Movie Theater Reopening Hits Snag

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The widely anticipated reopening of the Chester 5 Theater is not going to happen, at least in the near future.

The theater, which closed June 4, was originally anticipated to open in November, in time for the Christmas season, when many of the year’s top movies are released.

One of the partners in the Chesapeake Theaters group, which was behind the plans to reopen, spoke to the Chestertown Spy in September. He said that plans were to renovate the entire interior with new, more comfortable seats, an expanded concession area offering more substantial fare. The partners also planned to work with local youth groups to hold fundraisers to benefit children. However, those plans were delayed and rumors began to circulate that the deal was falling through. Those rumors were confirmed when the Spy spoke with one of the principals last week.

Mike Klein, a partner in Chesapeake Theaters, told the Chestertown Spy that his group “was not able to negotiate a favorable lease” with the management of the Washington Square mall. “We went in in good faith,” Klein said in a Jan. 18 phone interview. He said the partners had begun work on the interior, including removal of the old seats, on the assumption that they had an agreement with the landlord. “We wouldn’t have started renovations if it wasn’t good,” he said. They have invested quite a bit of money already in the project. He and his partners have been involved in theaters in the Baltimore area, though this would have been a separate venture, he said.

Klein said the landlord, Silicato Development of Millsboro, Delaware, made modifications in the terms of the final lease that they had not discussed in their initial negotiations.  The added terms would have made it too difficult to make a go of the theater. He said all negotiations with the landlord have stopped as of January. and he does not expect the theater project to go forward.  However, he said, if Silicato Development reached out to them, they would be willing to re-examine the situation.  

The partners also would be open to the possibility of an alternate location, Klein said, but the property needs to be suitable for the purpose. He said they would need at least 20,000 square feet, with ceilings high enough for a movie screen, and a rent that fell within their budget.

Klein said he met with Kay MacIntosh and Jamie Williams, the economic development coordinators for Chestertown and Kent County, respectively, to discuss ways to make the project possible, including the possibility of other sites, but he was unable to find anything that solved the problems.

MacIntosh said on Tuesday that she had discussed incentives related to the Enterprise Zone, a state-designated area where tax benefits are available for new or revived businesses. The benefits include possible abatement of state property taxes for renovated properties and income tax benefits for businesses hiring a certain number of new employees, she said. A possible waiver of a state tax on movie theater tickets was also discussed, although that would require the approval of the town council. Discussions of those incentives never got past the talking stage, she said.  But, McIntosh said, she and Williams were very disappointed about the stalemate and would be willing to work again with Chesapeake Theaters or any other parties interested in re-opening the movie theater. 

Klein said he was disappointed at the failure of the project to get past the starting line. He and his partner had come in good faith and they have already invested a good deal of money on the project.  He said he spent some time in town, talked to people, and ate at the Fish Whistle. He found people in Chestertown were friendly and welcoming and enthusiastic about the possible reopening of the movies.  This was the kind of town, he said, that they were attracted to and had hoped to open a movie theater in.

The representative of Silicato Development familiar with negotiations on the theater was on vacation and unavailable for comment until early next week.  We hope to speak with the Silicato representative in the near future.

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Letters to Editor

  1. Gretchen Stroh says:

    Great, so we have a big empty box, because the landlords expect someone else to pay high rent? So frustrating, that strip mall is almost empty, how is filling a need for the community not enough for the landlords? Are there tax incentives for owning a failing strip mall? Every week I drive by hoping to see movies on the marquee…..Since they’ve closed in June I’ve seen one movie in Middletown. I just don’t see how keeping that empty is a good thing.

    • Rudy Jenkins says:

      I wondered the same thing. Do they get a tax write offf for losses if they don’t rent?

      • Bill Anderson says:

        Certainly, each dollar of revenue that the landlord does not receive is a dolar that he doesn’t pay taxes on. Moreover, every dollar of expense on that property is also a write-off on his income taxes.

  2. J. Michael Kramer says:

    I am truly disappointed to hear this. I do hope the town and county councils will take strong action to bring the two parties together and the cinema back to Kent County.

  3. Michael McDowell says:

    This is very disappointing and Silicato, the landlord, looks very bad here. They should be contacted by residents to complain and put pressure on them to negotiate an agreeable lease with the cinema people. I for one will call them.

    • Bill Anderson says:

      This doesn’t paint the Silicato agency in a bad light at all. What responsible and informed potential entrepreneurs would perform work and invest in improvements in a property that they have no executed lease agreement for? That is, at best, simply irresponsible action on the part of the partners desiring to open the theater. An expensive, but important lesson, guys.

