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Deland-based movie theater company in expansion mode

Epic Theatres, which has gone where the big chains don't in Florida to build its movie theaters, broke ground Friday on a long-anticipated location in Mount Dora, and plans more expansion locally, the company's president told GrowthSpotter.

"We go where there is a need," said Frank DeMarsh, president of the privately held Deland-based movie theater chain. "We don't compete with AMC."

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DeMarsh was at the groundbreaking Friday for the long and eagerly awaited Epic theater in Mount Dora, which is 10 miles from the nearest major theater at Via Port Mall, and more than 20 from the next closest theaters in Sanford and Lake Mary.

Mount Dora dignitaries ceremonially break ground on Friday on the new Mount Dora movie theater.
Mount Dora dignitaries ceremonially break ground on Friday on the new Mount Dora movie theater. (Teresa Burney)

To be built on 17 acres on the south side of U.S. 441 behind the Mount Dora Target, the theater will include 12 screens. The project has spent several years getting approval for its construction, stalled by controversy about its height, with opponents concerned the structure would open the door to taller buildings in downtown, two miles from the theater site.

Epic has been in expansion mode since 2013 when it announced plans to add 60 more screens. A new location in Titusville will also be under construction this year. The Mount Dora theater is scheduled to open in 2017.

"We build every one from scratch," said DeMarsh. The company handles purchasing land and developing land itself, and paid $1.89 million in January for the 17-acre Mount Dora site.

Epic currently has eight theaters in Florida totaling 100 screens, with locations in Deland, Clermont, Palm Coast, St. Augustine, and West Volusia. The company recently opened new theaters at LeeVista, near the Orlando International Airport, and one called Oakleaf in North Jacksonville.

While Epic Theatres builds in less populated areas, it doesn't scrimp on interior amenities. Seats are leather electric recliners. In some theaters, including the one in Mount Dora, the Epic XL sound system and viewing experience similar to IMAX, is available, while beer and wine are sold from the concession.

There have been four generations of the DeMarsh family in the theater business. DeMarsh's grandfather started the company in 1947. His father continued the tradition and Frank DeMarsh and his brother, Clint, now lead the company along with their children.

Epic started in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, before moving to Florida in 1990, DeMarsh said. He said the theater business is a good one because it seems to do well in all kinds of economies.

"It's recession resistant," he said. "People still have money to escape from reality."

The Mount Dora movie theater will cap a rush of development in that section of U.S. 441.

Across the street from Target, infrastructure work is underway for a new shopping center of 44,200 square feet that will include a Panera, an Aldi grocery and a Tijuana Flats. Mattress Firm, Pacific Dental Services, and Vitamin Shoppe are also signed tenants there.

Teresa Burney can be reached at 352-455-1955 or at Teresaburney4@gmail.com. Follow GrowthSpotter on FacebookTwitterand LinkedIn.

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