Princess Theater to reopen after renovations

OXFORD — The reopening of the Princess Theater next year will bring an expanded and improved movie-going experience to the city, the new owners say.

Lindsey Myers, speaking for the four-person ownership group, said the new owners plan on offering foreign films and old movies to the theater’s marquee in addition to the usual blockbuster films. The four theaters will also offer more comfortable seating for patrons as they enjoy their movie experience.

They are making a major investment in the facility for digital projection, but will keep the old 35-mm projection system in order to show movies that have not been converted to digital, Myers said.

“The point of the whole thing is to bring the movie experience up to 2013 standards, not 1980s standards,” Myers said.

It’s both a business decision and a nostalgic decision for the four partners to reopen the Princess Theater, which Myers said will happen in six to nine months.

The partnership involves Myers, Matt and Chris Rodbro and Ted Woods.

They believe it is a solid business investment, but they have fond memories tied to the theater and want to preserve that in the community, as well.

“It’s the first place I ever took a date when I was in middle school,” Myers said, echoing the memories of many who spoke at an Oxford City Council meeting when the theater first closed last year.

The theater, located at 10 N. Beech St., was originally offered to the city of Oxford but then in discussions, the owner wanted to be paid for the property. Many who spoke that night recalled family outings and memories of movies seen there and spoke of the need to have a movie theater in town for young people so they do not need to drive out of town.

City Manager Doug Elliott said the reopening of the Princess Theater should be a boost to the community.

“We’re happy there is finally a new owner and the plan is to reopen the theater,” Elliott said, adding the effort was encouraged by many people. “I hope folks welcome the Princess Theater and will be pleased with recent developments.”

Myers said the investment is a good one because it fills a gap in the life of the community since the closing and public comments about saving the theater show it is needed.

“The theater was not closed because it was not profitable. They just wanted to get out of the movie theater business,” Myers said.

He said they have come up with a better business model trying to expand the offerings to appeal to more people — catering to both the university students and the town’s residents. They will maintain the four-theater format in the building and thus be able to mix in more movies to appeal to more people, adding foreign films and old films.

“It’s just not blockbusters all the time. There’s got to be a balance and we’ve got to find a balance,” Myers said.

Many older films are not available in digital format, so they will keep the old 35-mm equipment in order to offer those choices. Fewer current movies are even available in that format, so the digital upgrade is mandatory to show new releases.

He said the investors had an architect and an engineer in prior to the purchase and they looked at what would be needed to upgrade seating in the theaters.

“To update the seating, we may lose 20 to 25 percent of the seating, but that should not be a problem. You rarely see all the theaters full all the time,” he said. “The theater experience today is much different than it was in the 80s. I go to the theater today, I want to be comfortable.”

The purchase is complete and they are moving ahead on plans for the work to be done but the timetable is still unclear. The project will have to go before the city, as well.

The Princess Theater closed Nov. 25, 2012, after the owner, Alliance Entertainment, sold 25 of 26 theaters to Regal Cinemas, but Regal did not want this theater because it was considerably smaller than the others in the sale.

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