Carrie Rengers

Warren 21 ahead of schedule for April 29 opening

Les Padzensky, vice president of food and beverage for Warren Theatres, says the seating in the eight auditoriums of the new Warren 21 will be reduced from 1,000 chairs to about 500 reclining ones. (Nov. 5, 2015)
Les Padzensky, vice president of food and beverage for Warren Theatres, says the seating in the eight auditoriums of the new Warren 21 will be reduced from 1,000 chairs to about 500 reclining ones. (Nov. 5, 2015) File photo

Bill Warren’s new Warren 21 is less than a month from opening, and construction has already exceeded his $3 million budget. Not that that’s an issue.

“That’s my nasty habit,” Warren says. “I think only once have I ever built a theater to budget.”

He says he always finds things he can improve upon.

“I told my banker that we’re going to get this right if it takes every last dollar they have in the bank,” Warren says of Bruce Long at Intrust Bank. “He just laughed.”

Warren is converting the east eight auditoriums of his east-side Warren Theatre in the Plazzio development at 13th and Greenwich to a 21-and-older theater with custom-made lounge chairs with motorized recliners, extra padding and heated seats along with food and a full bar at an expanded concessions area.

Unlike the average construction project, Warren says, he’ll be ready before his April 29 grand opening to the public, but he says he’s going to wait because he wants to make sure everything is “just right.”

Plus, he keeps coming up with new ideas.

For instance, he already had some $100,000 brass and etched-glass entry doors being custom made in New York when inspiration struck.

“Then I thought what if we line the first 3 feet before you come to the door and then 3 feet after you come to the door, line all the walls with gold tile?” he says. “So that’s, like, thousands of dollars more.”

It’s worth it, though, he says.

“It’s like you’re going to enter King Tut’s tomb,” Warren says. “It’s like you’re going to enter this special place.”

He’s replaced concessions-area tiles, calling them “too boring.”

The result is “a lot of glitz, a lot of bling.”

Staff members came up with the idea for new uniforms for the theater, “kind of a Liberace leprechaun look,” Warren says.

“We really do sweat the details,” he says. “It’s not one thing. It’s the combination of things that make the difference.”

The things that are likely to make the biggest difference for moviegoers are the chairs, which cost about $1,000 each.

The chairs have footrests, recline and feature differing levels of heat on the backs and bottoms of the seats. They’re American-made, Warren points out.

“So these cost more, but they’re better built, better designed.”

They have quiet motors behind crushed velour, and Warren says he had staff members help him test the seats so they weren’t too soft or too firm.

“We did a lot of butt testing.”

Warren isn’t concerned his other theaters will suffer due to the Warren 21. That’s because evening tickets will be $16. Daytime shows will be $12.

“Some people would say, ‘Oh, I’d never pay for that.’ That’s fine.”

Warren says he has regular and discount pricing at other theaters, including the other dozen at the east-side Warren.

“That’s the idea, kind of something for everybody.”

He says he’s confident the Warren 21 will be worth higher ticket prices for some people.

“Everyone kind of has … what I call their crack cocaine where … they’ll spend some extra money,” Warren says. “That’s what this is all about.”

Carrie Rengers: 316-268-6340, @CarrieRengers

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