Have we seen the last picture show at Chester 5 Theatres?
CHESTERTOWN — Moving past the hand-wringing that defined the days immediately after the Chester 5 Theatres abruptly closed at the end of business June 4, a conversation has started between the owner of the shopping center where the now-shuttered multiplex is located and folks who want to bring the movies back to Chestertown.
About 15 people attended a June 28 interest meeting in town hall that was organized by Kay MacIntosh, economic development and marketing coordinator for Chestertown.
Other attendees included Jamie Williams, economic development coordinator for Kent County; John Schratwieser, co-director of the Kent County Arts League; Loretta Lodge, executive director of the Kent County Chamber of Commerce; and Realtor Matt Hogans, representing Silicato Development, owner of Washington Square.
MacIntosh said she had talked with Silicato officials about the planned growth next to the shopping cen- ter, including a Dixon Valve & Coupling Co. warehouse and 175-unit apartment complex, and the economic incentives available to property owners in the newly designated Enterprise Zone.
MacIntosh said she, and others, appreciate that developer Dennis Silicato is willing to wait at least six months before filling the space.
“We’re a town that needs a movie theater, a quality theater experience,” MacIntosh said in a telephone interview July 3.
The June 28 meeting was mostly an exchange of ideas for the Washington Square location, 14,400 square feet of space that once was an Ames department store. Suggestions ran the gamut of selling beer and wine onsite at the theater as is done in nearby Middletown, Del., to being a venue for children’s birthday parties. Other thoughts included a cinema-bistro or a non-profit film society that would devote at least one screen to “less mainstream” features.
“It’s about finding the right mix,” MacIntosh said.
Washington College could be a key stakeholder in the process, she said.
“We feel like it’s in the hands of the market to see if someone wants to take over what’s there,” MacIntosh said.
Paul Sanchez of P&G Theatres, owner of the Chester 5, removed the projectors and other equipment, MacIntosh and Silicato said.
Sanchez has said the cost of running a movie theater in a small market and competition from nearby venues weighed heavily in his decision to close the five-screen complex he opened in December 1996. He said expenses outpaced revenues for about the past three and a half years.
Other than a general statement that a movie theater “would be very expensive to start from scratch,” MacIntosh was unable to provide hard figures in the July 3 interview.
She said it “would have been advantageous (at the June 28 meeting) to have had a movie theater operator, someone who knows the business, to tell us how much it cost.”
MacIntosh said suggested uses of the Washington Square property as a movie house can be directed to Hogans, who will pass on the information to Silicato.
Chester 5 Theatres, anchoring the Washington Square shopping center in Chestertown, has been shuttered since June 4.