Arts Desk

A Movie Theater Under Dupont Circle?

From Housing Complex:

It's been more than a year since the public last heard from the folks who want to build out the Dupont Underground, the 100,000-square-foot space underneath Connecticut Avenue that was once used as a trolley tunnel. With so much silence from such an ambitious project, it's easy to worry that the thing might have lost steam altogether.

Not so! The team is still working away behind the scenes to turn their exclusive rights agreement with the city into a bona fide lease, which will make it much easier to raise the $10 million needed to build out the space into galleries, restaurants, and other creative-type locales.

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Right now, a major national theater chain and a high-end name-brand retailer are looking at serving as the anchor tenant

If this plan to bring more consumer spending to Dupont Circle pans out as Lydia DePillis reports, it would bring another multiplex to Washington, though not the part of town the District government is angling for.

And if a theater chain in fact builds a new venue in the Dupont Underground, it will likely come at a hefty construction price. The National Association of Theater Owners told Washington City Paper in September that it costs an average of $1 million per screen to open a multiplex on the surface. Building one for the mole people might be a bit pricier.

On top of that, the District's last subterranean multiplex, the nine-screen Phoenix Theatres venue at Union Station, closed in 2009 after losing much of its business to the nearby and more convenient Regal Movie Theaters in Chinatown. A multiplex in Dupont circle—above or below the ground—would be about one and a half miles from both the AMC Loews theater in Georgetown and Regal in Chinatown.

From a demographic perspective, building a movie theater in Dupont Underground would strengthen the fact that right now, all of D.C.'s movie theaters are located in Northwest. At a District Council hearing Wednesday on the Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, Josh Levin, who runs the West End Cinema, lamented this statistic.

"I believe that it is ridiculous that three of the city’s four quadrants have no movie theaters," Levin said, even though his theater is in one of Washington's tonier neighborhoods.

Dupont Underground's planners are holding an open meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Warehouse Theater where they will present new renderings of the space, DePillis reported.

Photo by Lydia DePillis

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