City seeking movie theater

Argen Duncan

A movie theater in Portales again — that’s a new priority for Roosevelt County Community Development Corporation.

Portales has been without a movie theater since Tower Twin Theatre closed in June 2009 because the air conditioning system stopped working and the replacement cost was about half of the building’s value.

The City of Portales and Roosevelt County have both adopted resolutions supporting efforts to replace the theater.

“It’s just a quality-of-life issue for the residents in Portales and the students in Portales and the military families that are moving here,” said RCCDC board member David Hunton.

Also, companies considering moving to the area look at entertainment and recreation available for employees, he said.

RCCDC Executive Director Greg Fisher said getting a theater is important because Portales is a small community with a vibrant, growing downtown. With the right management, he said, a theater would be successful.

Hunton said corporation board President Randy Knudson wanted to focus on getting the theater and see if there was anything they could do.

“It’s still in the very initial stages,” Hunton said of the efforts.

He and the board welcomed any ideas citizens might have.

Development corporation representatives have contacted the offices of Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, both D-N.M., and the senators’ staff members are looking into grant opportunities, Hunton said.

Since the Tower Twin closed, Hunton continued, people have talked to Allen Theatres about selling the building or reopening, but without success.

“And we’re not through visiting with them,” he said, adding that RCCDC members would like to see what options the company would entertain.

Fisher said the price Allen Theatres was asking for the building wasn’t agreeable to potential buyers.

Digital movie equipment costs upwards of $250,000 per screen, he said, and building and operating a new digital theater would cost close to $1 million.

“We need some creative solutions,” Fisher said.

It’s easiest to start with an existing theater with non-digital, reel equipment the operator could use for a while, or outfit an existing facility with digital equipment, he said.

Fisher has done research and called theater companies, but there wasn’t much interest. He said smaller theaters didn’t have the extra management for another facility and big companies wanted to operate in a larger city.

However, Fisher intends to keep trying. His plans include a trip in May to the International Council of Shopping Centers Conference, the largest retail conference in the world, to market a Portales theater to attendees.

“Basically, we’re trying to get a movie theater, and that’s a tough, though act,” he said. “But we’re trying.”