VIEWPOINT: Wilmington movie theater – Don't let the grumpy guys drag it down

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Image courtesy of Penn Cinema and JKR partners, architects.


If this website suddenly became  DelawareOnline,  I would not have any trouble imagining the comments that would follow when I offered the opinion that a multiplex movie theater on the Wilmington Riverfront is a great idea. Here’s a story, minus  some of the political intrigue from LancasterOnline. The connection here is that the owner of the proposed theater complex was successful in a project in an area near Lancaster.

Those offering their views typically mention  crime, with vague and not so vague references to race. Wilmington Mayor James Baker would call them idiots. I would simply say they are misinformed.  Had too many  people listened to these naysayers we would have never seen the hundreds of millions of dollars in development in the area. Looking back  at the early days of the Riverfront effort, skeptics simply lacked the “vision thing” that is the key to waterfront development.

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The fact of the matter is that a riverfront movie theater will face a tough test from lenders and in somehow hammering out a deal with the Delaware Department of Transportation, the listed  owner of the parcel. As one can imagine the department is a little gun shy these days after stories of its  sweetheart lease with the beer distributorship in Milford.

Should Penn Cinemas pass those tests, the potential for a successful  multiplex with IMAX  in that area is vast. Due to factors that range from the closing of the small cinema complex at Christiana Mall to the relative lack of theaters within a 10-mile radius and it is no wonder that the Penn Cinemas folks are enthused.

Combine that with dining and entertainment and you have a nice formula. As for the crime, when was the last time you read about anything happening near the Riverfront? Yes, there can be problems around movie theaters, but the same is true with suburban malls and other areas that the public believes to be safer. We also need to understand that many of the grumpy folks who offer their views are older (like me) and would not be making many trips to the multiplex, at least until their friends have a good experience.

With that said, the project faces an uphill battle in a tough economy. But we do know that theaters, restaurants and other types of entertainment have fared well during the downturn and if the numbers and studies look good, the Riverfront could get a major boost. – Doug Rainey

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