Have we seen the last pic­ture show at Ch­ester 5 The­atres?

The Star Democrat - - BUSINESS - By TRISH MCGEE pm­cgee@thekent­coun­tynews.com

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.

PHOTO BY TRISH MCGEE

Ch­ester 5 The­atres, an­chor­ing the Wash­ing­ton Square shop­ping cen­ter in Ch­ester­town, has been shut­tered since June 4.

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