  4. I am sorry to read about this failure to reopen the theater. I agree that it is hard to imagine what benefit there would be to Silicato to keep the building vacant and to risk more lost space in the center. I do also suspect there might be a tax advantage of income loss. I live in Old New Castle where we have had an iconic landmark business closed for years that had been a magnetic draw before for residents and tourists. There appears to be no rush to find new tenants and the published sale price seems unrealistic. Hope the city administration in Chestertown can help.

  5. Alexander says:

    This is the story that we never wish to read.
    We hope that Kay MacIntosh and Jamie Williams continue with their efforts to make this idea of a movie house in Kent County a reality. They must know that they have the support of the community. If some kind of a letter writing campaign would help, please let us know.
    We adjusted to the loss of the Chester 5 Theaters from two films per month to one in Montgomery County (The Shape of Water) and one in Middletown (Star Wars). NOT THE SAME.
    D&A

  6. Signy Rich says:

    I thought this was the problem with the last theatre residents. The rent was way too high.

  7. Courtney Phelps says:

    When the rent is to high…the town will die.

  8. Joyce Schauber Kim says:

    When I heard there was hope of the Chester 5 cinema reopening, I talked to all my cousins and friends and neighbors, telling them that this time we would all go as often as possible to the cinema in Chestertown. I made a firm resolution to be a firm supporter and regular movie goer as soon as theaters reopened . I DO NOT WANT TO GOTO MIDDLETOWN. I am one of many who wants a resolution with the landlord of the property. If an agreement can be reached, I believe the cinema would be profitable because we Kent Countian have missed it for so long. We would appreciate and support it this time.

  9. Judith Hughes says:

    Sad News! So many Chestertown area residents were looking forward to the opening of a movie theater. Sad, Sad, Sad!

  10. Sherry Hamby says:

    Well i’m pretty excited for it to open again!!

  11. garret falcone says:

    I’m trusting Jamie and Kay can work some miracles!
    The movie theatre is a must for Kent county !

  12. terri smith says:

    Wonder if the old bowling alley would work???? We may be a small town but there has to be other options available for this type of entertainment without involving the Silicato company. I know a few businesses have moved from the shopping center due to the high rent they were charged.

    • Steve Payne says:

      I think the bowling alley would work great. It would require a lot more interior work though.

    • Phil Ticknor says:

      A reminder that the bowling alley isn’t actually in Chestertown or even Kent County. So, while it provides nearby access to a possible entertainment venue and keeps revenue in the state, it does not keep that revenue in the county nor does the county or Chestertown directly earn tax dollars from it. (Though you can make the argument that its proximity could be a boost to other businesses that actually are in KC/Chestertown such as restaurants, etc.)

      Kingstown is not Chestertown or Kent County. I’m not sure why, as a resident of the north/eastern end of the county (Millington) that I would particularly go out of my way to patronize a business in Queen Anne’s County over going to Middletown when both drives would take me about the same amount of time.

      You can potentially sell those of us on the Galena-Millington 301 corridor who spend the vast majority of our entertainment dollars in Delaware on the reason to spend some money in Chestertown should a theater reopen, because it keeps the money in Kent … but there’s not really a natural attraction for us to do the same in Kingstown.

  13. Eliott fuhrman says:

    Kay and Stacy does great job in presenting advantages they are not broker.It is broker for seller or buyer to close deal.having done millions of retail deals think can get this done .The old theater did not pay rent but a percentage of gate.Bet it was about cam charges.there is or there other potential revenue potential,example I would do the supper bowl free make money on F and b have tail gate party.If I can not do this deal with my team will donate 250 to food pantry helped bring IKEA to down town, second Wagsman in east those took couple years this take month.worse case condo theater expand for brew pub can finance this with same lease pay center for parking so they continue receive revenue another example who makes most money with no investment,the electric co so ask for 3 year discont

    • I am sorry to say this, but I am having a great deal of difficulty following Mr. Fuhrman’s post. What is he referring to? I am reading something about IKEA and Wegmen. Are you saying that you could do the Super Bowl? not supper bowl? tailgating, etc and brewpub. I think you are having a lot of ideas re: the use of the now defunked theatre. Am I right?

  14. Gosh, does money run everything. Why yes, yes it does. A lot of us were very excited about having the theatre back in town. It is shame that the mall people simply can’t give it up and let us have a theatre again. The theatre people put out a lot of money based on initial communications. Do you think that the mall people will reimburse the theatre people? Why no! Isn’t that illegal somehow?

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