WEST OCEAN CITY – A new movie theater is coming to the White Marlin Mall in West Ocean City.
Flagship Cinemas, a privately held company that owns and operates movie theaters in Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida, is expected to open a new location in the West Ocean City shopping center by early next year.
The movie theater will take over the space currently occupied by Michaels. Officials said the arts and crafts retailer will be moving out of the White Marlin Mall and into a nearby commercial space later this year.
Paul Wenger, president of Flagship Cinemas, said Greenberg Gibbons, owners of the White Marlin Mall, approached the company with an offer to open a location in West Ocean City. This will not be the first entertainment venue to occupy space in the shopping center, however. In years past, for example, a Fox Theater occupied the space that is currently home to the Michaels store.
“As a shopping center group, they saw the benefits of bringing the entertainment component back to that center,” he said. “They went out in pursuit of what they believed to be a quality operator, which is what they found in Flagship. For that, we are pleased and honored to be able to come to that market.”
Wenger said the retail space will be turned over by Aug. 1 of this year and construction will follow shortly thereafter.
While designs for the movie theater are still under development, Wenger said he expects the facility to feature hot foods, self-serve sodas, power reclining seats, a Film Fanatic program that rewards frequent customers with free movies and more than seven theaters.
“To some extent we customize each location according to the market,” he said. “There is no one size fits all. What goes well in Baltimore doesn’t necessarily work in West Ocean City.”
Wenger said the company hopes to open its West Ocean City location in late 2018 or early 2019.
“It’s happening very quickly, and we are operating at lighting speed right now,” he said.
Flagship Cinemas and its sister company, Triton Entertainment Services, own and operate five movie theaters in Maryland, including three on the Eastern Shore, according to Wenger. He noted that the new West Ocean City location is expected to draw customers from surrounding areas.
“We see a great potential in West Ocean City mainly because we feel that’s where most year-round folks reside, and we feel that we can provide them a quality presentation from the time they enter the lobby and then going into the auditoriums,” he said. “We can pull from a fairly large area, not only West Ocean City but I think there’s potential to pull from Salisbury and some of the other surrounding areas.”
Wenger added that the new theater will show only first runs of movies and will provide customers with a quality experience in a comfortable atmosphere.
“Who doesn’t like the movies?” he said. “We know despite what people believe with respect to online streaming, people love to go out and socialize and sit in a movie theater and enjoy watching a movie on the big screen. Now we’ve made it more interesting by offering the comfort of powered recliners.”