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The District currently has 49 commercial movie-theater screens, not counting the IMAX theater at the Smithsonian (or the myriad screening rooms at culture institutions). In the next few years, we’re set to get an additional 40 screens. The arrival of Landmark cinemas in NoMa and on V Street NW, an Angelika theater at Union Market, and a 16-screen theater (D.C.’s biggest) in Capitol Riverfront will increase the city’s number of screens by a full 82 percent.
So are the executives of these theater companies worried about oversaturating the market? Landmark Theatres CEO and President Ted Mundorff isn’t. For him, it’s a question of geography.
“We think there’s areas that have begun to grow and modernize that haven’t been served by theaters previously,” Mundorff says. “One would be the U Street corridor, and the other is Capitol Hill.”
Currently, the city’s cinemas are clustered in a crescent sweeping from Upper Northwest D.C. through Georgetown and the West End to downtown. NoMa, U Street, and the Capitol Riverfront have all seen tremendous growth in the past few years, but people who live and work there still have to leave the neighborhoods to catch a movie. Still, there’s some danger that the two new Landmark cinemas, say, could cannibalize the business of the company’s existing theater on E Street.
But Mundorff says they’ll be different enough to attract separate customer bases. “E Street will remain a dedicated art theater that plays specialized and foreign-language film,” he says. “The two theaters that we’re building will not play the same product. So we’re going to expand the menu of the films available.” The NoMa theater, he says, will likely play more mainstream films—-he names American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street as examples—-while V Street will be smaller and more arty.
Still, he does worry that the Angelika Film Center and the Landmark theater in NoMa, only blocks apart, would be direct competition for each other. “That would be an oversaturation of the market, I believe,” he says.
On the whole, however, Mundorff says it’s not the number of screens in a city that matters, but the question of whether they’re serving the neighborhoods with substantial demand. “I don’t look at a whole city,” he says. “Theaters don’t serve full cities. The theaters we’re contemplating, we look at the immediate area and adjacent areas and say, ‘Where are people going to the movies?'”
Rendering courtesy of the JBG Companies