Ben Moss, half of Bow Tie Cinemas, said that when he and his father (the other half of the business) first passed through Richmond – a random detour on a motorcycle trip through Charlottesville in the mid-1990s – they were simultaneously struck by the city’s hospitality and its cultural scene.
“We were so welcomed even as strangers by the community that we just fund it a pleasurable place to be personally,” he said. “That led to the assumption – that proved to be correct – that it would be pleasurable professionally, as well.”
But Moss and his father also noticed a supportive environment for arts and culture, and for historic preservation.
“We saw right away the potential” for the types of projects that have made Bow Tie’s reputation.
“The best example is in New Haven, Connecticut,” Moss said. “We did a smaller but similar project there, where we converted a 1938 office building … into luxury residential apartments and a nine screen movie cinema.”
In Richmond, the Mosses have taken a 53,000 square foot former manufacturing space and turned it into an upscale movie theater boasting 17 screens. Movieland at Boulevard Square will honor the building’s history – steel beams and locomotive-themed items will serve as a reminder of its first tenant, Richmond Locomotive and Machine Works. But it will use design, technology and service to create a modern, elegant space, Moss says.
“What sets us apart is service and presentation and the environment that you get when you come into one of our theaters,” he says. Moss describes the experience created by many theaters as analogous to passing through an airport.
“We strive to provide an experience that derives from the experience my grandfather created when he was in the business,” Moss said, referencing his grandfather’s roots in radio, television and movies.
“It’s a very comfortable, luxurious environment,” Moss said. “Our managers work our in the open at a guest services desk in the lobby, so they are always available to the public. We have a café that serves beer and wine. A lot of times discussions groups will use that space to have a glass of wine and discuss a movie after they’ve seen it.”
Each of the 17 screens will feature digital and 3-D technology, and the theater itself boasts no on-screen commercials and a “zero tolerance” cell phone policy.
Lindsay Grant, an account executive with Richmond-based PR and marketing firm CRT-Tanaka, represents the Movieland account.
“It’s a whole new option for Richmond,” she says of Movieland. “It’s got that family, home-grown feel that Richmond responds to. And the company takes the whole notion of elegance in cinema very seriously.”
Grant says the cinema will open on February 27 – just in time for the latest Jonas Brothers flick (which can take advantage of Movieland’s 3-D projection technology).
“There will be a combination of major motion picture releases and independent films combined under one roof,” Grant says.
Other features of the new cinema – Sunday morning “Movies with Mimosas” and midnight “Insomniac Theater” showings; stadium-seating; and more than 600 parking spaces.
In recent weeks, Moss says he has been meeting with groups around Richmond.
“The other thing that we like to do that is as enjoyable for us as it is informative is to meet with as many community and neighborhood leaders as possible,” he said. “It helps us adapt our plans to suit the needs of the community.”
An example: bike racks.
“Somebody contacted us from VCU and said are you guys planning on putting in bike racks,” Moss said. He said it had never come up during the design phase of the project. “But, in fact, we modified the plan that day, and are putting in ample bike parking along the front of the building.”
Another practical question – How can people apply for one of the 60 jobs at Movieland?
Moss says the hiring process has just started, and people interested in working at the cinema can contact the general manager, Sean McIintosh, at 804-355-8372.