Carrie Rengers

What’s Bill Warren doing next? The better question is what isn’t he doing

What’s Bill Warren up to now? The bigger question is: What isn’t he up to?
What’s Bill Warren up to now? The bigger question is: What isn’t he up to? File photo

Wichitans keep asking what Bill Warren is going to do now that he’s sold most of his Warren Theatres to Regal Entertainment Group.

The better question seems to be: What isn’t he going to do?

On deck: possible restaurants and real estate developments.

“I’m probably an incurable business gambler,” Warren says.

That’s even though he says he’d never be in an actual poker game.

And, he says, “I would never gamble on a business deal where I couldn’t handle the downside financially if there was one.”

He does have some extra pocket change these days, though, and some property.

For starters, there are three pad sites in front of the theater he’s building in Midwest City in Oklahoma.

“We thought, you know, those are primo spots, so we could kind of become our own tenant,” Warren says.

He has an agreement with Midwest City to make at least one of those sites a sit-down restaurant.

Warren says the others most likely will be similar restaurants and not fast-food businesses. He says he’s considering franchises and original concepts.

“All options are open.”

Warren won’t determine a restaurant based on his own tastes, just like the movies he’s shown through the years aren’t necessarily the ones he would choose to see.

“It would never be necessarily what I like,” he says. “It’s not what we like personally that counts. It’s what our customer base wants.”

Whatever he decides, he says, “We would bring it to Wichita most likely.”

Warren says he knows the restaurant business is highly competitive and has thin margins, but he points out that through his theaters, he’s already been in the business.

“We’ve got some pretty good expertise.”

He adds, “There’s also some pretty successful restaurants out there. So we’ll see.”

With the two theaters he’s building in the Oklahoma City area and with potential other future theaters, Warren sees more development opportunities, and not just for restaurants.

“There’s people that like to be around Warren Theatres,” he says. “We’re kind of our own anchor tenant, if you think about it.”

Warren calls the theaters a draw.

“That gives us a lot of power and a lot of leverage to go out and develop deals,” he says. “Warren Theatres has been as much as a real estate deal as a theater deal.”

Warren says there’s much more to come.

“I think you’re going to see us do some interesting real estate developments in the future, too.”

Bill Warren, who offers a sneak peek of his new Warren 21 theater, says he can't wait to see what people think when it opens Friday. (Carrie Rengers/The Wichita Eagle/April 26, 2016)

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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