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We Oughta Be in Pictures

Cima Network helps deliver the Regal Premium Experience.



Bill Lockett is president of Cima Network (Philadelphia), a sign-design and project-management firm.

Regal Entertainment Group (REG), operator of Regal Cinemas, envisioned a bold movie experience that would captivate its audience. This motivation birthed the Regal Premium Experience (RPX), which Regal describes as "a custom-built premium environment featuring elegant and luxurious seats with high-back headrests, a giant immersive screen illuminated by high-quality digital projectors and completed with a state-of-the-art sound system.”

RPX theaters seat 420 and feature 60-ft.-wide screens illuminated by dual, 3-D-capable, digital projectors. Their 100,000-watt sound systems produce 9.1 channels of sound complemented by eight, 21-in.-diameter subwoofers, which create plenty of “rumble.” To create allure to capture moviegoer’s imagination, REG sought a bold design and branding concept that would establish a standard for future RPX theatres.

Cima Network VP Keith Denny worked with REG’s Kate Kornhaus, its director of sign services, and the Regal marketing department to create the RPX logo, which would embody the movie experience. We also collaborated on the design with Bob McCall of JKR Partners, a Philadelphia-based leader in movie-theatre architecture. The theatre entrance comprises supersized, 6 ft. 6 in.-tall, RPX channel letters with a color-changing element inside the “X,” and an illuminated, color-changing column with a pill-shaped, pan sign that reads “RPX” with blue, linear LED accent lighting.

A napkin and a brainstorm
JKR Partners devised the RPX theater blueprint and, with REG’s approval, Cima and the fabricator, Custom Finishers (Levittown, PA), pursued the project’s ambitious, four-week turnaround time. RPX’s first installation, at Regal’s E-Walk 13 in NYC, had to be ready for the opening night of Iron Man 2 last May.

This was no ordinary project. First, we had to install 78-in.-tall, reverse-lit channel letters flush to a convex, curved-glass tile wall. Second, we had to sync the color-changing lightsource inside a 7-ft.-tall, acrylic column with the illuminated portion of the “X.” The colors had to fade from green to blue, two of the most challenging colors to illuminate effectively. Finally, to comply with ADA requirements, the letter “X” and its push-through acrylic face could protrude no more than 4 in. off the wall. This allowed only 3 in. depth for installing the lightsource.


Ironically, the final design specs arrived while I was in Orlando for the 2010 ISA show. I promptly contacted Custom Finishers to begin brainstorming a fabrication strategy to meet these challenging requirements.
Coincidentally, ST Senior Associate Editor Steve Aust witnessed the process while we discussed another project over lunch in Orlando. I sketched out our concept on a napkin to address our solutions for the challenges we faced. The napkin sketch, minus a few changes, worked as planned.

The master plan
A successful project requires the right plan and resources, and uncompromising attention to detail. When you’re working with a tight timeframe, bring all parties together to discuss the design intent, material selection, fabrication details and a production and installation schedule.

We had to be proactive wherever possible, yet still wait for other construction processes to be complete prior to releasing product to the shop floor. We stayed in close contact with Regal’s VP, Sam Malek, Kornhaus and the general contractor, LTCI Construction, to coordinate electrical and blocking requirements, as well as construction details.

Simultaneously, we had to quickly choose suitable lighting fixtures. Accounting for sometimes lengthy delivery lead times, we had to secure the lighting promptly. We decided on Philips/Color Kinetics iColor Flex LMX, which provided the versatility to use in both the illuminated column and “X”.

The large channel letters required the longest lead time. Prior to production, we had to ensure the letters were flush to the curved wall with even return depths. We had to plan for this on a wall, which was not yet tiled, with curved letters. We surveyed the existing convex curved wall, modeled the curve and letters in AutoCAD 14 software, and cut out a 40-in.-long, ½-in.-thick Sintra® PVC template that modeled the sign’s faces and returns. The template was ready to go when the tile wall was complete. A test proved it was dead on. With two weeks left to the RPX grand opening, fabrication began.

Letter perfect
Custom Finishers routed the faces from 0.090-in.-thick aluminum using CAD/CAM software and its 8 x 12-ft., CNC router table. Fabricators cut 3-in.-wide strips in both straight and curved sections to conform to the wall’s radius. Using these two return types, fabricators cut individual pieces and fit them to match the faces’ necessary curves.


We installed the straight lengths in the vertical letter sections, and the curved sections in the horizontal areas. Welding these strips into place provided most of the return needed to produce the curved, reverse-lit letters. The project team spent considerable time filling in the transition areas between the horizontal to vertical areas so that the return of the letter would appear seamless once painted. To fill in these areas, the fabricators attached aluminum filler pieces with Bondo® body-filler putty and metal glaze.

The inner portion of the “X” entails ¾-in.-thick Acrylite SG acrylic, which was routed and pushed through to provide a second surface ½ in. above the first face. To evenly diffuse the light, we applied Drytac’s Protac Emerytex nonglare, scuff-resistant, textured-finish PVC topcoat on the first surface. For the second surface, we applied 3M’s 40%-light-transmission diffuser film.

