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Theater requires city review

Six-plex cinema at Wildhorse enters planning process

Development plans for Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas call for six new movie screens, with the two largest theaters offering stadium seating.

The plans have entered the city planning process.

Wildhorse Marketplace developer Whitney Ward said in August that he had a letter of intent from a movie theater operator to occupy a building in his commercial center under construction on Mount Werner Road. The intended tenant remains Rocky Mountain Resort Cinemas, which operates movie theaters in ski towns such as Sun Valley, Idaho; Park City, Utah; Whistler, B.C.; and Aspen.

The Ski Time 2 Cinemas in Sun Valley was advertising $5 matinees on its Web page this week with adult evening ticket prices of $7.50. Ticket prices at the Isis Theater in Aspen were slightly higher.

Documents submitted to the city by project planner Peter Patten of Patten Associates Inc., show that all six auditoriums within the theater complex would have different seating capacities. They are 49, 61, 65, 141, 166 and 185 seats.

“The site for the proposed theater within the Wildhorse Marketplace development is roughly located in the center of the development,” Patten wrote in a letter to planning staff. He said the theater would be several thousand square feet larger than the building originally approved for the site, but he added the theater would be designed to fit within the pedestrian scale of Wildhorse.

Wildhorse Marketplace already has city approvals in place, and Gart Sports was scheduled to open there this week. However, assistant director of planning services Tim McHarg said the city code creates a separate category for movie theaters, and Ward’s plans require a new development permit.

When the City Council adopted the current development code about four years ago, it deliberately decided to leave movie theaters as a conditional use rather than include them as rights by use within certain commercial zone districts, McHarg said. That decision reflects an awareness of the building mass and blank walls that are sometimes typical of theaters, he said.

At 13,572 square feet, Wildhorse Stadium Cinema would cross the threshold for the city’s new “big-box ordinance,” but McHarg said because theaters are in a special category, they aren’t subject to the big-box standards.

One similarity to the big-box regulations, McHarg said, is that a development permit for Wildhorse Stadium Cinema would require that the developers make the case that the project offers public benefits.

The cinema is scheduled for a preliminary technical review with city department leaders next week. No public hearing dates have been set.

— To reach Tom Ross call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com


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