined ice cream cones. Health nuts fearing butter-drenched popcorn (a TV expose on the calorie content years ago has left us scarred for life) can opt for house-made hummus with veggies and a whole-wheat pita. For VIPs, there's also a full bar, an in-the-works specialty cocktail list and an upgraded cup holder arm rest that safely hugs a bottle of wine.

Muvico, which has the majority of its theaters in Florida, is also expanding to other major metro markets including New York, L.A., Philadelphia and Charlotte within the next two years; Rosemont is the first Chicagoland location, picked for its accessibility and visibility via major highways, says Muvico President Michael Whalen.

To complement the 21-and-over restaurant and seating, another genius move is a no-adults-allowed teen cafe, complete with an energy drink and smoothie bar and gaming from Sony PlayStation. "Teens are a big audience with movie-going," says Whalen. "[But] how many times do you see teens come into the theater, and thenÂ… hang out in the parking lot because there's no place to go?" It's too tough to decide what we're anticipating more: a teenybopper-free movie experience, or those cheesecake milkshakes.

Lisa Arnett is a metromix special contributor.

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