To light the “X” evenly, we built a custom aluminum pan out of 0.063 pre-finished, white aluminum with routed holes along the perimeter. Behind the holes, installers inserted 100, 1¼-in.-diameter Phillips Color Kinetics iColor Flex LMX fixtures with clear lenses, and spaced them approximately 2 in. apart.

Making the pan and pushing the bulbs through allowed us to hide all the wires, which enabled even illumination and eliminated shadows. We painted the letters with Matthews Sparkle Silver acrylic-polyurethane paint and a clearcoat finish. The letters were installed using 2 x 2 x ¼-in.-thick aluminum angle that’s through-bolted in the wall. We installed the letters over the clips with countersunk screws.

Custom Finishers constructed the 7-ft.-tall column frame using 0.125-in.-thick aluminum that’s welded together to form a pan with top and bottom sections. Inside the frame, we welded ½ x ½ x 1/8-in.-thick retainer on the top, bottom and inside to hold the column. We constructed the column using 1/8-in.-thick, clear Sabic Lexan® polycarbonate, which was cold-formed to create clean, crisp corners.

To match the “X,” we applied Drytac’s Protac Emerytex floor laminate on the first surface and 3M diffuser film on the second. To amplify illumination, we built a routed, white-metal pan similar to the one used for the X. It’s angled with four sides for even illumination on the column’s side and front. We populated this pan with 100, clear-lens iColor Flex LMX strands as well – for the column, we spaced them 2 ¾ in. apart. Installers mounted a pill-shaped, pan sign (constructed from 0.080 metal) vertically on the outside of the Lexan with routed and push-through ½-in.-thick acrylic copy that reads “RPX.” The RPX letters were decorated using Arlon teal and blue cast vinyl. We illuminated the copy with white Sloan LEDs.


To operate the lighting system, we used the Philips/Color Kinetics iPlayer 3 controller. Four remotely mounted, pre-programmed power supplies, which the iPlayer 3 coordinates, control the subtle, blue-to-teal color change. We supplemented the letter and column’s illumination with nine rows of Blue Tivoflex LED border tubing, which installers secured to the face of the radius drywall soffit, and returned underneath along the ceiling.

A beautiful friendship
In addition to the auditorium entrance, we fabricated and installed exterior, box-office and wayfinding signs throughout the theatre to help patrons navigate the RPX auditorium. To complement the entry signage, Custom Finishers built additional routed, push-through and face-lit channel letters, and custom badge signs with multiple, aluminum layers.

The project, completed on time, matched the bold design intent perfectly. Ed Sangmeister, Cima’s senior project manager for the Regal Cinemas account, has supervised the development of five other RPX theatres, with K & S Concepts Group LLC (Colmar, PA) serving as fabricator for subsequent installation.
Considering the RPX experience (and our contribution of signage and wayfinding), I think it’s appropriate to quote the parting line spoken by Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick Blaine, in the classic film Casablanca: “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Equipment and Materials
Sparkle-silver, acrylic-polyurethane paint, from Matthews Paint (Pleasant Prairie, WI), (800) 323-6593 or; Bondo® body filler, from 3M Automotive (St. Paul, MN), (888) 364-3577 or

Lighting: iColor® Flex LMX LED strands, from Philips Color Kinetics (Burlington, MA), (888) 385-5742 or; Tivoflex LED border tubing, from Tivoli Lighting (Tustin, CA), (714) 957-6101 or; white LEDs, from SloanLED (Ventura, CA), (888) 747-4533 or; iPlayer 3 controller, from Philips Color Kinetics; neon tubing, from EGL (Berkeley Heights, NJ), (908) 508-1111 or; Evertron high-voltage electronic transformers, from Everbrite (Greenfield, WI), (800) 558-3888 or

Plastics: Acrylite® SG acrylic, from Evonik Industries (Parsippany, NJ), (800) 631-5384 or; Lexan® polycarbonate, from Sabic Innovative Plastics (Pittsfield, MA), (413) 448-7110 or
Metal: Aluminum (0.090 and 0.125 in. thick.), available from sheetmetal distributors and building-supply houses

Router: Eight x 12-ft. CNC router, from MultiCam (Dallas), (972) 929-4070 or
Software: AutoCAD 14 CAD-design software, from Autodesk (San Rafael, CA), (415) 507-5000 or

Template: Fabrication template, built with Sintra® foamboard, from 3A Composites (Mooresville, NC), (800) 626-3365 or

Vinyl: Cast vinyl, from Arlon Graphics (Santa Ana, CA), (800) 854-0361 or; Protac Emerytex scuff-resistant, pebble-finish overlaminate, from Drytac (Richmond, VA), (800) 280-6013 or

More About Bill
Bill Lockett serves as president of Philadelphia-based Cima Network, a sign-design and project-management firm. Previously, he served as business-development VP for Custom Finishers Inc. for three years. Lockett’s sign-business career has also included serving as a project manager and senior account executive. In addition to Regal Cinemas, Cima clients include Pep Boys, American Girl and Raymour & Flanigan. The company also serves as a representative for Moss retail environments, which include interior signs and environmental-graphic displays.



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