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For reasons that are opaque to me, Elissa Silverman chose to use a brief item about an appearance by the author of a book on old D.C. movie theaters to deliberately distort what I wrote last year in two Washington City Paper articles about possible new movie theaters in the city.
She claims I reported that such art-house chains as Angelika and Sundance would open theaters in the city, and complains, “Since then, I haven’t heard a peep about any of these projects.” In fact, I wrote that three national art-house operators—the third is Landmark—were looking at the Washington market and that one or more would open theaters here. Landmark did indeed sign a lease, and the building that will contain the chain’s eight-screen cinema (at 11th and E Streets NW) is now under construction.
Sundance has not signed a lease, but its operating partner, General Cinema, has. That seven-screen theater (in Mazza Gallerie) is set to open Dec. 17.
Angelika didn’t sign a lease either, but the developer of the building that the chain was considering, at the Georgetown incinerator site, instead made a deal with Loews Cineplex Odeon for a 12-screen theater. Preliminary work on that project, too, is under way.
In addition, the site of the former Embassy Theater is being reconfigured as a two-screen art house. That’s 29 new screens on the way.
It may seem obvious, but some people apparently don’t realize that constructing a new downtown movie theater is not like pitching a tent. It takes significant time and money to find and prepare a site and to erect a building.
There are at least three other locations in the city where agreements (some more solid than others) have been made to build an additional 30-40 screens. I won’t say where they are, though, lest Silverman show up at one of them next weekend hoping to buy a ticket.