Cinema Reps Make Their Pitch To Burien City Council 5by 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.”

Cinema Reps Make Their Pitch To Burien City Council 6Mayor 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 galaxytheatres.com.

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.”