Downtown Arlington Heights may be losing out on the current holiday movie season, but now expects to be back in business by summer with a new theater that will include a restaurant and bar.
The village of Arlington Heights and property managers LNR Partners Friday announced a deal for Houston-based Star Cinema Grill to locate in the former Arlington Theaters building, which closed in July.
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The new operator will significantly rearrange the space, and will upgrade the seating and projection equipment. The number of seats will fall from 1,600 to 700, but the number of screens will remain at six, said Charles Witherington-Perkins, Arlington Heights' director of planning and community development.
Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder said the deal came as welcome news not only for herself but for the surrounding business owners whom she often sees.
Restoring a movie theater to the downtown was among her highest priorities before she steps down in the spring, Mulder said.
In fact, Arlington Heights will be the nearly decade-old Star Cinema Grill's first venture outside of suburban Houston. The restaurant-theater model is more common in Texas than in Illinois, but the company has had an eye out for opportunities in the Midwest for some time, Vice President of Operations Gus Vazquez said.
"Arlington Heights became available," he said. "There was a void there that needed to be filled and we threw our hat in the ring."
There was never a question that downtown Arlington Heights would get a new movie theater, only how long it would take, Witherington-Perkins said. With surrounding restaurants and businesses reporting a decline in sales since the closure of Arlington Theaters, village officials made the finding of a successor all important.
One of the key factors in the Arlington Theaters' closing was the high cost of converting its projection system from film to digital. Hollywood movies are expected to soon end their distribution on film and be solely digital.
That changeover is part of the investment in the property Star Cinema Grill has committed to, Witherington-Perkins said.
The new business' special-use permit and liquor license are expected to be approved later this winter. The physical conversion of the building likely will take until sometime in the late spring or early summer, he said.
While in the Houston area Star Cinema Grill has house rules banning children under 3 and requiring all under the age of 18 to be accompanied by an adult, that won't necessarily apply in Arlington Heights, Vazquez said.
Definitely not, was how Mulder characterized it.
She said the downtown movie theater has always been a place kids have been able to gather with friends even slightly older or younger than themselves.
"We're all kids at some point in our lives and hopefully we as adults don't forget about how important those friendships are," Mulder said.
Though the current house rules work well in the Houston area, Vazquez said the company is happy to discuss with the village whatever will work best in Arlington Heights.
"We pride ourselves on becoming part of the communities we're in," he said.