Merchants Hope Silver Screen can Bail Out the Grove

Theater could become centerpiece of Cocowalk revival

The Grove needs an economic break and the locals say a theater complex just might do the trick.

"This is a huge deal," said Dave Collins from the Coconut Grove Business Improvement District Thursday.

Hard at work on the third floor of CocoWalk, crews are setting up the high tech Sony Digital High Definition projectors in what will be known as The Paragon 13. 

The amenities are plush: stadium seats with lots of leg room that can be reserved online, wine and beer available, some shows will be restricted for those over 21 and yes, there will be valet service. The idea is to provide a hassle-free movie experience in the multiplex.

Mike Whalan, CEO of Paragon Theaters, said the project will produce a "destination theater." He's sunk a couple of million dollars into the one time AMC theater that has been closed for some months.  

Whalan thinks he can attract a crowd and tosses around numbers like 500,000 movie fans a year visiting the Paragon.

"The Grove has gone through a rough time the last couple of years, but we think this is a destination theater," said Whalan. And that's exactly what Coconut Grove boosters want to hear.

For the first time in some years there seems to be an upsurge in new businesses opening along the main Highway and within CocoWalk there are a couple of grand opening signs.

"We like the crowds, we like what it draws, it seems to be a good customer base for us," said John Davidson who is opening a Bobby Chan store near the theater box office. The stylish shirts the store features would have appeal to the adult crowd the theater is trying to attract. The target is consumers that will reserve their seats online, come to the Grove, have dinner or shop and then dash into the movie house to catch a flick.

Dave Collins drives the point home. "It is going to be adult orientated, not a mass of teenagers standing around," he said. That just might lure more folks with cash to spend in the Grove bars, restaurants and boutiques.

These are the folks that John El-Masey, who owns Moe's in The Grove, would love to see more of. "It is a good concept and will take off for sure," he said.

There is a lot of wishing and hoping going on in the Grove where despite the optimism there are still a number of shuttered or empty store fronts. Coconut Grove has the highest percentage of retail vacancies in the county. Will that change? Is the new theater the magic economic bullet? Lots of Grove merchants are banking on it.

Contact Us