The City of Stillwater and Warren Theatres announced on Tuesday that they are negotiating for the construction of a new luxury movie theater in Stillwater.
It is intended to be part of the corridor connecting the Oklahoma State University campus to downtown that has been targeted for redevelopment. Although city officials first announced the project in July 2018, this is the first official identification of the company that would operate the theater.
The City of Stillwater said it is working with Warren Theatres to find a location within the tax increment finance district and finalize an agreement.
“The ultimate goal is to provide a premier place to watch movies in Stillwater,” said Dan Gray, vice president of the Wichita, Kansas-based Warren Theaters.
The project would be eligible for Tax Increment Finance incentives if it is built in the defined TIF area. Although city officials have said many projects are under consideration for the TIF district and some are close to making deals, no proposals for TIF financing have been submitted to date.
City Manager Norman McNickle said he believes the negotiations with Warren are going well and he hopes it will convince others to also move forward.
He’s especially excited about this theater project because 91 percent of the people who responded to a 2017 Citizen Satisfaction Survey sent out by the City of Stillwater said they thought it was important to create and attract vibrant, quality development like high-end movie theaters.
“I know other developers are aware of the potential,” McNickle said. “There will be additional development that follows this if we get the deal.
“The Warren Theatres brand is recognized for providing a high-quality theater experience, offering features like recliner seats, online reservations and concession orders and other best-in-market theatre services for moviegoers. We believe this potential venture with Warren Theatres will meet our residents’ expectations for quality entertainment.”
In May 2017, Warren Theatres founder Bill Warren announced he was selling his seven existing Warren theater complexes in Oklahoma and Kansas to Regal Entertainment Group, the second largest theater chain in the U.S., for $200 million.
In December 2017, Regal was acquired by the U.K.-based Cineworld Group plc, in a $3.6 billion deal. Regal Entertainment Group is now a subsidiary of Cineworld, which operates theaters in the U.K., Ireland, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Israel and the U.S. and identifies itself as the second largest cinema business in the world, based on the number of screens.
Warren’s deal with Regal included his theaters in Moore and Broken Arrow, but didn’t include two theaters he was still in the process of developing in the Oklahoma City area. Warren told the Wichita Eagle in September 2017 that he was planning two identical theaters in Midwest City and North Oklahoma City that would cost $25 million each and would be the most luxurious Warren Theatres concepts yet.
Sources cited by the Wichita Eagle called the design of the theaters “opulent” and reminiscent of a 1920s or 1930s theater with a look Warren called “contemporary art deco.”
“The whole idea is every place you look, there’s a wow factor,” Warren said. “There will be no question: it will be the nicest in the city. Period.”
The Warren Theatres website says all current Warren theaters are now part of Regal Cinemas but adds:
“We’re not done yet, folks! Warren Theatres LLC has entered the next chapter in our storied history and we are planning on developing future Warren Theatre locations. Our mission is to be the best-in-market theatre offering the public with the best in cinematic sight and sound wrapped in a package of opulence, comfort and security. We have a demonstrated record of success as a regional draw for movie-goers across a wide demographic.”
The company then invites developers and city economic development officials interested in bringing a Warren Theatre to their area to contact Warren Theatres LLC.
It appears that the Stillwater project would be part of that expansion.