- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
St. Mary’s County should be seeing a new 12-screen movie theater next year.
St. John Properties, owner of 140 acres across Route 235 from the Wildewood shopping center in California, announced Friday it has a letter of intent from R/C Theatres to build the 45,000-square-foot movie theater in the Lexington Exchange project now under construction.
The Baltimore-based theater is anticipating the opening of the 2,400-seat movie complex by the third quarter of 2014. An initial press release said that was contingent on obtaining a financial incentive from St. Mary’s County.
However, Jerry Wit, senior vice president of marketing for St. John Properties, said Friday that is off the table. “The deal is struck with the movie theater,” he said. “It’s going to happen.”
R/C Theatres intends to construct and operate the movie theater with wall-to-wall movie screens and high-back, rocking chair stadium-style seating, a representative of St. John Properties said.
Lexington Exchange would be the 10th location for the movie theater company, which operates 72 screens in Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia. R/C Theatres was founded in 1932.
“R/C Theatres fills a pressing need in the California/Lexington Park marketplace, and attracting an entertainment use was among the top priorities in our leasing strategy,” Wit said in a statement. “Multi-screen cinema complexes are high-traffic uses that bring immediate and long-term visibility to real estate projects, and provide excellent marketing opportunities for the entire tenant mix.”
“It’s obviously going to be a major anchor for their retail component,” said Robin Finnacom, acting director of the St. Mary’s County Department of Economic and Community Development.
“We consider the California/Lexington Park area an emerging demographic market that will support our high-tech theatre model,” Scott Cohen, president and CEO of R/C Theatres Management Corp., said in a statement. “The area has demonstrated retail strength with the presence of several national chains and the population is projected to continue its significant growth in the long term.”
“I don’t think we could have gotten better news than a commitment to build a new movie theater in the Lexington Park area,” St. Mary’s County Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) said in an email. “We have listened for years about our residents’ wants and finally it seems as if this is progressing. Believe me, there have been so many stops and starts on potential theaters that my head spins, but finally it looks like cement is going in the ground, folks will be able to sit back and watch first-run movies in a beautiful theater.”
Lexington Exchange has approval for 902,820 square feet of commercial and office space. Online site plans once showed a Home Depot there.
Wit said there is still room for Home Depot, but the company hasn’t signed a letter of intent. He said St. John Properties has been talking with restaurants as well, but no other leases have been signed yet.
The new movie theater would be built behind an asphalt plant on adjacent property along Route 235, with a sound wall and a planting buffer, Wit said. The asphalt plant will not be relocating as Lexington Exchange develops.
The last new movie theater to open in St. Mary’s County was in Lexington Park in June 1986, and remains open as AMC Loews Lexington Park 6.
The First Colony shopping center in California was supposed to bring a new movie theater when it was built in 2000 as a condition of its approval by the St. Mary’s County Planning Commission. The developer, Faison Enterprises, said the demographics of the county then didn’t support a new movie theater.
The county commissioners, under President Julie B. Randall, intervened and the developer agreed to build a public swimming pool in Lexington Park instead, which cost the developer $1.6 million.