Cinema Reps Make Their Pitch To Burien City Council

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by Ralph Nichols

A 10-screen cinema complex at Burien Town Square would be more than just a cluster of movie auditoriums, Burien City Council members were told Monday night (Nov. 2).

It would become a “social icon” for the community,” predicted Frank Rimkus, president and CEO of Los Angeles-based Galaxy Theatres, who hopes his firm can team with Urban Partners, the private developer of the Town Square project, to bring a multi-screen cinema complex to Burien.

And it could draw an estimated 400,000 movie-goers to downtown Burien annually, Rimkus said. “That would do a lot for retail and restaurants.”

He based this on a general demographic overview, which includes an area-wide population of 130,000 who would be served by the cinema complex – and who would rather stay near home than drive to the movies in neighboring cities.

As a social icon, a cinema complex would relive the prominence held by movie theatres in cities until the mid-20th century,” Rimkus continued. It would include multiple-sized auditoriums comfortable seating, quality food service, on-site parking – and state-of-the-art electronics and digital projection and sound systems.

Councilmembers generally seemed receptive – with some reservations – to the concept during an initial presentation of a plan to build a cinema complex with some retail space during the next phase of Town Square development.

“This community from day one (as a city) wanted an entertainment center,” said  retiring City Councilwoman Sally Nelson, who has served on the council since incorporation in 1993. “We have an entertainment gap in the city, in the area.”

Urban Partners current agreement with the city calls for construction of a second condominium-retail complex north of the existing building, which opened in June. But since then, sales of only five condos have closed and no retail space has been leased.

“This has been quite a year,” Paul Keller, managing principal of Urban Partners, told the council before introducing Rimkus. “We obviously have been greatly impacted by the economy and downturns in capital markets.”

Later, Keller added, “Urban Partners is very, very excited about this opportunity … Don’t give up on downtown redevelopment,” he implored the lawmakers. “Don’t give up on Burien real estate. Don’t give up on Urban Partners.”

Mayor Joan McGilton replied, “We don’t give up. We don’t see a lot of the (economic) downturn in Burien with the new businesses that are coming in.”

Keller said development, if approved by the council, would take an estimated 24 to 30 months to complete.

“We believe this is a legitimate opportunity to put a first-class theater here and make it an economic success,” Rimkus said.

Galaxy Theatres is rated in the top 10 percent in the industry by the National Theatre Association. The company, which has 177 screens in the western United States, already has a presence in the Puget Sound region with cinema complexes in Federal Way, Tacoma, Lacey and Gig Harbor. Its website is

A Galaxy Theatres development at Town Square would be similar to the cinema complex in the Uptown project in Gig Harbor, he said.

Councilwoman Kathy Keene said, “This is an amazing project. I know that residents are looking for something like this.” She said it “would be a great addition to the city.”

Could one of the auditoriums be available for use by Burien Little Theatre, local dance studios and other performing arts groups that need a space with fewer than 300 seats? asked Councilwoman Rose Clark.

Keller said Urban Partners was already aware of this interest by the council and is exploring its feasibility.

Councilman Gordon Shaw said he is “skeptical” because Urban Partners needs “to consider the impact on a change of  plans (for Town Square) as well as the impact of moving ahead … there needs to be balance.”

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16 Responses to “Cinema Reps Make Their Pitch To Burien City Council”
  1. Dr T says:

    At first blush this possibility seems as it it could breathe some life into our ailing city center, We definitely need some creative solutions…this may be a good one.

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  2. Mariesa says:

    I agree. A theatre would draw people not just from Burien but from White center, West Seattle and all over.

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  3. Bonnie says:

    I would love a theater in Burien! Especially if Burien Little Theater were allowed a venue. This could really make the Burien downtown area a very vibrant place to be and would most certainly boost retail and restaurants in the area.

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  4. brooke says:

    I think this would be a good idea for Burien, as long as they build in quality features for the community. How about including an outdoor movie theater with a nice green area for the summertime movies? How about integrating a small theaterical performance hall for our local production halls?

    I think if they just build a movie theater, it will be nice…but a multi-use movie/theaterical theather would be great!

    One concern is that the movie theater will look like a big parking lot. Any chance of hiding all of the parked cars underground?

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  5. Jennifer says:

    I think it would be great for Burien to have a theater. I lived in Balard for several years before returning to Burien and it was great having a theater in the neighborhood as opposed to treking downtown!

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  6. Andrew says:

    They’ve just built a big one on top of “Westfield Mall” or whatever they call it, and Lewis and Clark went under not too long ago. I worry about the theater closing and Burien being stuck with another giant abandoned building bigger than the old Lamonts was.

