Barring any unforeseen delays, the Chesapeake Movies theater at Washington Square Mall is planning to open in late September or early October.
Mike Klein, one of the principals of the Chesapeake Movies group, said in a phone interview Aug. 23 that while a lot of work still needs to be done–installing the seats, re-tiling the floors, constructing and outfitting the new concession stand area–things have begun to come together. If all goes well, Klein said that the theater’s grand opening could be as early as Friday, Sept 28.
The theater’s opening had been delayed due to the need to install a new heating and air conditioning (HVAC) system in the building. Silicato Development, who owns and manages the mall, paid for the new system, which arrived the second week of August. The new HVAC needed to be in place before most of the other work could start. Klein said the system needs to be run for some time after it is installed to clean out the ducts, which had dust and mold from the old HVAC system, which had not been changed in more than 20 years. The new system, Klein said, is now completely installed and is blowing air.
Once the HVAC system is broken in, the other major installations, such as carpets and seats, can proceed. Klein said the theater has ordered 120 recliner seats, to be installed in the back three rows of each of the five theaters. The recliners will be available by reservation, at a slight increase in the regular price for seats. Also on the list of upgrades are state-of-the-art projectors and sound system for each of the five theaters, and larger screens. All major items have already been ordered.
Currently, Klein said that he is working on finding contractors to re-tile the bathrooms and other areas. He said that they are trying to use local companies and have contacted several for quotes. When that is finished, construction on the new concession area can start. The theater is contracting with Coca-Cola to be their main supplier. Even receiving the soda machines, he said with a laugh, can take a month from placing the order.
Klein said he had met with representatives of Washington College and the Kent County Public Schools to go over the theater’s plans, and to discuss possible student discounts and other programs to appeal to a younger audience. The owners are also working on a website for the theater, where film-goers will be able to check schedules and reserve tickets.
The delay in opening the theater has been a matter of concern for the theater operators as well as the local community, which has been without a movie theater since June 2017, when the Chester 5 theaters closed. Klein said that summer is the season when a movie theater makes most of its money, with many popular films being released over the season. Also, with school closed and parents on vacation, going to the movies is easier for families in the summer.
The Chestertown Mayor and Council also expressed concern about the projected opening of the movie theater at its Aug. 6 meeting. Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said he had gone by the theater to check on progress and was “very disappointed” to find that while the old seats and carpets had been removed, they had not been replaced. He said the new owners originally planned on opening in late 2017, but that problems with the lease and financing were not resolved for several months.
Other delays then postponed the projected opening date to Memorial Day, and again to the end of July. Ingersoll said the town had promised to devote the proceeds of the entertainment tax generated by the theater to repaying a $75,000 loan that Chesapeake Movies received from the Kent County Commissioners.
Kay MacIntosh, the town’s economic development director, said on Aug. 14 that she had told Klein that any number of residents would be willing to pitch in to get the theater open again. MacIntosh also said the theater’s payment of the entertainment tax would include not just ticket prices, but the price of any refreshments sold. She said the refreshments could be expected to amount to more than the ticket prices, especially if the owners are able to get a license to sell beer and wine.
If things go as planned, it will soon be show time again in Chestertown!