Ten screen movie theater expected to open in fall 2018
By Tonya Little
City leaders and community members came together this morning to celebrate ground breaking for the new Warren Theater that is to be located on the corner of SE 15th Street and Sooner Road.
The dreary day and muddy ground didn’t stop the event from being a great success. Golf carts shuttled people into the empty muddy field where the new theater will be built. A canopy and chairs had been set up for the event, and refreshments were served. The City Council, Chamber of Commerce, business leaders and many more were in attendance including State Rep. Roger Ford and State Sen. Jack Fry, who is a former Midwest City Mayor.
Current Mayor Matt Dukes said the city is striving to continue the vision set forth by founder W.P. “Bill” Atkinson in the 1940s.
“Seventy five years ago just a mile to our south another big construction project was going on that was soon to be called Midwest City, Oklahoma. Mr. Atkinson had a vision for our city, and I hope and I pray that as he is looking down on us that he knows that we are carrying on that vision that he had for our community.”
Dukes also called up Bill Warren, owner of Warren Theatres, to say a few words and to accept a commemorative plaque from the Midwest City Chamber of Commerce in recognition of his support and contribution to the economic interest of the community. Warren explained that his company has been working on the design of this theater for the last 2 ½ years, even before deciding on a location, and that he is glad to be working with the city of Midwest City to launch it.
“I think the future of the industry, at least for us in the way it’s going and I think that it should go, is small theaters that are even more luxurious,” explained Warren. “I would equate this theater with a luxury boutique or luxury hotel like you would see in resort areas and so forth. They will be nicer and better, more expensive. This will be the nicest theater in the state of Oklahoma. It won’t be the biggest, but it will be the nicest. The trick is to make it a better experience and a better value than anyone else in town.”
Economic Development Director Robert Coleman also spoke about the development and what it means to the community. He noted that 2008-2009 was a hard time in the theater business, in the midst of an economic downturn, when theaters were trying to find the money to convert from standard film to digital files. This proved too problematic for Heritage Plaza 5 in Midwest City and it closed its doors, along with the movie theater on Tinker Air Force Base. That was the last time Midwest City had a movie theater inside of city limits.
During that time since money has been flowing into surrounding towns that do have theaters that could have been kept here in the community instead. Many times people who see a movie will also buy dinner before, drinks afterwards and possibly shopping in the same area, making it a large chunk of money.
“We found that the average couple spends about a hundred dollars on a night out. For the last eight years we’ve had money flowing out of this community and the tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars, money that could have stayed here and supplemented the city sales tax collections while energizing our local economy,” explained Coleman. “But a new day is dawning in Midwest City, where you and your children or perhaps grandchildren, will be able to attend a movie without leaving city limits.”
Not only will the new movie theater help the city shore up an area where there is a major sales tax leakage, but it will also help lure in quality restaurants and retailers as well. Having the Warren Theater in the Sooner Rose shopping center also paves the way for a new 25,000 square foot entertainment center that will further promote Midwest City as the place to be in the east metro. The sales and property tax collection from the movie theater have been committed to the tax increment finance district that is making the entire Sooner Rose development possible.
“We are hopeful that this TIFF district will pay for itself earlier, much like the Town Center Plaza paid for itself,” said Coleman. “Mr. Warren’s theater will have a significant impact in other facets of the local economy as well, we expect it will employee upwards of 300, many students from our local schools and rose state college in particular. The payroll generated at the Midwest City Warren Theater will be spent throughout the community and will have a positive effect on businesses across the board. But the greatest impact that the Warren Theater will have on Midwest City may be difficult for an economist to gauge. It’s exciting to think that just in over a year we will have the best of the best, the most luxurious and perhaps the most technologically advanced cinema this state has ever seen, the pride that comes from being number one simply cannot be measured in dollars and cents.”
The Warren Theater promises to be an exciting and beneficial addition to Midwest City in many ways, and the community members who attended the event seemed to be very excited to welcome it to town. The event ended with the City leaders and the Warren team donning golden hard hats and breaking the ground with golden shovels to celebrate the beginning of construction, but not before Mayor Dukes ended the presentation portion.
“Mr. Warren thank you so much, not just for picking our community for your next project, but for just being a hand in hand partner in this whole development. It’s been great working with you. I will close by saying 15th street will be done, eventually,” said Dukes to the laughter of those in attendance.