Movies On The Boulevard: Even Better Than You Think

This theatre complex will blow your damn mind.

Boulevard TheatreIf you thought just having the first new movie theater in the city in 36 years was good enough, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. I attended the kick off of MovieLand at Boulevard Square yesterday and left floored like a kid in a candy store.

I must say, I am not much of a moviegoer. It has to be a pretty damn good flick if I am going to take two hours out of my day because most of Hollywood is pretty horrific. Another problem is we don’t ever see many of the good flicks that are made each year on small budgets, or come from independent directors or foreign countries.

Thus, I have been luke-cold on this entire project, assuming it was just another movie-plex churning out the same old films in the same old atmosphere. But after yesterday I am red hot on it and the January 2009 opening can not come soon enough.

Let me reel off what I learned:

  • The construction is an eye-popping adaptive reuse of a 130 year old locomotive shed.
  • There will be no video games or arcades in the entire complex.
  • There will be no on screen advertising before features.
  • Each of the 17 theaters will have stadium seating, with custom wooden and leather chairs made exclusively for the ownership group.
  • There will be a large restaurant in the old Foundry building on site.
  • Concessions will include REAL butter on popcorn, as well as coffees and teas and other hot food such as pizza and giant pretzels.
  • There is a Sunday late morning “Movies with Mimosas” where they show vintage classics and serve chilly libations.
  • There will be an Insomnia Theater with cult classics late night on weekends (remember the midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show or Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” at the Ridge Cinema?)
  • They have a submission form where you can suggest upcoming features for the above two categories.
  • Free parking for 750 cars (that’s about 500 more spots than Short Pump Cinema).
  • They have a Criterion Club that offers discounts for frequent visitors.

Boulevard TheatreWhat is better than all that, you say? While some screens will show the usual big films and blockbusters, other screens will show many of the films that do not ever get screen time in Richmond – i.e. good independent films, etc. – because other theaters won’t show them and the Westhampton only has two screens.

Think about all the great films you read about at Sundance or Cannes and then picture yourself being able to see them here. Soon it will be a reality.

In fact, the owners of the complex are heavily involved with the Toronto Film Festival – one of the world’s best – and they will be bringing first run films from that festival to little ol’ River City.

So when you read about many of those limited release movies in the Times, the Post or online, you won’t have to run to Netflix or Amazon to find them. You will be able to enjoy it on the big screen in surround sound.

We could not ask for a cooler, hipper theater complex or a better group of owners who are committed to doing this right and producing the coolest movie complex within a few hours drive – maybe even a few states – of this prime location.

With such a jewel as this on the Boulevard, the rest of that renaissance is surely close behind.

Republished from River City Rapids with permission — Ed.

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Jon Baliles

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. The possibility of two places to watch first run indy movies is blowing my mind.

  2. While this does sound amazing, I am a bit sad for the Westhampton. I doubt two independent film theaters will survive in Richmond. We aren’t that big :(

    Anyway, I will have trouble choosing between the two. I love the nostalgic feeling of seeing a film at Westhampton. It reminds me of the Muppet show. And the fact that there is not a Men’s Restroom; but rather a Men’s Lounge is totally awesome. I feel like I should light up a hand-rolled cigarette and talk about “dames” while I am downstairs.

  3. That wet spot on the floor is from the tears of joy streaming down my face…

  4. Good point BK.

    I do like the idea of a theatre actually in the city. In the city city if you will.

    I love westhampton though. I’ve seen so many movies there and I love it.

    Also Dames made me LOL.

    I need to use that word more.

  5. My favorite theatre in town is upstairs at the Westhampton. It is so cozy and awesome.

  6. Westhampton will need to upgrade or close. Luckily, their owners have over a year to decide.

    I just hope nothing happens to Phil’s. I’m sure the only reason they’re still around is because of the theater.

    Upstairs @ Westhampton is great, as long as you’re in the front row. In the rest of the seats there isn’t enough legroom for a 2nd grader.

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  8. I think Westhampton will be fine. There is a really tight-knit neighborhood surrounding it that tends to be fiercely loyal (I work at UR, and a Near West End lady sits beside me and pronounces “Shortttt Pumpppp” as if she has just tasted something rancid. One time, she shook her pearls at me and said very gracefully, “I would rather be BEATEN AROUND THE HEAD than shop at….that place.”)

    But who knows, I’m no businessman. Hopefully they will help each other out by sparking community interest in films that the rest of the world already has in its rotation. We’re catching up!

  9. The demographic the Westhampton serves is completely different than the one this new theatre would reach.

    Susan, Justin, and I went to the West Hampton to see The Host — a Korean creature feature. The theatre was filled with old couples, like, really old ass old. Like wtf? A Korean horror movie.

    They’ll still go there and fill up the place when this new joint opens — and by then they will be mummies!?

  10. Mummy Movie Night!??! This place keeps getting better!

  11. The owners told me they will not necessarily compete with the Westhampton. There are so many indy and smaller films out there they can show others that the Westhampton can’t b/c they only have two screens.

    The Westhampton could also end up adjusting and show other niche films if the “bigger” indy films go to Boulevard.

    Either way, we all win!!

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  13. when i moved to richmond, the “donut” effect of everything being outside the city limits really seemed odd. hopefully, this is an indication of that slowly but surely changing.

    i’ll truly tear up myself when we get both a 24 hour grocery store and a decent 24 hour restaurant (or even a taco bell) within proximity of the fan.

  14. David Howson on said:

    I’ve been to Bowtie’s Criterion Cinema in New Haven, CT. It is fantastic. They do a really nice job.

    I don’t think the Westhampton has anything to worry about either. In this case, it is a GOOD thing they are backed by a corporate chain that can carry them through if needed. An independent may feel a pinch. I’ll still visit them on Tuesdays for free popcorn!

    Interesting that no one here has noticed that Bow Tie Partners owns another parcel downtown which they are calling Jefferson Square. I wonder what their plans are for that.

    Check out:

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  16. Here is the city’s press release about MovieLand. No real new info, but a sweet picture of the mayor with two guys in bowties.

  17. Oh, I think Phil’s will be fine if Westhampton closes (actually, I don’t think that’ll be a problem either, FWIW). Phil’s is a staple at the Libbie & Grove junction and has quite a devoted following. Best part yet: awesome chicken salad! :D

  18. Peggy on said:

    Very interesting. I am looking forward to seeing this theater open. I wonder what the chances of getting a Rocky Horror Picture Show shadow cast together to perform there would be.

  19. Just wanted to announce that Movieland will definitely have regular showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show with a live cast starting Feb 28th. For more info, please email the cast at

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