Thursday, December 1, 2022

New Town Cinemas: No movies also mean less traffic for nearby businesses

New Town Cinemas 12 has remained closed throughout the pandemic, but other surrounding businesses are being impacted. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)
New Town Cinemas 12 has remained closed throughout the pandemic, but other surrounding businesses are being impacted. (Alexa Doiron/WYDaily)

When guests come to New Town, they’re greeted by the area’s large cinema and fountain centered at the focal point of the shopping area.

But while other shops around the theater have re-opened during the pandemic, New Town Regal Cinemas 12 has remained shuttered.

And nearby businesses could be impacted.

“I picked this location because of its exposure for everyone walking by the theater,” said Nikki Montero, owner of Axe Republic. “But since it’s been closed, the foot traffic has decreased tremendously.”

Montero’s business is just a few doors down from the movie theater and would typically bring in many customers because of the traffic from the movie theater. While this summer would be Axe Republic’s first in the area, Montero said she’s fairly certain business would have typically been better had it not been for the pandemic and the theater closing. 

Drew Haynie, first vice president of Thalhimer | Cushman and Wakefield, which leases the property, said from a general commercial real estate perspective, the movie theater remaining closed has certainly limited the number of patrons to the area who come not only to shop and dine, but for entertainment purposes as well.

“The movie theater in New Town, and in other centers, serve as a large traffic driver for the developments in the general area, so certainly not having that open diminishes the number of folks making that their destination,” he said. “Eateries that would benefit from people patronizing locations before and after a movie would be impacted most, but at the same time they’re getting hit from a number of different angles as far as [the coronavirus].”

Haynie said the state of the movie industry has been impacted overall, but the company has not received any formal notice from the landlord that the business will not be able to return. 

In fact, Regal, the nationwide cinema company that owns the theater, has announced plans to reopen its cinemas starting July 31 with new procedures and restrictions, according to the company’s website.

But the theater in New Town has been closed for months now and is one of the last businesses to reopen under Gov. Ralph Northam’s phased reopening process. Virginia entered Phase 3 of reopening, which allows entertainment venues such as movie theaters to open with certain restrictions, such as a limit of 50 percent occupancy. 

For businesses like Axe Republic, this has been a time to reevaluate marketing and other ways to attract customers to the area.

“Well I think everyone is having to think outside the box and find ways to bring customers in,” she said. “I think it’s a safe statement to say with the closure of the movie theater business, [the area] isn’t having as much foot traffic unless people are intentionally coming to New Town for whatever they’re looking for.”

Randy Casey-Rutland, president of Town Management which represents the New Town Commercial Association, said all businesses are struggling during this time but it has also provided the opportunity for businesses to support each other more.

Casey-Rutland said while the theater is a large driver of foot traffic in the area, New Town is also home to medical buildings, law offices and homes that are still drawing in a decent amount of people.

“Well I think one of the unique and beneficial things about New Town is its diverse character and businesses,” he said. “So the movie theater is centrally located in the retail district, but there’s a lot of businesses not centered around the movie theater.”

For retail and food businesses near the theater, Casey-Rutland said the association and the businesses themselves have come together to support each other and find solutions. For example, the association helped create more outdoor seating available in parking lots and communal areas for businesses that normally wouldn’t have outdoor seating. Solutions such as this may not totally solve the economic issues of the pandemic, but they at least help businesses in some way, he said. 

Casey-Rutland said there isn’t specific data on the impacts of foot traffic and the theater being closed, but he believes the restaurants in the area might generate just as much foot traffic. 

“A lot of businesses seem to be working together,” he said. “There seems to be a little more camaraderie among businesses recognizing they’re all in this together. I think all the businesses continue to struggle in how to make plans and what our world will look like.”

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Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doironhttp://wydaily.com
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at alexa@localvoicemedia.com.

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