After several years of having the Wichita movie market to himself, Bill Warren of Warren Theatres is about to get some competition.
Leawood-based AMC Theatres is going to open 14 screens where the Dickinson Northrock 14 used to be at 3151 N. Penstemon just north of 29th and North Rock Road.
“AMC is the largest movie theater circuit in the United States and in the world,” says spokesman Ryan Noonan.
The company has more than 1,000 theaters, more than 600 of which are in the United States.
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“This is certainly a fun project to work on,” says Occidental Management president Chad Stafford, who did the deal with Occidental’s Charlie King.
“To get their buy-in on a deal down here, it was kind of exciting to be a part of that,” Stafford says.
When Occidental purchased the 47,586-square-foot theater building in early 2012, the plan was to convert it to office space.
“As everyone knows … there’s not a preponderance of office job growth,” Stafford says.
“Like all of our properties, you gotta have a Plan A, B and C.”
The former Northrock space will undergo substantial remodeling. Noonan won’t talk specific dollar amounts, but he says renovations typically are multimillion-dollar deals.
“We saw an opportunity at Northrock 14 with a building that we felt … would be wonderful after some work was put into it,” Noonan says.
He says that because it’s so early in the process, there aren’t complete details on what the remodeling will include.
The initial plan is to keep all 14 screens, but that could change.
Noonan says that, through the years, AMC has had a lot of innovations “that have almost become standard throughout the industry,” such as stadium seating and cup holders.
Noonan says there are 180 AMC theaters nationally that have reclining seats, though he can’t say for certain whether the Wichita AMC will get them.
More than 240 AMC theaters nationally serve alcohol through full bars.
“It’s something we’ll certainly explore,” Noonan says of the Wichita theater. “It’s an extremely popular amenity with guests.”
On Monday, AMC announced nationally that it is expanding its food menu “in a huge way,” Noonan says.
There will be flatbread pizzas, cheeseburger sliders and chicken and waffle sandwiches in addition to more traditional movie fare.
For now, AMC’s plans are for only one Wichita theater complex.
“We’re excited about coming to the Wichita market, bringing the AMC experience, and we think guests will respond in a big, big way,” Noonan says.
AMC will open the theater early next year.
“They’re a good company,” Warren says.
“Sooner or later, there was going to be competition in Wichita again, and that’s just part of business.”
Warren says it’s not like he hasn’t had any competition in recent years.
“Any leisure time activity’s competition, if you think about it,” he says. “Even going out to dinner.”
Warren says he competes well against other chains in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, including AMC.
“If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be building two more theaters in Oklahoma City.”
In late 2015, Warren announced plans for his Warren 21, a $3 million project to convert eight of his theaters at the Plazzio development at 13th and Greenwich to 21-and-older theaters with heated recliners. At the time, he said he would make upgrades to his west-side Warren as well.
“We’ll just speed up the process,” Warren says in response to the AMC news.
In addition to his recent announcements of two new Oklahoma City theaters, Warren says he already had another major Wichita announcement planned, which he’s eager to soon share – particularly in light of AMC’s arrival.
“Competition’s good for the consumer,” Warren says.
“I guess the final word is: game on.”