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Marcus Theatres has major renovations plans for West Acres Cinema, but ...

by Mike McFeely

Marcus Theatres has big plans for West Acres Cinema, but the company wants a break from the city to move forward. We shall see if Fargo is willing to allow Marcus to buy a lower-level liquor license for $10,000 instead of the top-level license at $105,000.

The quick background: Marcus wants to do a multi-million dollar renovation of West Acres Cinema that would include the addition of a full bar (Take Five Lounge), upgrade of the lobby, addition of an Ultra Screen DLK auditorium, installation of DreamLounger seating in all theaters and the addition of a pizzeria (Zaffirio's Express).

It would be an impressive complex that Marcus has placed in six other markets.

"The movie exhibition industry has evolved over time and has experienced significant changes in technology, consumer preferences and external competition," said a business plan submitted to the city of Fargo, written by Mark Grimes, director of food and beverage for Marcus Theatres Corporation.

There is a catch, however. It appears Marcus is requesting "affordable liquor licensing" and says "it is cost prohibitive to for us to spend $105,000 for a liquor license in order for us to do so."

That is the cost of Fargo's FA-Entertainment or I-Entertainment liquor licenses. Marcus is asking for an exemption to the current criteria, and wants to pay only $10,000. Marcus also hints that without the reduction in license, the plan may not move forward.

"The Take Five Lounge is integral to our renovation plans for West Acres Cinema," the business plan states.

The Fargo Liquor Control Board will take up the matter and hear a presentation from Marcus at its regular meeting Wednesday.

The renovation does sound cool, and is admittedly adult upscale. According to the business plan:

"It is our goal to consistently and constantly provide the amenities to our guests
that they desire. With that in mind we are planning to transform one of our current screens to our signature Ultra Screen DLX which features our DreamLoungerSM electric recliners and immersive Dolby Atmos sound. Along with the new UltraScreen we will be adding new best in class seating in all the other auditoria in addition to a complete lobby remodel. We also have a number of new food and beverage enhancements including our Zaffiro’s Express with our signature Zaffiro’s ThinCredible Pizza along with shared plate appetizers, salads, sandwiches and delectable desserts. At the forefront of our renovation plans is, of course, our vision for the addition of a Take Five Lounge which will allow our adult guests the opportunity to enjoy their 
favorite cocktail, glass of wine or craft beer."
One interesting point, that I might take exception to as the parent of a young teen-ager, is the apparent idea that booze could be brought into any of the theaters. As a consumer, I would feel more comfortable if there were designated theaters that were booze-free. The idea of mixing alcohol and movies is not new to this market. For those who've been around Fargo-Moorhead for awhile, you'll remember something from the 1980s and early '90s called the Cinema Lounge (located in the old Lark Theater downtown). I also seem to remember something called the Reel Peanut Bar that served beer, that I think was located in the Center Mall in Moorhead for a very short time in the 1980s. 

What do you think? Should Fargo give Marcus an exemption? If it does, doesn't open a door for everybody else seeking a liquor license to ask for an exemption? I like the idea and understand why Marcus wants to renovate West Acres Cinema, but they are asking for a break that others haven't received. 

Here are some conceptual photos of the Take Five Lounge, provided by Marcus Theatres Corp:

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