Plans for a luxury movie theater at the site of Frederick Towne Mall received a jolt of momentum Monday as developers announced the signing of a new lease agreement. While terms of the deal weren’t released, representatives of Warehouse Cinemas, a locally owned premium movie theater company, said they hope to have the theater up and running by summer.
Rich Daughtridge, president and CEO of HighRock Group, the company backing Warehouse Cinemas, said that while the project has faced adversity over the last year, he’s excited to have a lease in place and a plan to move forward.
“The biggest challenge we faced was the costs on the cinema side,” Daughtridge said. “They came in higher than expected, so we had to figure out a way to fund it and move some things around. One was the concept of the LED screen — as a result of the financial challenges, we’re going to go back to a regular screen, which will still be great. It just isn’t the cutting-edge technology that we were hoping to get.”
Despite the setbacks, Daughtridge also explained that the lease itself is “very much long-term,” and that he’s committed to ensuring that the movie theater will be an anchor for businesses to grow in the western part of the city. While the project will cost more than $5 million, the CEO maintained that Frederick is the perfect place for his group to set up shop.
As of Monday, the plan is for the theater space to include 10 screens with a total footprint of about 32,000 square feet. The team of leasing agents for the mall, along with Daughtridge, also noted that the property owner plans to work with other tenants that have an entertainment business model to transform the space into an entertainment destination.
Also on tap is a plan to update the facade facing U.S. 40, as well as “significant interior renovations” for the structure.
Warehouse Cinemas describes its business model as “affordable luxury,” meaning it will aim to offer first-run movies, modern-industrial decor, leather recliner seats, premium food and drink, state-of-the-art digital projection, and other amenities. The company also hopes to obtain a liquor license to provide drink options for its patrons as well.
Richard Griffin, the city’s director of economic development, said Friday in a press release that he’s as excited as anyone to see the project move forward.
“Entertainment uses like Warehouse Cinemas are a critical component of a healthy retail mix and we are delighted to see it move forward,” Griffin said. “The Golden Mile is a top retail destination corridor with over 50,000 vehicle trips daily and 117,000 people living within five miles of the corridor with average household incomes of $103,000 annually. The city has prioritized efforts to promote the Golden Mile as a state and locally designated Enterprise Zone and we are thrilled to see this type of investment occurring. With business investment like Warehouse Cinema and continued public support, the City remains confident that the Golden Mile will continue to thrive in the future.”
As for potential competition — most notably in the form of Netflix and video-on-demand services that have led to a decrease in movie theater attendance in recent years — Daughtridge said Monday that he’s not worried about the future of cinema and its place in popular culture.
“Long-form content like movies, we believe that there’s an innate desire for people to get out of the house and see a larger-than-life screen,” he said. “It’s about how people want to spend their leisure time. I think if a movie theater is built right, it’s an easy out to get out of the house. We’ll remain one of most affordable entertainment options.
“It was proven with ‘The Irishman’ that there’s still a pretty strong pull in the industry,” he added, referring to the success that the Netflix film recently had in a limited run in theaters. “You’re going to want to see ‘Star Wars’ in the movie theater as opposed to waiting two months to see it on a smaller screen. As a result, I think movie theaters will be around for a long time.”