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Celebration Cinema ready to build downtown

60,000 sq.ft. proposal would mean more than just movies for the downtown area.

/City of Grand Rapids

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Borrowing state of the art ideas from cities like Denver, Los Angeles and Chicago, Celebration Cinema said it is planning to construct a premium experience theatre in downtown Grand Rapids.

Speaking to the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Board, President of Celebration Cinemas J.D. Loeks said they realize that even just in terms of parking alone this will be a complex project, but that they're done with excuses as to why they've not brought the cinema experience to downtown Grand Rapids.

"In 1944, my grandfather started our family business by acquiring the midtown theatre at the corner of Pearl and Ionia here in Grand Rapids. We're trying to accomplish a full circle and come back to our roots," said Loeks.

Loeks explained that original theatre was multi use. It was not just for movies, but it was used as a civic center, by comedians, for vaudeville shows and magicians. They hope this project will find itself serving the community in a similar way.

"We'd be in the heart of a downtown business community," said Loeks. "We do most of our business weekends and evenings. So Monday thru Friday 9 to 5, we'd have these state of the art presentation facilities that go primarily unused."

Whether it's conventions, businesses or education, Loeks said the 60,000 sq.ft. space would be open for others to use beyond the traditional purpose of showing the latest Hollywood blockbusters. President of The Convention and Visitors Bureau, Doug Small spoke during the meeting to echo his excitement for the project.

"What they're talking about with the advanced audio visual technology, as we're trying to attract more [convention business] health sciences that's hugely important to those groups," Small said. "This would give us another option, versus a group saying we'll have to go elsewhere. This is very exciting for us."

Details right now on exactly what the development will contain are light. This morning's announcement was primarily for the the DDA to approve the option on the land now known as Parking Area 5 to Jackson Entertainment LLC. The board passed the motion unanimously. J.D. Loeks was hesitant to even talk about the number of screens (although the proposal currently is for nine), as he said the plans are very likely to change. Retail space is expected on the ground floor, with the Celebration Cinema team hoping restaurants would fill space for the traditional "dinner and a movie" experience. They also know parking will be a challenge and hope that this announcement will spur development interest in available lots in the area.

When the theatre will be open for business is also unknown. Loeks was asked by members of the DDA Board when they'd be ready to break ground, but Loeks proposed that question was likely better for city officials. He said best case scenario is they begin within the next year. But for them, he said, it's about building the right project versus getting it done quickly.  

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I hope we could eventually see some sort of inexpensive Dash-like bus run that operates late and often and does a loop that includes the hotels, convention center, arena, theater, market and some outer-rim surface parking. Kinda like the free rail service in downtown nice would that be for everyone!

If I'm not mistaken Jim, that bus service in downtown Portland is free within a certain radius of the core of downtown. THAT would be awesome!