Old Town Warren Unveils New Look Inside

By: Cayle Thompson Email
By: Cayle Thompson Email

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The Old Town Warren Theatre is the anchor of the Old Town Square. Talk to neighboring businesses and restaurants, and many will tell you their success can hinge on how the theatre performs.

It's why the city stepped in last year, loaning the theatre $6-million to renovate. At the time, owner Bill Warren said the theatre had steadily lost money since it's grand opening five years earlier.

Today, the theatre can now boast it is the only one in the country to offer fully digital movies along with its in-seat dining service.

"If you're looking for the wow factor, it has arrived," said Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer at Wednesday's ribbon cutting.

The theatre renovated the old Oscar Sports Bar & Grill, turning it into a Showcase Auditorium. It will be used for movies, sporting events, and other entertainment venues.

For adults wanting a more intimate setting, the new Director's Suite is a small auditorium offering 22 plush leather recliners. The suite is reserved for visitors 21 and older. Both the Director's Suite and Showcase Auditorium offer full menu service, as do the other screens.

"This is a win-win for private and public partnerships," said theatre owner Bill Warren. "We love this city and we care about where this city is going."

The city's multi-million dollar loan sparked controversy last year. Some taxpayers didn't think the city should bail out a successful businessman.

Wednesday, Kisha Blair said the renovations didn't give her any additional reason to attend the theatre.

"With three kids, it's cheaper to go to the drive-in," she said. She also thought the loan could have been better spent, "maybe on the Boathouse."

But Walt Anderson, who co-owns Andy's Wood By Design in Old Town, is thankful the theatre received help. More crowds at the theatre mean more business for all of Old Town.

"When there are good movies out... we get a lot of business," Anderson said. "It helps everybody."

The theatre's renovations bring the total number of seats to 830, a 23% increase from last year.

Warren and city officials predict the remodel will also attract around 250,000 visitors to the Old Town Square annually - a 25% increase from previous years.

Warren says he expects the theatre to pay $400,000 in yearly property and sales taxes, in addition to pumping $3-million dollars into the overall local economy.

Officials say the city's loan guarantees the theatre will remain open for at least ten more years. Warren and his business partners have personally guaranteed the loan will be fully repaid over time.

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