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Downtown Movie Theatre

A Downtown movie theatre would be a great draw for Huntsville. Even a small theatre would encourage foot traffic and "date/family nights" in the heart of the city. As a bonus, design the theatre to have an "old time" look and feel (at least on the exterior.) Retro is the new cool. So, maybe make it a throw-back to the classic theatres that once existed here?

And for those saying, "Oh, only private industry can bring that in." I disagree. The city can and should actively recruit a movie theatre (Monaco's owner perhaps?) to be the "anchor" of a new mixed-use development like what will likely go in at the old Holiday Inn site.

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Submitted by 8 months ago

Comments (34)

  1. Moderator

    Funny, we've heard of a number of folks with a similar interest. It'd obviously have to be a somewhat different model from the standard suburban theatre (probably closer to the Monaco model at Bridge St), but you could also do something a little more old school, like a single- or double-screen theatre that shows the off-market indie-type movies that you can't get at the multi-plexes. Some interesting options...

    8 months ago
    1. OMG DENNIS YES! That has been a dream of mine!! <3

      8 months ago
  2. HSV.future Idea Submitter

    A good example for us to model is Downtown Boise, Idaho.

    It has a conventional (United Artists, I think) theatre as an "anchor" for a mixed-use building (multi-story.) Instead of 20+ screens it has about 8. It shows major, recent films. There's a "built-in" parking lot in the building that also serves the rest of the mixed-use area. It's AWESOME.

    There's ALSO a smaller, indi-flick theatre like you suggested called The Flix. It shows art films, foreign films, etc. and it's also AWESOME. It also sells beer and wine.

    8 months ago
    1. If Huntsville City planners are serious, they would visit other cities and towns to see what is working elsewhere. Boise would be a great place to start! And hopefully they would notice also the manner in which the Boise River has been so beautifully converted into a multiuse greenway.

      2 months ago
  3. Just the other day I was looking at one of the buildings downtown and thinking it might at some point have been a small theater.

    Downtown or not, I'd like to see Huntsville get an art house theater. Another place for one might be on the west side of Memorial near the Office Depot / Rock / Alexander's Jewelry. We could build a new pedestrian bridge crossing Broglan Branch (the existing one is pretty ratty) and Lowe Mill would be a short walk away.

    8 months ago
    1. Flood zone. No new construction allowed.

      7 months ago
  4. That would most likely be the old Martin Theater now operating as Sammy T’s Music Hall. http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/5610

    8 months ago
    1. No, it was on Jefferson. It had the recessed lobby look common to theaters. But you're right, Sammy T's was a theater and it doesn't seem likely there were two so close.

      8 months ago
  5. Agree with movies downtown but please don't try to compete with the first-run suburban theaters. We should have the opportunity to see great foreign films and documentaries. Winners of the Sundance and Cannes film festivals. And serve beer and wine.

    8 months ago
    1. Profitiability or someone wealthy enough for a vanity project.

      7 months ago
  6. I just added an attachment to this suggestion... the question was...

    What is this building on Triana Blvd? Wouldn't it make a great little theater, and the area around it could be a new entertainment hub?

    7 months ago
    1. It was the Center Theater. I think it closed in the early to mid 1960s. I can't post a link here, but a photo of it can be found at the Huntsville Revisited (GROUP) Facebook page.

      6 months ago
    2. https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/vas1951/3885861504/ What would it take to restore this site?

      6 months ago
  7. PS... It is great architecture... you know there are some great building hidden like little gems around Huntsville, someone should do an "Architecture Day tour around here... complete with stories.

    7 months ago
    1. It is a neat building. Several years ago some attempts were made to make it something like Lowe Mill. Just too early, I suppose. Another creative use for it and others in the area would really stimulate that part of town.

      7 months ago
  8. I totally posted an idea for this some time ago! Yes. Yes. Yes.

    http://www.imaginehuntsville.com/a/dtd/Arcade-Indie-Film-Theater/396092-20895

    And if you want to make it a bigger attraction than just the two screen indie theaters that I posted links to on my old idea thread... you can add an arcade! So the kids can be brought downtown to play games as well as feed the ducks! Not just video games, you could have foozball, pool tables, air hockey, all that fun stuff there in the movie theater and then at night, close up the kiddy part and make it an indie movie theater with very plush Monaco Prive style seating. Park food trucks outside. It's an all-day adventure!

    And the Holiday Inn lot is PERFECT for this. Right on the park!

    7 months ago
  9. My post is not to dissuade the ideas, but to add some bit of unfortunate reality. We have and continue to work to bring the concepts that the community wants and needs.

    This type of entertainment is needed here in Huntsville for families and the young professionals moving into the area. Pins, under other previous names, concept at Bridgestreet was not successful for a variety of reasons, some being visibility and access, not tied into the Monaco theater concept, and inexperienced operators, i.e. not a national brand. For such expensive developments, making the numbers work, (costs of land, construction, buildout, parking access, co-tenancy, a large enough market to support the concept) having a corporate interest and willing investors are the pieces of the puzzle that must all come together and fit. The profitability of a concept is ultimately the deciding factor. If the market will not support, if the development deal, building design and construction costs too costly, desired concept will not happen.