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  7. Eric Dickman says:

    Burien Little Theatre currently presents 19 weekends of live theater programming a year. BLT knows from questionnaire responses that a large portion of its audience go to local restaurants before or after the shows. BLT has also joined with a local restaurant to provide an evening of dinner and a show at a package rate.

    BLT also knows that a majority of its online ticket sales come from outside the Burien area. The bulk of those patrons are from Seattle, Bellevue/Kirkland and Kent/Renton, but patrons also come from up and down the I-5 corridor between Vancouver, B.C. and Portland. With a more modern midsized dedicated performing arts space Burien could well be a place airline passengers could spend a pleasant evening before the next day’s flight.

    Studies throughout King County and elsewhere show that arts patrons spend more money than sports patrons when they go to an event. Arts patrons rarely have dinner at the event (no hot dogs or pizza at a play). Instead, they eat at a restaurant close to the arts event so they are not caught in traffic and miss the beginning of the event.

    While BLT has been in what is now the community center for 29 seasons, BLT would be happy to be included in discussions about a theater space in or around Town Square.

    Eric Dickman
    Artistic Director for Burien Little Theatre

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    • Catherine Rogers says:

      I agree. Burien LIttle Theatre needs a new space. Locating it in the New Town Center would boost attendance and help local businesses. If it is allowed to grow it might even become a mecca for out of towners getting off planes at Sea Tac and heading to Burien. A movie theatre would probably be okay but it must compete with South Centers/Westfield’s.

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  8. Rob says:

    LOL “Councilman Gordon Shaw said he is “skeptical” because Urban Partners needs “to consider the impact on a change of plans (for Town Square) as well as the impact of moving ahead … there needs to be balance.””
    Just when I am deciding to like Mr. Shaw- He puts a foot in his mouth. What balance is there now with no commercial lessers in the town square? Personally I would give up on Urban Partners, rent out the condos, and do everything i could to attract new business to the town square building.

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    • Pauline says:

      That would be a little hard to do considering the City does not own the condos — how can it rent out something it doesn’t own?

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  9. Andrew says:

    My understanding is that Southcenter killed 152nd in the 60’s… and Southcenter is still there. This plan to turn Burien into a commercially relevant district seemed like a long shot to begin with, and early indicators are that it’s failing. The condos are not attracting the affluent urbanites they had hoped for. And now the city is entertaining some cineplex salesmen that want to dig the hole even deeper?

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  10. Tcb says:

    If it’s modeled after the Ballard neighbourhood theater it’s a no brainer. Three or four screens I think. 10 seems like a lot. I like the idea of getting Burien Little Theatre to use some of the Theater space, I remember that there was a Theater that had a “stage” around here somewhere, I think in SeaTac. I don’t know if they’d do it though… I hope that something happens to the space to revitalize interest in the development but will reserve judgement until more concrete plans and arrangements are made.

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  11. Pauline says:

    It’s all about what will be profitable for the theater chain. I don’t think stages are very profitable, what with the months of set building and rehearsals culminating in what, 12 performances? It would be very nice to have a permanent home for live theater; maybe they can work something out, but it doesn’t sound profitable for the theater chain.

    As for the rest of Town Square, a friend of mine is a developer in Texas, and he was explaining to me the complicated world of construction financing. It’s not like Urban Partners can just put out a big banner saying “Prices Slashed.” The bank or banks that provided the construction loans have a lot of say in the pricing, and if the bank’s or banks’ assets were lost or moved in the financial meltdown, it could be quite a while before Urban Partners can cut prices depending upon who is holding the paper now.

    It’s just unfortunate that the condos were completed after the meltdown. I would think it particularly sucks for Urban Partners, who has invested a lot, by all appearances, and is not getting any return yet. I hope they are able to work through any obstacles and reduce the prices sooner rather than later.

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  12. Andrew says:

    I think the Artistic Director of the Burien Little Theater argues that we should subsidize a performing arts theater closer to the town square because it would attract people to nearby restaurants. Given the small scale of Burien and the theater I find it hard to believe the added restaurant business would offset the expenses, but I really have no idea what I’m talking about. A good model for comparison might be the Village Theatre in Issaquah.

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  13. Marie says:

    Has anyone seen the galaxy theatre in federal way? It’s a dump where they show 2nd run movies for three or four dollars. I think a ten screen theatre is absurd for Burien. Three or four as suggested by above poster would be optimal but god help us if it turns into a dirty dump like the one down south.

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    • cheapNtacky says:

      heh, actually, the Galaxy 8 has $2 movies and if you go on a Tuesday it’s only $1. Plus, if you take a luxury Metro bus just down the block you can further your entertainment dollars by experiencing the making of a real live action/drama flick!

      I, for one, love the $2 movie theater in Federal Way. I’d never go to a $9 per person cinema unless it were some artsy fartsy Sundance or SIFF flick.

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