Monday, November 12, 2001

Two movie theater leases considered crucial to the redevelopment of downtown Silver Spring remain unsigned, but officials say the deals will close soon.
The Peterson Cos. is negotiating with an unnamed chain to build a 20-screen theater at the corner of Fenton Street and Ellsworth Drive. Since the massive redevelopment project was announced three years ago, two chains have announced plans to open theaters at the site, but both deals fell through because the companies had financial problems.
“We’re confident the third time will be the charm,” says Tom Maskey, senior vice president for Peterson, one of three developers involved in the Silver Spring redevelopment project.
The chain currently negotiating with Peterson has “a solid balance sheet,” Mr. Maskey says. Peterson hopes to close the deal soon, which would allow construction of the new multiplex to begin in spring 2002, he says.
Montgomery County officials, meanwhile, are still working out a deal with the American Film Institute to occupy the historic Silver Theatre. The county and state are spending about $20 million to refurbish the art deco movie house with new seating, screens and offices.
The county, which controls the Silver Theatre property, and the AFI are still negotiating a lease, but the deal is secure, county spokesman David Weaver says.
“There hasn’t been a sense of urgency [to sign a lease] because both parties have a solid relationship,” Mr. Weaver says. A deal will be finalized soon, he says.
The movie theater deals are considered crucial to the redevelopment project because they will bring consumers to downtown Silver Spring after business hours and on weekends. AFI has also said it will host an international documentary film festival at the Silver Theater.
So far, the redevelopment of Silver Spring has brought a Fresh Fields, Baja Fresh Mexican Grill and Hilton hotel to the once-decaying suburb. Media giant Discovery Communications is also building its new headquarters in the downtown, and a $40 million project with new offices, apartments, shops and hotels is planned near the Silver Spring Metrorail station.

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Chris Baker can be reached at 202/636-3139 or

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