One year ago, plans were unveiled for a new movie theater for Marion that would have at least six “state-of-the-art” screens combined with a family entertainment center featuring bowling, an arcade and an eatery. It would be located next to Big Lots in the empty portion of the old Walmart building.
Since that announcement, the much-anticipated theater has not yet become a reality and many local residents have wondered whether it will happen at all. But the developer hired by the city of Marion and McDowell County to work on this project said recently it is still moving forward.
“I understand the anticipation of making this happen but everything is hinged on financing and these days funding a project is not easy,” said David Beauregard, managing partner of Creative Entertainment Concepts LLC in Indianapolis.
In December of last year, Beauregard and Dave Kowert, his partner and owner of Starmax Entertainment, outlined their plans to build a new movie theater and entertainment center which would not only serve McDowell County but other surrounding counties that don’t have a movie theater, such as Avery and Mitchell.
The conceptual plan unveiled by Beauregard in December 2014 called for a six-screen movie theater and an entertainment center. The theater would have stadium seating and up-to-date sound and visual quality, like Morganton’s. Movies in 3D can be shown there too. The entertainment center will also have arcades for children and adults, a bar and lounge and a bowling alley with 16 lanes.
Beauregard and local officials still say they are still working on this effort and hope to see it happen in the near future.
“The last time we heard from the prospective movie developer, David Beauregard, he told us that he was still working on attracting investors,” said City Manager Bob Boyette recently.
In September, Beauregard said to The McDowell News he is seeking foreign investors for this project.
“The basis of our project funding is built around the EB-5 foreign investment program,” he said. “We have had to take a different direction to insure the EB-5 foreign investment program works in Marion.”
The EB-5 foreign investment program allows foreign nationals to obtain a visa by investing money in the United States. Created by the federal government, the program seeks “to stimulate economic activity and job growth, while allowing eligible aliens the opportunity to become lawful permanent residents.” It is credited with helping rebuild the economy of Las Vegas and other places in the U.S., according to the Wikipedia article.
In October, Beauregard said he would use local investment as well as the EB-5 foreign investment and hopes to set a new schedule shortly. “We have not purchased the building yet,” he said at the time.
Officials from McDowell County, the city of Marion, the McDowell Chamber of Commerce, the Marion Business Association and McDowell Economic Development Association are working with Beauregard and Kowert. Creative Entertainment Concepts focuses on real estate brokerage, development consulting and movie theater development. The company has developed 50 theaters in numerous states. Creative Entertainment Concepts also worked on the movie theater and entertainment center in Gaffney, S.C. The company was responsible for the successful rebirth of Gaffney’s foreclosed movie theater and entertainment complex, according to its website.
Marion and McDowell County have been without a movie theater since the closing of the McDowell Twin Cinema on the five lane. That theater, which first opened in 1978, was closed due to the changing technology of showing movies. Theaters now use digital projectors to show movies and the old reel projectors are quickly becoming a thing of the past. The high cost of converting over to digital has forced many small town, locally owned theaters to close their doors.
And in today’s movie theater business, the small “mom-and-pop” theaters can’t compete with the larger ones that offer digital projection, high-quality surround sound, stadium seating and movies in 3D, said Beauregard and Kowert in December 2014.
More than 15 years ago, the city of Morganton started the process of getting its own new movie theater when it sought to locate one on city-owned property in its downtown. Morganton city officials paid for conceptual plans and a market study and prepared a request for proposals (RFP) from developers. A developer and an operator were found who were interested in a small downtown location for a theater.
The city of Morganton agreed to public infrastructure improvements like parking lots and a streetscape design. The parking lot cost $178,000 and it was paid for out of the city’s general fund. The streetscape design cost $200,000 and it was paid for out of the city’s general fund and through N.C. Department of Transportation. The city of Morganton also loaned the developer $500,000 at a 7 percent fixed rate. The total private investment was $4.2 million, according to information provided by the city of Morganton.
The Marquee Cinemas Mimosa 7 theater at 101 S. Green St. in downtown Morganton has been operating for about a dozen years now. It is a popular destination for folks in Morganton.
“Project generates excitement and enthusiasm downtown,” reads a statement from city of Morganton.
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