Memorial Day Weekend is fast upon us, and for moviegoers not on vacation this weekend, SIFF will be front and center. But there are celluloid developments up by Northgate, where the Regal Thornton Place Stadium 14 multiplex is opening on Friday. Two-dollar tickets were on sale earlier this week during the soft opening. Friday through Sun., May 31, there will be free popcorn and soda with your tickets. Among the 14 screens, the facility also includes an IMAX cinema. The whole monstrous new cinema is part of Northgate's Thornton Place expansion, transit-oriented development right by Metro's Park & Ride lot, which I recently discovered is an amazingly swift way to and from get downtown.
We love the idea of denser, mixed-use development that discourages people from driving, and which encourages them to walk to the movies or supermarket. However, as The Seattle Times has reported, Thornton Place has been slow to sell. It came on the market at exactly the wrong time; and most of the 500 unsold condos and townhouses will likely be rental units for the next few years, until the recession wanes. I wonder if the new cinemas will draw new renters or buyers to Thornton Place. How long has it been since the giant old Northgate Cinemas closed, anyway? (It was a duplex, right?) And the new Regal complex will likely hurt the nearby, down-at-the-heels Oak Tree Cinemas (run by smaller rival AMC). Regal, a publicly traded company, is the largest movie theater operator in the country. But it will face a certain chicken-and-egg dilemma at Thornton Place, despite the ample parking. Yes, it's been built. But will local filmgoers come? And by foot or by car?