Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Monument to the Movies Bill Warren Built a $10-Million Marvel of a Movie House in Wichita, of All Places

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Monument to the Movies Bill Warren Built a $10-Million Marvel of a Movie House in Wichita, of All Places

Article excerpt

BILL WARREN is fed up with traditional movie theaters. He thinks they charge too much for tickets and refreshments, provide uncomfortable narrow seats with little leg room and afford all the architectural splendor of a shoebox.

"Too many of the traditions of the theater business have been lost," he said. "And there are just too many bureaucrats involved now."

So he built what he deemed the perfect movie theater in his hometown of Wichita, Kan. But perfection didn't come cheap. The movie aficionado spent $10 million on his dream theater on the west side of Wichita. And he has plans to build a 20-plex on the city's east side. His namesake Warren Theatre, which features a glass, stone and steel exterior with a massive bull-nose marquee, opened 6 1/2 months ago. The 10-screen theater has an art deco motif, plus murals with mythological themes, etched glass, marble, granite and Southwestern terrazzo floors in the lobby and hallways, statues, plaster columns, miles of neon lights, custom-crafted door handles and bright colors. i Several 1930s-era carpet patterns are reproduced in the 10 auditoriums. Yes, carpet in the movie auditoriums. But don't customers spill their refreshments? "Yes, they do," said Warren. "But we've found that folks are more c areful in this nice atmosphere, and it's easier to clean up here than in a traditional theater." "You see, I'm creating the modern version of the old-time movie palaces. I hope people feel as if they've stepped back in time when they see a movie here. I think of this as being what going to the movies used to be like, but with the addition of modern technology. And we're also offering value here and lots of ambiance. "Literally, they just don't build theaters like this anymore. Many folks think I'm nuts and that I'll never get my investment back. But I know I will - and more." That's what happened six years ago when Warren opened Wichita's first "dollar" theater - the Palace West. After its success, he opened a second Palace Theater on the other side of town, and it also has done well. Then he decided to build the Warren. To his critics, he says, "They're wrong. I've spent millions of dollars on discount theaters. And just because I've spent more money than the guy down the street doesn't mean he should give sour grapes." The new Warren Theatre features custom-made, plaster molded ceilings and is based on the design of many theaters he visited across the country, including The Fox in St. Louis. St. Louis' Marble and Granite Resources Inc. shipped 11 tons of marble and granite at a cost of $350,000 to $400,000, Warren said. The Warren took about 16 months to build compared to half that much for most theaters, he said. "For what I spent here, I could have easily built a `normal' 20-plex," he said. …

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