Cinema to boost night life near BWI 14-screen theater opens this weekend

restaurants planned

March 12, 1998|By TaNoah Morgan | TaNoah Morgan,SUN STAFF

The business district around Baltimore-Washington International Airport is coming of age.

Entertainment -- beginning with a giant movie theater opening in Airport Square this weekend -- is bringing night life to a 30-year-old business corridor that bustles during the day thanks to thousands of employees, customers and airline passengers, not to mention a sizable local population.

Hoyts West Nursery Cinema 14 expects to draw moviegoers from around the region but especially from business travelers in the five hotels within a mile of it.

Also hoping to tap that market are developers of a 10-acre airport theme restaurant park proposed next to the movie house.

Business travelers "are lonely, and they're on their own," said Alan L. Johnson, chief operating officer of Hoyts Cinemas Corp. He said the theater is aggressively targeting them.

"While it is not the primary market, it is there for the grabbing," he said.

Local business groups say they support the growth of amenities-related businesses in the corridor.

"I think it's a sign of maturity," said William A. Badger Jr., senior vice president of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. "It gives a balance to that whole part of the county to add the amenities to the business community."

With a 76.1 percent occupancy rate last year for hotels in the BWI business district, a new crop of extended-stay suites for business travelers soon to open, a growing number of passengers landing at BWI and a nearby highway system that connects Baltimore and Wash-

ington, the district is ripe for an entertainment center.

"The area has matured into a major business center, a major destination center, plus there's also a large population of residents," said Neil Shpritz, executive director of the BWI Business Partnership, a nonprofit economic development organization.

"I think the theater will bring a sense of community to the area. It's almost like the glue that will tie the area together."

Local enterprises are hoping to use parts of the theater during the day for business gatherings, said Mitch Weber, president of Heffner and Weber Design and Construction Co., which built the theater. Weber said he hopes to broker a deal between the business community and the owners of the theater.

"There's a significant interest in using the theater as teleconferencing facility," he said. "It almost provides a conference center capability. The common area is extremely large. It can be set up for lunches of significant size."

Johnson said he would approve renting auditoriums and that some large corporations have already used Hoyts theaters around the world for teleconferencing meetings.

The $8.5 million, 57,300-square-foot movie theater is the first in the region to be set in an office park. Equipped with 14 wall-to-wall movie screens, stadium seating with high-back chairs, a game room and a coffee bar, it is the first such entertainment complex in Anne Arundel County.

"Businesses like this are only going to enhance the area and create more reasons for choosing BWI," said Bob Burdon, executive director of the Anne Arundel Trade Council, Chamber of Commerce.

Pub Date: 3/12/98

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