A national cinema chain's plan to build a "megaplex" with nearly two dozen screens in Linthicum depends on Anne Arundel lawmakers' willingness to revise county law.
A bill proposed by County Councilman George F. Bachman would clear the path for American Multi-Cinema, Inc. (AMC) to package a theater with a family restaurant and bar in an industrial park outside Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
County zoning codes prohibit such commercial projects in Anne Arundel's industrial areas, Mr. Bachman told colleagues during a work session yesterday.
"This bill allows this to happen," Mr. Bachman said. "We have to stay up with the times. Right now, I think the times have moved up beyond us."
Christopher P. Dixon, an industry analyst with PaineWebber in ,, New York, said "megaplexes" with 16 to 24 do the screens are the latest trend in movie houses.
Multiplexes are not new. They became popular 30 years ago with theater owners who found they could operate more screens -- and sell more tickets -- with the same staff. However, those theaters typically had no more than four screens. More recently, they have grown to eight- or nine-screen complexes.
Now, "the day of the megaplex is quickly arriving," Mr. Dixon said.
AMC, a Kansas City, Mo.-based company that operates 236 theaters with 1,629 screens in 22 states and Washington, has been at the forefront of the megaplex drive, Mr. Dixon said. "It's had a lot of success with this in Texas," he said.
Last month, AMC announced plans to build a $15 million, 24-screen complex with a half-dozen restaurants in Hamilton Township, N.J. The theaters, which are scheduled to open in late 1996, will have digital sound systems, extra-wide aisles and high-back, love seat-style chairs with retractable armrests.
AMC has proposed purchasing 18 acres at the Airport Square Industrial Park, about two miles north of BWI, if lawmakers approve the legislation, Mr. Bachman said. The company hopes to build a 20- to 24-screen complex with space for a restaurant similar to Bennigan's, T.G.I. Friday's or Ruby Tuesday, he said.
Mr. Bachman said he introduced the legislation at the request of officials from Airport Square. The council could approve the bill after a public hearing Monday.
Officials with AMC and Airport Square could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Similar projects have been proposed in Baltimore County but have met with opposition because they would have been in residential areas, Mr. Bachman said. Residents feared traffic and noise, he said.
"This takes it out of residential areas," said Mr. Bachman.
Mr. Bachman's legislation would restrict such complexes to industrial parks with 100 acres or more in W-1 industrial zones.
The parks would have to be within one mile of a limited-access highway, and the theater would have to be on a large feeder road.
"You should get a good-sized crowd, but within a W-1 zone it should not be a problem," said Tom Andrews, the county's land-use and environment officer.
The bill also would limit to one the number of theaters, including multiscreen complexes, in an industrial park. And it would require at least 10 percent of the park be developed before the theater could be erected.
County Executive John G. Gary supports the bill, Mr. Andrews said.