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Plans for movie theater go forward


With the first hurdle cleared in its bid to build a 10-screen, 2,350-seat movie theater in East Columbia, the Rouse Co. turns its attention to the Howard County Board of Appeals, which reviews the project Sept. 12.

"I can't say we were surprised," said Edward Ely, vice president and director of land sales for the Rouse Co. of last Thursday's 4-0 approval by the Planning Board of a special exception for the project. "In fact, most of the comments we've heard have been favorable."

United Artists, the world's largest movie chain, plans to build a 36,770-square-feet movie complex on 8.9 acres of Rouse Co. land it plans to buy in Gateway Commerce Center near the Village of Owen Brown. The project would be on the north side of Robert Fulton Drive near Snowden River Parkway, next to Snowden Square Shopping Center. Access would be from Commerce Center Drive.

The complex, including 709 parking spaces, would cost $5.5 million to $6 million and open next summer, said Allen Hollis, vice president of development for United Artists. It is expected to create 30 to 60 jobs, most of them part-time.

In April, the Rouse Co. submitted a request for a special exception that would clear the way for the movie complex to be built on land zoned for light manufacturing.

The Planning Board said the cinema would not create sidewalk or street traffic, exterior lighting or other public nuisances.

If approved by Board of Appeals, the project will be the third movie complex in the Columbia area. Columbia General Cinema in Town Center has three screens and Sony Theaters Columbia Palace 9 on Route 108 has nine.

"The location of the movie theater makes sense," Mr. Ely said of the proposed project. "I think most people feel as if the Howard County-Baltimore-Washington corridor needs more movie screens."

The United Artists cinema would offer stereo sound in all 10 theaters, wall-to-wall screens, large auditoriums, cup-holder armrests, chairs spaced apart to provide better leg room and listening devices for the hearing-impaired, Mr. Hollis said.

Four theaters would be equipped with the latest in movie technology -- digital sound. The six other theaters would have the capacity for adding digital sound, he said.

"Everything will be state-of-the-art," Mr. Hollis said.

The theater is expected to open for the 1996 summer season, Mr. Hollis said. Screenings would start at 11 a.m. daily, with a final starting time of about 10:30 p.m.

Mr. Hollis said a market analysis found local moviegoers wanted more choices in an area with two movie theaters.

"People tend to go out, get away from home and go to the restaurant and then go out for entertainment," he said. "We're still one of the best entertainments around."

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