There’s a mistaken impression that Bill Warren is out of the theater business since selling most of his theaters to Regal Entertainment Group in May.
However, he not only is still in the business with two new theaters coming to the Oklahoma City area, Warren is creating what he and his architecture firm say will be the most luxurious Warren Theatres concept yet.
“The whole idea is every place you look, there’s a wow factor,” Warren says. “There will be no question: it will be the nicest in the city. Period.”
The first of two identical $25 million theaters will be in Midwest City. The second will be in north Oklahoma City.
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Midwest City Mayor Matt Dukes and economic development director Robert Coleman were in Wichita Friday for a SPT Architecture presentation of what the theater will look like.
“I feel like I know a secret that 15,000 other people don’t know right now,” Coleman says. “It’s really special.”
Dukes somewhat knew what to expect since he’s been to the Warren Theatre in Moore, Okla.
“It’s obviously extremely nice and well kept, but this is off the chart,” he says of the new one.
“It’s going to be a huge deal to us.”
Midwest City has been without a theater since 2005. One of its previous theaters was in a mall that closed. The other never upgraded to digital and went out of business.
The lack of a theater came up when Dukes was running for office, which happened to be around the same time Warren began contemplating a Midwest City theater.
Dukes expects the theater to be a regional draw.
“It is going to have a huge economic impact for us.”
Dukes says Midwest City, like other Oklahoma cities, relies solely on sales tax revenue, fees and fines.
“That pits every municipality in the state of Oklahoma against each other,” he says. “We’re all competing for the same dollar.”
Dukes says Midwest City is the largest community on the eastern side of Oklahoma County, and he expects the theater to be a draw all the way to the Shawnee community about 30 minutes to the east.
“We’re probably going to draw some from Bricktown as well,” he says of the entertainment district in downtown Oklahoma City.
While Dukes – who is up for re-election next year – can’t claim credit for the theater, he says that “greasing the wheels for it obviously I will take credit for.”
Wichita City Council member James Clendenin was in Friday’s meeting and is as impressed as Dukes.
“Well Wichita, Kansas, doesn’t have a theater this nice,” Clendenin says.
“Opulent” is the chief word SPT interior designer Rebecca Gates uses to describe the new theater.
“The show starts at the sidewalk,” she says.
There’s a stamped metal ceiling and marquee chaser lights that give what Gates calls “kind of that glamorous arrival to the theater” that’s reminiscent of a 1920s or ’30s theater.
SPT has a long history of designing theaters for Warren.
“It’s always a challenge … because Bill never does the same thing twice,” SPT architect Brad Teeter says.
Without upping the ante each time, Warren says, “It would be kind of boring.”
The overall look of the theater is what Warren calls “contemporary art deco.”
“There’s no faux marble in this building.”
The marble, onyx, granite, undulating tiles, copper, mahogany and a mix of other materials all combine for what Gates calls “showbiz and glamor.”
In the women’s bathrooms alone, there is copper and glass, mosaic tiles, Michelangelo marble, glass chandeliers and sconces.
“It’s just like City Hall,” Dukes quips.
There’s a 90-foot tower on the outside of the theater that’s 14 feet taller than the one in Moore.
“You’ll definitely find it, I’ll tell you that,” Teeter says.
With 10 screens, the theater’s footprint is smaller than the ones in Wichita.
The challenge, Warren says, is “how can you reduce the size of the building but still have that wow factor?”
Another challenge, of course, is making money when putting so much into the details of the theater.
“We’ll make less money on each customer than the guy down the street,” Warren says.
Still, he continues to dream new ideas that drive his staff crazy.
For instance, the seats he plans to install already recline and are heated with individual – not shared – armrests. Warren has another idea he’s working on for them, though, which he’s not sharing just yet.
Warren knows he might get some resistance from staff and perhaps his bankers, but they’re all used to it by now. It speaks to his philosophy of building theaters.
“We’re going to do it the right way, or we’re not going to do it.”