Inside Move: The empire strikes back

Gotham plex riding high

New Yorkers talk about chain stores and a crackdown on crime, but the biggest transformation in Times Square may be its movie theaters.

There is no better symbol of the makeover than the AMC Empire 25, the 42nd Street megaplex that has replaced the peepshows of yore with a roster of mainstream fare.

A bit more than a year after entering an historic battle with Loews’ neighboring 13-screen E-Walk, the Empire is one of the most revenue-producing theaters in the world, harvesting more than $500,000 in weekly B.O. It has been the top-grossing weekend site an astounding five times this summer and almost always earns a spot in the top 10.

That’s a big change from last summer, when it failed to secure many top titles and saw puny returns on the likes of “Titan A.E.,” while E-Walk cashed in on “The Perfect Storm” and other hits.

The Empire, a vast, modern megaplex built behind a 1912 theater facade, also may be the most pricey theater ever erected, making it potentially a tough site to turn a profit. AMC won’t discuss the cost, but insiders have pegged it at roughly $70 million.

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