Under a colossal name dating to ancient Greek chariot races, the former IMAX theater at Aquarium Wharf lives again.
Instead of educational features such as "Everest" or artsy pictures such as the Cirque du Soleil-based "Journey of Man," Terrace Hippodrome will show blockbusters on what owner Mike Furlinger promises will be "by far the largest screen in Charleston."
Furlinger, who owns the art-house Terrace Theater on James Island, said Hippodrome's single screen will span up to 70 feet in length and reach up to 40 feet high. He plans to reopen the facility between May 1 and May 15 with a showing of either "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" or the newest "Star Trek" release.
"It's kind of amazing that a city this size doesn't have a movie theater," he said, referring to the Charleston peninsula.
Terrace Hippodrome will bring in a fresh first-run blockbuster every month, according to Furlinger. He envisions major action movies such as "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" gracing the screen.
He also plans to extend some of the Terrace's atmosphere to downtown Charleston. The theater will serve beer and wine, with waiters working the lobby.
"We will encourage people to come early and stay late," Furlinger said.
The Concord Street theater will offer second-floor bike racks for locals who pedal over and movie discounts for patrons who paid to park in the nearby garage, according to Furlinger. He hopes to bring in bands, too, with a set-up similar to the Music Farm.
"That theater has some of the best acoustics in the country," Furlinger said. "And where else can you get that view?"
A New York transplant, Furlinger thinks the waterfront Aquarium Wharf needs an injection of local enthusiasm in order to work. The 415-seat IMAX closed in 2007, reporting poor financial results.
"The problem with IMAX, while it's a great place, is they just have too few movies per year," Furlinger said. "For a single screen to be financially viable to keep the interest of a community, you have to change frequently."
Furlinger said the renovations include few cosmetic changes but considerable screen and sound upgrades. He said prices likely will be 25 cents or 50 cents higher than Terrace tickets, which cost $9 for evening shows and $7 for matinees.
Beth Nathan, public relations manager at the S.C. Aquarium, said attraction officials were "thrilled" to learn about their new neighbor.
"We're excited, and we think it's wonderful to increasingly add other venues and opportunities at the Aquarium Wharf," she said.
Meanwhile, IMAX plans to make another run at the Charleston market as part of the 16-screen complex on the site of the former Citadel Mall 6 in West Ashley. The $11 million megaplex set to open this fall includes a panoramic IMAX theater.