Falls Church looks to use tax dollars on movie theater

Officials in the city of Falls Church, Virginia, have been trying to get a movie theater to come to their city for years. On Tuesday night, the city council will vote on whether to approve a theater that was lured there with tax dollars. 

The mixed-use development, Founders Row, off West Broad Street, plans to bring seven screens, an arcade and bowling alley to the city through Paragon Theaters. 

To get the movie theater, Falls Church is offering a deal where every year, the first $30,000 in tax revenue collected through ticket sales and concessions would go to the city. After that, any tax revenue collected would go back to the developer, Mill Creek Residential Trust. It would be capped at just under half a million dollars. The agreement would last for 30 years. 

“The economics associated with the movie theater in a project like this are infeasible, without some relief from from the jurisdiction,” said Joe Muffler, senior managing director for development. 

The city council approved the measure nearly a decade ago, but the theater chain that had agreed to come at the time backed out. The only change in the agreement that needs to be approved by the city council is a reduction in the number of seats that the theater would hold. 

That was the only recommendation sought at the city’s planning commission meeting in late September, but it didn’t stop them from not recommending the project based around the tax incentive structure. 

“Helping the developer pay for a theater— that just seems very unusual. And I don’t recall ever and I’ve been in planning for a while, where a developer got incentives for a movie theater,” said planning commissioner Derek Hyra. 

“We have movie theaters in Ballston, we’ve got movie theaters in Tyson’s we got movie theaters in Mosaic, I guess we want one here. That’s fine. But at the same time, why are we paying for it as taxpayers? Because we basically are. That seems odd,” he continued.

Others like commissioner Melissa Teates said it would benefit the community. 

“We wanted that theater because we want to have some entertainment choices within the city for our older kids and our families that we don’t have,” Teates said. “We have a lot of bars which is really fun, but we don’t have a lot of that kind of entertainment and we’ve been chasing that for a long time.”

The city council will hold public comment and vote on the project Tuesday night. 

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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