Huge movie complex planned R/C Theatres chain proposes 20-screens in Owings Mills

February 05, 1997|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

A regional cinema chain that operates the sprawling Eastpoint Movies 10 complex says it plans to build Maryland's largest movie house -- a 20-screen theater in the fast-growing Owings Mills area of northwest Baltimore County.

The $15 million, 85,000-square-foot project, tentatively dubbed the Movies at Red Run, would provide wide screens and "stadium" seating for movie lovers, and a play center with activities for children and adults, R/C Theatres President Scott R. Cohen said yesterday.

But the project, which could draw up to 6,000 patrons at a time, may encounter opposition from residents concerned about traffic on nearby roads.

Just three months after another developer was turned down in its bid to build a retail complex in the area, the R/C Theatres proposal may provide another test of county guidelines setting aside portions of the Owings Mills "growth area" for businesses that create high-paying, professional jobs.

"I'm going to run into that problem slightly," Cohen said. But he said that unlike the Columbia-based Manekin Corp.'s ill-fated proposal last year for "big box" chain stores, his theater would not threaten small, local businesses.

R/C Theatres' proposal joins a list of cinema complexes, either contemplated or set for construction, in the Baltimore area.

In Columbia, United Artists plans a 14-screen theater with stadium seating -- chairs set on steep stairs to afford a clear view.

In Baltimore County, the Avenue at White Marsh is to include a 16-screen, 3,800-seat Loews Theatre. In Towson, several movie theater companies are interested in building on a small parcel on Joppa Road, according to a local developer.

And Hunt Valley Mall is hoping to include a 14-screen theater as part of an effort to reinvent itself with new stores and restaurants.

Industry analysts say that the boom in videocassette rentals has not wounded the theater business. Theater operators have responded by making movie-going more of an event.

R/C Theatres, founded in 1932 by Cohen's grandparents, has followed this trend. For years, the company focused on operating theaters in small towns from Virginia to Pennsylvania.

But in 1995, the company -- the country's 25th-largest theater chain, with more than 150 screens in the mid-Atlantic -- made a mark in the Baltimore area by opening Eastpoint Movies 10. That theater features wide screens, comfortable, rocking, stadium-style seats, and state-of-the-art sound and projection systems.

The same features -- and more -- are planned for the Owings Mills site, Cohen said. He said that theater would include four screens as wide as the one in Eastpoint's 51-foot-wide auditorium No. 4. The movies primarily would be first run, he said, but at least two screens would show bargain features.

The project also would include a play area for youngsters, and laser tag and virtual reality games for older children and adults, he said. Plans also call for bumper boats and miniature golf outdoors, Cohen said.

The project, to be formally announced Friday, could provide one-stop entertainment in an area crying for recreation, he said -- a situation made worse last year when R/C Theatres closed its bargain cinema in Reisterstown after the lease ran out.

The complex would be built on a 26-acre parcel on Red Run Boulevard, a major road project through the Owings Mills Town Center scheduled for completion within two years. It would be within view of Interstate 795 -- and just a few miles north of the Sony Valley Centre 9 cinema complex on Reisterstown Road.

R/C Theatre's proposal still must overcome hurdles in zoning and community relations.

The project would be built on land zoned for office use, meaning it would have to be approved by the county planning board, said William Hughey, a county planner for the Owings Mills area. He said a key issue would be that the movie theater would not likely create high-paying jobs.

Cohen said that of the 150 jobs that could be created by the complex, about 10 to 15 would be professional positions.

Robert D. Sellers, a lawyer who is zoning chairman of the Reisterstown-Owings Mills-Glyndon Coordinating Council, said it was too early for the group to take a position on the proposal.

Cohen said, "My father and I both live in the Owings Mills area. We've wanted to bring something to this area to show the community what a local family business can do."

Pub Date: 2/05/97

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