Commissioners approve loan for new theater
CHESTERTOWN — The Kent County Commissioners agreed Tuesday to provide revolving loan funds to a group that wants to bring a movie theater back to Chestertown. Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino and Bryan Matthews, vice president for KRM Development, spoke to the commissioners about bringing a movie theater back to town. Cerino said that Washington Square plaza owner Silicato Development had been working with members of the Chestertown Economic Vitality Committee and the potential owners Chesapeake Movies Inc. to open a new theater. Chestertown’s previous movie house, Chester 5 Theatres, closed last year. Cerino said renovations began last fall on the theater. He said Chesapeake Movies Inc. told members of the committee they would be short about $75,000 to complete renovations. Chesapeake Movies Inc. had approached the town about a loan, however, Cerino said $75,000 is a lot of money for Chestertown’s budget. Cerino said because of the revolving loan fund the county already has in place, the commissioners could front the money to complete renovations on the theater. Then, with money generated by the theater to Chestertown through an amusement tax, the town would pay back the county. “The size of the loan is a little bit unique. The amusement tax makes it really, really unique, in a good way though. That’s what makes it attractive to us,” Cerino said. Matthews said that the addition of 10 to 15 new jobs for the county if the theater opens shouldn’t be overlooked. He said the economic impact would be an additional $300,000 with the new positions.
William Pickrum, president of the commissioners, sought a guarantee from the town that the loan would be repaid. Cerino said he couldn’t entirely guarantee it. “I think that’s something that we’d have to discuss when this deal gets consummated. I think that we could guarantee that we could forward the amusement tax to you guys,” Cerino said. Michael Klein, president of Chesapeake Movies Inc., said the theater would add enrichment to the community. He said he talked with high school and college students about free showings at the theater, so they could write their own movie reviews. Klein also said that if the loan from the county was not repaid by the amusement tax within three years, Chesapeake Movies Inc. would pay back the loan in total. Commissioner Ron Fithi- an said that in the past, the commissioners have loaned money without seeing a positive result in the community. He said that in this instance, he thought the deal was good. “I’m personally willing to take a chance on this business,” Fithian said. “I see it as a business that’s not going to help just a few people, but has the ability to maybe help everybody in Kent County that likes going to the movies.” The commissioners unanimously approved the loan.
At Tuesday’s Kent County Commissioners meeting, Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino offers his support for a county loan to a group working to bring a movie theater back to town.