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City Loans Company $6MM for Downtown Theater
By Douglas Lorah
Years in the planning, a movie theater in downtown Orlando may finally be on track. A few years ago, the City of Orlando offered an incentive of $3.5 million over 10 years to a theater operator to come into The Plaza.
Then owner and developer of the property, Cameron Kuhn, made promises that a theater operator would come on board and the city would have one more jewel in its downtown crown.
Since then, Kuhn has lost ownership of the property and we have seen reports in local papers that make "movie theater" sound like "wolf!"
There is finally something on paper binding a movie company with the city.
On Monday, January 12, 2008, the Orlando City Council unanimously approved to loan $6 million to the newly formed Orlando Movie Company. This amount is expected to be enough to complete build out of the 2nd floor theaters at The Plaza and help with operating expenses.
How will the city pay for this?
The city has the money. It was already holding onto $3.5 million that was earmarked exactly for this purpose.
Most importantly, this is not an incentive, but rather a loan that must be paid back. The City of Orlando is adding a special assessment (tax) to the retail properties at The Plaza since they will benefit from the added traffic. That portion is $3.5 million. Another $2.5 million will come from an assessment on the parking garage as that will benefit from more parking patrons.
One of the stipulations upon the movie company is that they must obtain a certificate of occupation by July 1, 2009. A CO means that it passes inspections and is habitable. This would obviously be to the theater's benefit if it wants to open by the time the studios' summer tentpoles are released.
How does this benefit the industry here?
The Orlando Film Festival has been waiting on this for 3 years now. The festival was expected to use this downtown theater as well as the DMAC. One of the founders and a member of the OFF Board of Directors Kurt Bauerle had this to say...
"Our goal is to preserve the slightly bohemian vibe we've created with our first two festivals - something our patrons seem to love - as we expand into the new theaters in the Plaza. They've been in our thoughts from square one, and we're very grateful to the City of Orlando and the new operator for including OFF in their plans. Going forward, OFF will have the benefit of the world class theaters in the Plaza, CityArts Factory, Gallery at Avalon Island, downtown restaurants and night life, an incredible hotel in the Grand Bo and other arts related amenities all located in the heart of the City. Our patrons will be able to enjoy great films in a great setting without having to walk more than about a block. Few festivals are so well situated."
Also, this will not be your run of the mill megaplex. There will be some mainstream style theaters as well as smaller, more intimate theaters with wine and beer service. This should give Central Florida the opportunity to watch more independent fare since we currently only have one indie theater, The Enzian.
Since the Orlando Film Festival takes place in November and the Enzian's Florida Film Festival takes place in spring, there won't be competition between the two. It will be interesting to see if the Florida FF gets some screens in downtown as well.