Developers look to build 8-screen multiplex in EC
By Jon Hawley
Wednesday, January 10, 2018
A long-desired multiplex cinema may be coming to Elizabeth City as early as next year.
City Manager Rich Olson confirmed Tuesday that Elizabeth City City Council voted 8-0 Monday to schedule a public hearing on Jan. 22 to consider a Business Investment Program incentive with Albemarle Theaters, LLC.
Olson said Albemarle Theaters has proposed building a new, $10 million building at City Center West, the commercial development off Halstead Boulevard Extended. The multiplex cinema, which could open by May 2019, would have eight screens and more than 200 parking spots, he said.
Olson said the principals of the company are Arthur McPherson, Henry Revelle, of Revelle Builders in Murfreesboro, and Scott Cohen, a movie theater owner in the Outer Banks. The multiplex will be affiliated with RC Theaters.
Olson also said Pasquotank County will consider offering a Business Investment Program incentive to Albemarle Theaters as well.
If the city and county both approve of the incentive, Albemarle Theatres would receive a major break on property taxes for years. The tax break would be similar to the one awarded to the developers of the Tanglewood Pavilions shopping complex on Halstead Boulevard Extended.
Elizabeth City residents have been asking for a new, large movie theater ever since he became city manager in 2003, Olson said. The city has been close to recruiting theaters a couple times, but the deals never worked out, he said.
If the BIP incentives are similar to those granted to Tanglewood Pavilions, the city and county will expect increased sales tax collections to more than offset the lost property tax revenues. City and county officials will also expect the theater project to create jobs. Olson's memo said the project is estimated to create three full-time jobs and 20-plus part-time positions.
Mayor Bettie Parker couldn't be reached Tuesday for comment on the theater development project. Pasquotank Board of Commissioners Chairman Cecil Perry declined to discuss the project in detail, saying only that bringing a large theater to Elizabeth City would be a good thing.
Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Economic Development Commission Director Wayne Harris said he was "delighted" the city may, at last, recruit a large movie theater.
"This is in some ways the missing thing in Elizabeth City," Harris said. "I think this is going to be a tremendous magnet."
Harris said the multiplex theater should draw business from throughout the region, as residents from Edenton, Hertford would come to enjoy a "luxury experience" hard to find outside of Tidewater Virginia or the Outer Banks. He credited McPherson and Albemarle Theaters’ other principals with understanding that the theater will draw a much larger market than just a few miles outside of downtown Elizabeth City.
Harris said the theater would likely have indirect benefits for the city's stores and restaurants, as people plan leisure days around seeing a movie in Elizabeth City. He also said he hoped the theater would help Elizabeth City State University recruit students, and offer one more reason for young professionals to live and work in Elizabeth City.
The theater could also prove a major competitor to the area's two smaller theaters, Gateway Cinemas in Elizabeth City and Taylor Twin in Edenton. Harris said he hoped both could continue to thrive after the multiplex at Center City West opens.
With Taylor Twin about half an hour from Elizabeth City, some may find it more convenient to go there, Harris said. The theater closed last year but is looking to reopen next month under new ownership, Edenton officials have reported.
As for Gateway Cinema, Harris said he hoped it could co-exist with the multiplex. Its tickets will likely be cheaper than the new theater’s, he noted.