Madstone Matters To Its New Market

Later this month (Nov. 26) Madstone Theaters will usher in a new cinema experience at the erstwhile, seven-screen AMC site in Old Hyde Park Village. According to CEO Tom Gruenberg, Madstone will be a destination for the “sophisticated” movie set. Much of the fare will be foreign, festival and independent. “Cinema for the mind,” Gruenberg called it.

“This market has what we look for,” stated Gruenberg. “The demographics, this facility, the fact that it’s under-served for what we do. And we expect to grow the market.”

And, no, Gruenberg doesn’t expect to be bad news for Tampa Theatre. “It’s one screen, it’s in a great old historic building and they do things that we don’t and won’t,” he noted. “We expect to play off each other.”

Madstone will accommodate — and solicit — those who want to arrive early, stay late and discuss movies. Discussion-friendly concessions will include (wet-zone permitting) wine and beer, as well as coffee and assorted, natural baked goods. Admission will be $8.00. There will be a membership program with discounted admissions and other perks.

The arrival of Madstone, a nine-theater chain based in New York, is obviously welcomed by OHPV, which needed a good-fit tenant for the AMC-vacated spot. “We’re thrilled to have them,” gushed Pat Westerhouse, general manager of the Village.

But Madstone also has caught the aesthetic eye of Paul Wilborn, Tampa’s Creative Industries Manager. And not just because he personally likes a good, eclectic art house.

Madstone also has distribution and production divisions. The former is a boutique venture, the latter a modest, venture capital-like enterprise. Madstone funds first-time, feature-film directors — usually in the $500,000-$1.5 million budget range.

“The light bulb went off,” acknowledged Wilborn, upon learning of Madstone’s versatility. “I was intrigued by the idea that they have an arm that funds new directors.”And, yes, he and Gruenberg have met.

“We want to grow the film industry here,” said Wilborn. “We’re looking for ways to bring in more players. I see them as a real positive part of that. It’s an exciting possibility.

“These kinds of theaters are unique,” added Wilborn. “The indies, the non-mainstream titles. They know how to book it; they send out catalogues. It’s more of a total experience. We’ll definitely get together again.”

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