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Odyssey making plans for new downtown theater, other options may still be open

Odyssey Theatres hopes that a year from now Dickinson residents will be able to pick their seats online for one of eight movies playing at the theater, stroll to the downtown theater location and relax in an electric reclining lounger to watch mo...

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Odyssey Theatres presented this rendering of what the new downtown theater may look like to Dickinson's City Commission on Oct. 2. (Submitted)

Odyssey Theatres hopes that a year from now Dickinson residents will be able to pick their seats online for one of eight movies playing at the theater, stroll to the downtown theater location and relax in an electric reclining lounger to watch movies on larger screens than have ever been available for Dickinson residents.

“(Odyssey) is a small-town operator. We grew up in towns the size of Dickinson, we are very passionate about delivering a big city quality theater to our local community,” said Odyssey Theatres President Steve Tripp. “I think people are going to be surprised by not only the amenities, but the little things we'll put in.”

Odyssey’s plan to move its three-screen theater in Prairie Hills Mall to a newly built eight-screen location across from Dickinson City Hall was made all but official on Oct. 2 when Dickinson city commissioners agreed to sell the parking lot to the movie theater company.

Now that the land sale is official, Tripp said Odyssey is working with an architectural team for plans and designs for the new theater. He said they plan to start construction early in spring 2018 and hope to have the theater open by sometime in the fall.

“The detailed building plans are now being developed and that takes quite some time,” Tripp said. “We want to build this with everything that we feel is necessary now in going to a movie. Very large screens, full electric reclining loungers, stadium seating, those amenities that make movie-going very special, not just a normal theater.”

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The plan for the new theater drew some concerns from Dickinson residents about the loss of a centrally located parking lot, but Tripp doesn’t believe this will be an issue.

“We do 75 percent of our business between 6:30 p.m. and midnight, a time when most other businesses are not open,” he said. “We just don't really see parking as an issue. For years and years, theaters were located in downtown districts.”

Tripp said Odyssey recently opened a movie theater in Watertown, S.D., that received similar negative comments before it opened, but the theater has since been embraced by the community.

He said businesses such as restaurants, grocery stores and some retail outlets could see the biggest benefit by directly feeding off of Odyssey’s business. Tripp thinks businesses that might not directly feed off of Odyssey foot traffic could still benefit from increased exposure.

“If I could say that we're going to bring from 2,500 to 4,000 people a weekend past your front door, doesn't that seem somewhat enticing?” he asked.

Bernie’s Esquire Club is located just a few blocks from the new downtown theater and owner Bernie Marsh said while he doesn’t agree with the “lack of information” given to the public about the sale, he thinks the theater will be good for his business.

“I’m really excited that somebody new is coming downtown. It will make our downtown stronger and bring different people down here that probably never come,” Marsh said. “If people are going to a movie they might decide to have a couple cocktails before the movie.”

Is it a done deal? After learning about Dickinson’s parking lot sale to Odyssey Theatres, the official Prairie Hills Mall Facebook account commented on the story, stating that building a new theater downtown isn’t necessarily a done deal.

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“There is a lot more to this story ... and the end has not been written... we are still in conversations with the theater,” the post stated.

Prairie Hills then confirmed another user’s accusation that The Dickinson Press prematurely announced closure of the current theater location.

Odyssey Theatres told the Press after the city commission meeting that the Prairie Hills movie theater will close with the opening of the downtown location.

From her personal account, Prairie Hills Mall Manager Peggy O’Brien wrote later on Facebook that the “mall is still talking with the theatre about options.”

It is unclear whether these “options” refer to keeping the Prairie Hills mall location open after the downtown location opens, building a new theater in the mall or something else entirely.

Prairie Hills Mall declined to comment.

Tripp said his company had “chosen the downtown location as (their) preferred site” and they were “moving forward” with downtown plans, but he did not entirely shut down the possibility that Odyssey was still in negotiations with Prairie Hills.

“Responsible business people look at all their options,” he said, “There's no secret that Prairie Hills Mall has a lot of space. It was certainly advantageous for them to open discussions and for us to have discussions with them.”

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City Administrator Shawn Kessel said that the city is working out the final details of a contract that if signed by Odyssey would bring the project one step closer to a reality.

“The contract gives us pretty good footing in terms of their intent, I'm comfortable with their intent to build a theater downtown, but I understand that ultimately may not happen.”

On top of the specific qualifications of the land-sale, which requires building an at least 20,000 sq. ft. structure at the downtown location, the contract will also include caveats to allow the use of the parking lot until construction starts and a three year hold on a potential liquor license, Kessel said. The contract will be sent to Odyssey in the next few days and could be signed as early as next week, according to Kessel.

“(Odyssey) still has the ability until is signed to change their mind and go somewhere else, Kessel said, “even at that point they could but that's just a breach of contract.”
Though Odyssey still may have some options on where to build, Kessel has remained confident in the downtown theater since the land sale was made on Oct. 2.

“I have not wavered in my confidence in (downtown) construction.”

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The Odyssey Theatres sign in Prairie Hills Mall. (Grady McGregor / The Dickinson Press)

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