As more people move to Sparks, one of the major goals of the city council has been to create a vibrant downtown area matching its motto “It’s Happening Here”. At the city’s February 1 Arts and Culture Advisory Committee meeting, community members addressed bringing in public art and how to integrate that into Victorian Square.
One attendee of that meeting was J Witt, president of Silverwing Development. Currently constructing The Bridges luxury apartments and Fountainhouse residential properties, Silverwing Development is very receptive to ideas on how to work with the community to reenergize Victorian Square in these early stages of development.
With that, Silverwing Development has been very interested in the state of the Victorian Square movie theater as they continue with its own progress. It’s been sitting empty since last autumn after Cinemark chose not to renew its lease with Syufy Enterprises.
“It’s the best thing in the world that the lease was terminated because now a state-of-the-art theater can go in there,” says Witt about the Victorian Square theater tenant Cinemark and owner Syufy.
“We didn’t own the theater but we have been very involved with the city and I knew the Syufy family. They sold a lot of the theater operating licenses to Cinemark but continued owning the theaters (throughout Northern Nevada and other regions). I talked to the president of Syufy to let them know what we were doing in Victorian Square and try to see what they were doing so we could align our goals,” says Witt.
“We talked to Syufy because we had plans for a development in front of the theater, but the holdup was with Cinemark,” he adds. “We wanted retail there and were waiting for Cinemark to commit. But Cinemark wasn’t interested and have never even come out here to Sparks. Plus, they’re losing out to Galaxy Theatres. We reached back out to Syufy and emphasized our plans and that good things are happening here.”
However, Syufy had some differences with the City of Reno in the theaters they own about signage and land usage at their locations in Reno. Unfortunately, they lumped Sparks into their problems.
“They said, ‘You know, the City of Reno has been hard to deal with’ and then I realized that they didn’t understand the differences between Reno and Sparks,” says Witt. He explained to Syufy that their theater location in Sparks is now more concentric due to the changing economic environment. Witt then invited the president of Syufy to Sparks and walked him through Victorian Square.
“They wrote off Northern Nevada, but when I encouraged them to come up they saw a totally different attitude from the City of Sparks,” says Witt. The city then requested a precise plan for the development of the theater and 2-4 operators were interested in taking it over. However, Galaxy Theatres have done so well in the movie marketplace (especially with their Legends at Sparks Marina movie theater), that they were a shoo-in to redevelop the location in Victorian Square.
“It will cost $7.6 million to renovate the interior of the Victorian Square theater,” says Witt. “They are putting in new floors that slope differently to accommodate IMAX seating, bringing in all new audio and visual technology. In one location, Frank Rimkus (CEO of Galaxy Theatres) brought in junior high kids and did a live connection with the International Space Station so that they could talk to the astronauts up in space,” he adds.
When Galaxy opened its Legends at Sparks Marina IMAX theater, it soon became the number one producer in box office sales. “Someone in Germany was probably going, ‘where is this Sparks, Nevada?’” Witt says of how that theater possibly put Sparks on the map with movie theater aficionados. “They were selling out by Wednesday for that weekends’ shows,” he adds.
With tentative plans to reopen the theater by Memorial Day, guests will be greeted with a whole new look and feel. Theater operators plan to tie into events like Hot August Nights by possibly showing classic car movies, Christmas flicks during the holidays, and work with the Nugget Casino Resort on simulcasting events. The theater can also rent out rooms to parties that want their own private group screenings. “They can do a lot of cool things; the theater will not be recognizable inside,” says Witt.
In response to the probability for its success, Witt says, “the difference here is that you have an experienced operator and the City has earmarked funds that will help elevate the user experience in trying to create a sustainable area for decades to come. We’re doing our thing, Galaxy is doing their thing, the Nugget is involved, and we’re all in line with each other. The City of Sparks also deserves a lot of credit for keeping this going.”
The City of Sparks will have the opportunity to affirm the deal at its February 27 city council meeting.
“The more synergy we bring to the area will make more people want to live here,” says Witt.