Plans for a two-screen expansion at O’Fallon 15 Cinema have changed, but that news hadn’t been conveyed yet to the O’Fallon City Council. The council went ahead on June 4 and advanced the proposal that now is being revised into two phases by Marcus Theatres Corporation.
A Marcus Theatre executive said an expansion is still in the works, but won’t be announced for a few weeks. An architect was supposed to inform the city before the meeting earlier this month, but that did not happen.
Community Development Director Ted Shekell said they talked with Marcus executives Tuesday morning, June 5, and basically, the plan will now be for two phases, not both screens at once.
“Essentially, it’s the same deal, but it will be one screen first, and the other one at a later date,” Shekell said. “It’s supposed to be the nicest IMAX in the region. It’s state-of-the-art sound and technology. We’re glad to have it here. We’re excited."
On April 19, Marcus Theatres submitted a special use permit zoning request for a two-screen addition to the O'Fallon Planning Commission, which went through the steps that brought it before the council June 4.
Plans for two “Ultrascreens,” which is the company version of an IMAX screen, were approved.
Mark Gramz, executive vice president with Marcus, the Milwaukee-based corporation that purchased the local Wehrenberg movie chain in 2016, said that the company would submit a new proposal.
“We’ve had a change in plans internally, and we’ll be making an announcement on what we’ll be doing as far as an addition is concerned with O’Fallon at a later date,” Gramz said via phone.
“We’ve asked our architect to please pull off the city approval process for the two-screen addition,” he said. “We’ll still be making an addition, but it won’t be the two-screen addition that was previously announced and previously presented to the O’Fallon Planning Commission.
“I am not at liberty to say what we will be doing at this time,” he said. “There have been a lot of changes in the industry.”
TK Architects was working with the city, and Chad Philhour had presented the proposal to the O’Fallon Planning Commission. They initially hoped to start construction in mid-June with opening around Thanksgiving.
Marcus Theatres has remodeled the O’Fallon 15 Cinema, which opened at 1320 Central Park Drive in 1996. They installed comfortable recliner seats, which reduced the number of seats by 1,518. Because of the change in seating, the new proposal would not alter the parking space requirements.
The 13,583-square foot addition was to take place on the east, and would have resulted in a loss of 55 parking spaces, but still 41 more than the code required. The cinema grounds, on 8.65 acres, has 637 parking spaces.
The zoning request did not affect the regional commercial zoning already in place. Additional signage was requested in the plan.
Shekell told the council at its meeting that the proposed screens were “the top of the line in the St. Louis area. It’ll be quite a nice addition to the theater.” He was unaware of the change until June 5.
The original plan increased theater speakers from 20 to 38, has heated seats, laser projection and three-story tall screen, larger than Ronnie’s IMAX in St. Louis.
The council unanimously OK’d it, which would normally mean approval at the June 18 meeting.
Marcus Theatres, founded in 1935, took over all 14 Wehrenberg locations, nine in the St. Louis area, after the sale was announced in November 2016. That’s 197 screens, including the 15 at O’Fallon and 10 at St. Clair Cine, which opened in 1986 at 50 Ludwig Drive in Fairview Heights.
Marcus is the fifth-largest theater chain in the country, with 68 locations in seven states. They added Missouri in the Wehrenberg deal, after operating 885 movie screens in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and Ohio. They also manage 18 hotels in nine states.
During the past three years, they have spent more than $115 million on recliner seats, cocktail lounges, and better food and beverage options in their theaters.
Wehrenberg, which began in 1906, was the oldest family-owned and operated theater chain in the country when it sold to Marcus in 2016.
In other action, the council approved Tommy’s Car Wash at 1701 U.S. 50 on second reading.
The council advanced a rezoning request from Scott Urban for three of the four lots of a proposed subdivision at 1996 Quarry Road to be rezoned to rural residential district from agricultural. The property, formerly owned by the city, has a residence with a driveway and a large lake.
Urban plans to retain the largest of the four lots, which is 17.875-acres and remain agricultural. The other three, sized at 1.206, 1.212 and 2.171 acres, would be sold for construction of new single-family residences. Rezoning is necessary because the minimum lot size in agricultural districts is 3 acres.
During the 18-minute meeting, the council also approved on first reading plans for a development known as First Street Exchange, at 131 E. First St., which was the old EMS building owned by the city.
Applicants Brad McMillin and Kevin Harris requested a planned use for the property, currently zoned B-1 community business district, for construction of a new 3,250-square foot building with two tenant spaces. One tenant would have a café serving coffee, lunch and desserts, with the other tenant likely office or retail use, but that had not been filled yet.