Conway set to get first movie theater

CONWAY | Residents living west of the Waccamaw River can expect more entertainment choices when Conway's first movie theater opens later this month, officials said.

The finishing touches are being put on the 12-screen complex with stadium seating, which is on track to open Friday or July 27, said Brian McCall with Frank Theatres.

The $6 million theater is going up in the Rivertown Commons development, a 23-acre plot next to the Office Depot and Wal-Mart complex on U.S. 501. All-Star Cinemas originally began the project, but was bought by Frank Theaters, an East Coast movie chain, last year.

"Construction is proceeding nicely. The seats are in and the drapes are up," McCall said of the latest addition to the chain of theaters. "Conway has been very cooperative and excited about the theater coming to town. We'll be smelling popcorn in the near future."

In the past many residents have complained about the lack of entertainment facilities in the western portion of Horry County. So when city officials were approached in May 2005 about the development they began negotiations for an incentive package to draw the attraction to the area.

In November 2006, the Conway City Council approved the $153,500 package of discounts for building permit fees, taxes and recovery fees for water and sewer connections, and developers began moving forward with its design and construction.

The Conway facility will be similar to the Shallotte, N.C., theater, which is also in the chain founded in 1921 by Samuel Frank. Because Conway previously did not have a theater, McCall said his company will have to work to attract residents from the surrounding area to keep them from driving to the Myrtle Beach area.

Officials plan a cafe to offer more than popcorn and snacks as well as two private party rooms for birthdays and events at the 36,000-square-foot building.

"It is a nice, state-of-the-art facility for the area," McCall said. "We think we'll start growing people's habits again. I hear people don't go to movie theaters as often because of the time of travel and the traffic, so we'll be servicing Conway, Aynor, Loris and surrounding communities."

Bridgette Johnson, president of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, said her agency has received many inquiries about area entertainment like a movie theater.

"We've needed a movie theater for quite a while. We have a market here of young people and young families and often we're going to the beach for movies. This will give us a venue here for that age group," Johnson said. "This will be an appeal to folks in Aynor, Loris and Marion even because people in Marion either drive to Myrtle Beach or Florence."

Once area residents are in town to catch the latest Hollywood production, Johnson said she hopes they will take a drive to the downtown area and see what Conway has to offer.

"This is going to work as an attraction for us just as our festivals do," Johnson said. "You get in folks into town for one thing and they notice other things about the town; even if they don't have the time that day they will come back for that."