    The concepts across the country that have been working to a good degree of success have been the Dave and Busters, Lucky Strike, Kings (http://kingsbowlamerica.com/about/), Cinebistro (Cobb movie concept), and the newest, Punch Bowl Social. I met CEO and founder Robert Thompson in May while attending the International Council of Shopping Centers annual meeting and convention in Las Vegas. At present PBS requires ability to do $9-11Million in annual revenue. Our market is not large enough for the current design. We discussed possibility of a smaller footprint. We shall see. (punchbowlsocial.com)

    7 months ago
  10. As for the city "recruiting" a theater, the city provides a great many amenities, incentives, and encouragement, but ultimately, the business is a business and must make money. The city or other public entities do not have funds to support a failing business model and shouldn't, hence the closure of the Holiday Inn Express.

    7 months ago
  11. How about a Mixture of theatre, the arts, comedy, dancing, diner, entertainment,fashion, music all in the same business. How about a high class burlesque restaurant night club like in the movie with Cher.

    7 months ago
  12. It would be nice to have a theatre that showed old classics one night a week. ( My hairdresser does not know who Doris Day is! ) I would love to see Hitchcock, old musicals, and family friendly stories like Spencer's Montain, Old Yeller, or Jimmy Stewart movies.

    7 months ago
  13. I stopped at a place like this in Virginia close to DC, and there was a small little theater near a bunch of restaurants in a cool location that played a bunch of indie films. It only had just a few screens, but I think it would be a cool little thing to have downtown.

    7 months ago
  14. I'd love to reiterate that the downtown movie theater should be unique from the many mega-plexs we have around town. Don't just put another 15+ screen theater downtown. That's not an attraction. Make it something special. Make it a trendy, hipster, old-school made new, kind of place. Not just another movie theather. Oh! And show film-fests of the local high school's and college's film students' projects! And have small-budget film competitions here. Those are a bigger draw than you'd imagine!

    7 months ago
    1. Well said. I totally agree. Atlanta has an "art" theater in VA Highlands that shows documentaries, Festival winners, and popular foreign films. That would be a draw in downtown Huntsville. Don't compete with what we already have; be unique!

      7 months ago
  15. Moderator

    The LeFont Plaza, I recall. We'd go to the Righteous Room for dinner beforehand, then catch any number of cool films you couldn't see in the multi-plexes (then, often, back to the RR for after-film beers). Great niche offering. If you roll in some beer/wine, it's a great complement to other downtown offerings.

    6 months ago
  16. I like the concept of the old Center Theater. I think this can be viable place in the near future once Straight to Ale and Yellowhammer get established at Stone, Lowe Mill continues succeeding, and the West Huntsville neighborhoods get a better reputation (I live in Merrimack and it is great!). I think this idea will be fulfilled.

    18 days ago
    1. I also live in a West Huntsville neighborhood and am very excited about the prospects. I wish we could all get together to remodel this movie theater as a group.

      2 days ago
  17. There is some effort being put into getting the Center Theater put on the National Register of Historical places. If that where to happen there are tax credits available for private property owners to restore structures or if a Nonprofit Development Corp could acquire the property out right grants could be available to restore the building to it original use. It would be a community treasure, that's for sure and could go a long way towards revitalizing that neighborhood.

    17 days ago
    1. Larry, that's good to know. Thanks. There seems to be a lot of traction with this idea. One way or another, I think we're getting a trendy, niche movie theater. I hope so.

      15 days ago
    2. I attached a funding matrix in the Attachment section below that could be of help. My family is applying for the Alabama Historical Commission and federal Historic Tax Credit for a house we are renovating in Merrimack. The gears are still turning, but it looks promising.

      1 day ago
  18. I have always wanted to be a part of renovating the Old theater on Trina. With growth like the Brewery's this becomes more possible. If it can become more than a Theater with a stage for the arts, acting and such, coffee shop, beer tasting, etc. It would be a little jewel in a strong potential area. so many uses it would be active 18 hours a day.

    2 days ago
    1. If just the people on this thread could get together and start a project to remodel that movie theater, I bet we'd get it done! Could we make the theater itself a non-profit of some sort?

      2 days ago
  19. I've been doing some digging into this, like Paige I think it is possible to do something... I have some thoughts, and I would like to see if we could pull it off together. The first step in doing that is putting together a mailing list. Obviously not many people want to put their email on a public site like this, so I'm going to start here. Anyone that would like to get a report on what I know, and a possible plan (I'm not wedded to the plan but for lack of people to bounce it off I have some ideas)... please send an email to larry.mason(_at_)alltowntech(_dot_)com with "Save Central Theater" in the subject line and I'll start try to organize something. I will update you soon.

    1 day ago
  20. Businesses only locate where the numbers work. No matter how much encouragement from the city, etc, if the business will not be profitable, it is a no go. Tax dollars are stretched already, and incentives and enticements can only go so far.

    14 hours ago
  21. An effort to revitalize the theater was attempted several years ago. Perhaps just ahead of its time. Nonprofit or Lowe Mill concept would be most feasible.

    14 hours ago

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    8 months ago

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