Bill Warren is opening a new Warren 21 theater in Wichita next year, but the number doesn’t stand for how many auditoriums the venue will have.
“It’s for people 21 and above,” Warren says.
“The whole idea is it’s something just for the adults, and it’s all reserved seats, and it’s very luxurious and very high end.”
The $3 million project will convert the east eight auditoriums of the east-side Warren Theatre in the Plazzio development at 13th and Greenwich.
There will be custom-made lounge chairs with trays and drink holders, motorized recliners, extra padding and heated seats on the backs and bottoms of the chairs.
“We’re the only company that does it,” says Les Padzensky, Warren’s vice president of food and beverage.
There will be food and a full bar at an expanded concession area.
There will be no in-theater service like Warren offers in his east-side balcony and at his Old Town theater, and the food items will be more limited.
“We want the service to be quick,” Padzensky says.
However, he’ll have new things, such as a panini machine.
Warren 21 will focus on adult-oriented movies, including independent films.
“Obviously, we’re going to cater to the tastes of people who are 21 and above,” Warren says.
On Jan. 4, he’ll close that wing to begin remodeling.
Each of the stadium-seating auditoriums will need to be reconfigured for the recliners.
“And to make sure that the sight lines are absolutely perfect when you’re sitting in these chairs,” Padzensky says.
There will be extra-big walkways for moviegoers to navigate past the seats.
“You’re not going to have to get up (from) your chair,” Padzensky says.
The 1,000 seats in the eight auditoriums will be reduced to about 500 seats to make room for the lounge chairs, each of which will have individual armrests on both sides of the chair so every person has his own.
There will still be 2,000 seats in the rest of the east-side Warren Theatre.
Warren opened the theater with 12 auditoriums in 2002 and added another eight on the east end a couple of years later.
Work will begin on Warren 21 on Jan. 4.
“We’re going to need all the auditoriums for the Christmas holiday,” Warren says.
There will be a wall with $100,000 brass and etched glass doors to separate the Warren 21 from the main theater area.
The work is estimated to take about 100 days.
Warren also is temporarily closing six auditoriums in his Moore, Okla., theater to convert the seating to the new lounge chairs, though they’ll be for general audience use instead of an adult-only area.
Warren already has the new seats in his Broken Arrow, Okla., theater.
“They’ve been very, very popular.”
Warren is financing the upgrades with a combination of cash and loans.
“Obviously, we think it’ll generate more revenue, so we think it’ll pay off,” he says. “But it’s definitely an investment.”
Warren says it’s similar to when he built his IMAX theater in west Wichita.
“We’re constantly reinventing the wheel,” he says. “You evolve.”
A lot of businesses don’t, Warren says.
“I understand why,” he says. “They don’t want to go back into debt again.”
Warren recommends against that thinking.
“The biggest mistake you can make in business is to stand still.”
That’s why he’s already thinking about something new for the west side, too.
“We just haven’t figured out what and where,” Warren says.
“The west side will not be left out.”