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IMAX theater proposed at resort Entertainment center suggested to revive Ocean City center


A new study has given Ocean City a larger-than-life idea to help revitalize the resort's aging downtown: an IMAX theater anchoring an entertainment complex on the site now occupied by the U.S. Coast Guard station.

The proposal for an oversize-screen theater with special visual and sound effects, similar to the one in Baltimore's Inner Harbor, was outlined in a consultants' report presented to the mayor and council of Ocean City this week.

The report suggests making the IMAX theater part of an entertainment complex with a theme restaurant, another unspecified entertainment facility and stores.

"Tourism has become increasingly competitive," said Ocean City Mayor James N. Mathias. "People want something new and fresh."

IMAX theaters generally show quasi-documentary films, usually less than an hour long. About 125 films are in circulation for the 136 permanent IMAX theaters. As the IMAX concept has evolved, newer theaters offer glasses to viewers that enhance ,, the three-dimensional effect created by a film image 10 times larger than those in conventional movies.

The consultants' report, sought by the city as part of its continuing effort to boost the sagging downtown area, was prepared by architects Cochran, Stephenson & Donkervoet Inc., Baltimore firm. Also under discussion last year was the idea of an aquarium, a possible satellite facility for the National Aquarium in Baltimore's Inner Harbor -- an idea Mathias said was not at odds with the consultants' report.

The IMAX idea is in the discussion stage, according to Mathias and Jesse Houston, the resort's director of planning. No financing has been sought, no plans completed or developers contacted.

"The city is committed to assisting in the renovation of downtown, but I don't think the city is ready to do it by themselves," said Nancy Howard, one of the council members who heard the presentation.

The consultants' report looked at four possible sites for the complex in the downtown area: the old police station on Dorchester Street, the city parking lot on Worcester Street, the working concrete plant near the U.S. 50 bridge, and the Coast Guard station.

The consultants favored the Coast Guard site, Houston said, because, at just larger than 3 acres, it was the largest. He said that no discussions have been held with the Coast Guard, but that in other places, such federal installations have been moved to make room for redevelopment.

The consultants estimated the cost of an IMAX theater at between $6 million and $7 million, not including land or the cost of providing parking. The total complex could cost as much as $25 million, Howard said.

Pub Date: 2/01/97

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