A local movie theater owner is planning to bring a cinema back to Aberdeen after a 22-year absence.
Robert Weinholt Sr. and his sons signed a lease two weeks ago to open an eight-screen theater, with recliners, a bar and food choices in the vacant space that was Mars grocery store in the Aberdeen Marketplace shopping center, he told members of the Aberdeen City Council at their meeting May 6.
Planet Fitness occupies part of the former grocery store.
In 1986, Weinholt built and opened Beards Hill Theater in the shopping center on the north side of Route 22, he said. The theater closed in 1997 because of competition from the new Regal Cinemas in Constant Friendship.
“For 22 years, I’ve been trying to get back into Aberdeen,” Weinholt said. “We have the opportunity now.”
As the City of Aberdeen anticipates spending another $75,000 in legal fees for the lawsuit and countersuit between the city and the owner of Ripken Stadium and the Aberdeen IronBirds, both sides are seeking time to negotiate.
Mayor Patrick McGrady is excited about the prospect of a movie theater in Aberdeen. He remembers seeing Disney’s “The Rescuers” at the Beards Hill complex more than two decades ago, he said.
“It will be another amenity available to our folks in Aberdeen that is in line with all the other great successes we have been having last 18 months or so,” McGrady said.
“The good news is that people who used to involved in Aberdeen realize there is still an opportunity in Aberdeen and are investing real money to make a project come to reality and to occupy a space vacant since Mars closed.”
Tax rate reduction
In an effort to help be the movie theater project successful, the city is considering an ordinance to reduce the Admissions and Amusement Tax rate on movie theaters in Aberdeen.
According to the ordinance introduced May 6, the rate would be reduced from 10 percent on gross receipts to 6.5 percent for theaters with at least four separate screens.
City Manager Randy Robertson said the 6.5 figure in the ordinance was put in “as a placeholder for your consideration.”
The council could set whatever rate it chooses.
The council discussed the A&A tax a few months ago. The city generates approximately $135,000 in annual revenues from the tax, about $115,000 of which comes from ticket sales at Ripken Stadium, McGrady said.
“That’s a marginal amount today,” McGrady said. “If Mr. Weinholt is as successful as I know that he will be, it may be significantly larger number in the future, but with some relief, perhaps it will be easier for his business to survive.”