CHESTERTOWN — Cinema on a big screen is returning to Chestertown.
A first-rate, first-run movie house is scheduled opened Friday, July 16, in the Washington Square shopping center. Flagship Premium Cinema Chestertown is going into the space that formerly was occupied by Chesapeake Movies, which went dark in March 2020.
The lineup is “Black Widow,” which is opening on two screens, “The Boss Baby: Family Business,” “F9: The Fast Saga” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”
Initially, showings will be from noon to 9:30 p.m.
Flagship, which has 20 theaters from Maine to Florida, has a long-term lease with shopping center owner Silicato Development.
The aim is to “fit the needs of each community. We do not believe in one size fits all,” Paul Wenger, who has ownership in all of Flagship’s locations, told the Kent County News.
Wenger said he “signed a deal” with Silicato last October — while the COVID-19 pandemic was still raging — with the understanding that the Chestertown multiplex would not open any time soon.
As health metrics started to improve and restrictions were being lifted, Wenger set a target date for opening.
About four weeks ago, he and his team began the roll-up-your-sleeves work to get the theater ready for its Friday, July 16 opening.
The facility itself is sound, Wenger said, so just about everything that has been done is more “gingerbread” and rebranding to the Flagship standards.
For example, flooring and carpeting has been added to the lobby — where most of the congregating will occur — to give it more of a hotel feeling. An area for beer and wine, once a liquor license has been approved, has been added to the lobby area.
There’s a fresh coat of paint in softer hues, art has been added and the lighting has been enhanced. All this is intended to make the theater more inviting, Wenger said Tuesday as he gave a Kent County News reporter a tour.
“We knew we had to give more than mediocrity ... something worth coming to,” he said.
“We still want to do a lot, but I think we have done a lot,” Wenger added.
As part of the new look, the outside ticket box has been eliminated and the building’s exterior is more attractive.
Tickets can be purchased ahead of time online, at the self-service ticket booth inside the theater or from a theater employee.
Wenger is bringing in experienced management from the Easton and Cambridge locations. Dennis Benjamin, the director of cinema technology, has been in the movie business for 32 years.
Benjamin has moved to Rock Hall and will have an office on the second floor of the multiplex.
Theater manager Joseph Fox’s office is on the first floor, what previously was the box office.
Wenger has been in the industry for 40 years, starting as an usher at the age of 16 in the Baltimore area.
He’s cautiously optimistic about his newest venture.
Coming out of COVID, “there’s no doubt it’s going to look different,” he said.
But history has shown that movies on the big screen are still in demand. Video rental stores, Blockbuster, DVDs and streaming services like Netflix were all supposed to put the industry out of business, but didn’t.
Wenger credits Dennis Silicato, president of Silicato Development, for bringing Flagship Premium Cinemas to Chestertown.
When the previous owners said they were not going to re-open, Silicato reached out to Wenger.
“He wanted a theater for this community and was very persistent. He bent over backwards,” Wenger said.
Chestertown Town Manager Bill Ingersoll and Kent County Director of Economic Development and Tourism Jamie Williams also have been “super, super cooperative,” Wenger said.
“I can’t tell you what a wonderful experience this has been,” he said.