Movie trivia freaks will love it: The Circle Theater chain is building a movie complex in Northwest Washington that will have more screens than "Friday the 13th" has sequels or "Amadeus" has Oscars -- 10. Just like Bo Derek.
The Tenley Circle Ten is scheduled to open next spring in the 4500 block of Wisconsin Avenue, on the site of the old Sears parking lot, adjacent to the Tenley Circle Metro stop. The biggest group of theaters in the Washington area, the new complex will cap a movie theater building boom in the Washington area that has seen the addition of about a dozen new movie houses, with dozens of screens, in the past couple of years.
Washington is considered one of the best movie towns in the nation, and the boom is coming even as studies show that many movie-goers are staying home to watch their favorite flicks on videocassettes. Still, Washington-area movie theater owners say business is vibrant, especially for multiscreen theaters, which help owners cut down on overhead, offer a wider choice and balance off a flop in one room with a big hit in another.
Much of the increase in Washington movie screens has occurred in the Georgetown-Wisconsin Avenue area, bringing a glut of movie-going opportunities to an area where just a few years the advertising promise "Coming soon to a theater near you" often meant quite a trek.
But in recent months, the K-B Theater chain has opened a seven-screen complex in Georgetown's Foundry office building, Circle has added three screens to its West End Circle complex and is building three more near there, and the Key Theater is planning additional screens.
With the building boom spreading up Wisconsin Avenue, the new Tenley Circle complex will join the K-B Theater's three-screen Mazza Gallerie movie complex under construction, the two-screen K-B Jennifer Cinema, the three-screen K-B Studio and the K-B Cinema, as well as Circle's own three-screen Circle Tenley and two-screen Circle Outer, to give upper Wisconsin Avenue movie buffs 24 choices of where to spend Saturday night at the movies.
Circle Theater co-owner Ted Pedas, who only last summer was worrying about the possible saturation of the Washington market and saying his company had no plans to build many more theaters for the time being, says he believes the neighborhood around the planned complex can handle the influx of movie screens.
"The saturation problem is if any more than that are built," he said. "This is maybe three or four screens more than should be up there. This is insurance." Circle has no plans, he said, to close any of its other theaters in the area once the Tenley Circle Ten is open.
Pedas said, however, that Circle might not have taken the risk of building the new theaters if it did not own the land it will build them on; leasing enough space to build such a huge complex would be too expensive, he said. He would not say how much money it will cost to build the theaters, but he said the project is the company's biggest in nearly two decades. In all, Circle Theaters has about 80 screens in the Washington area, according to Pedas.
Theaters in the new complex will range in size from 150 seats to 600, and the fare will range from first-run hits to art films. One of the larger auditoriums will be equipped with the new THX Lucas sound system, developed by "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, which offers sound quality described by Circle as "revolutionary." No other Washington-area theater has the system. "We want to build the theaters for the '80s and '90s," said Jim Pedas, the Circle chain's other owner.
In addition, Circle hopes to build restaurants, a game room, a videotape rental outlet and maybe even a record store in the new complex. "This is going to be an entertainment center," said Ted Pedas. "A supermarket for film."