Downtown Malco aims to open in time for next ‘Star Wars’ sequel

Malco’s new Downtown theater could be open in time for the next “Star Wars” sequel.

Wednesday, Aug. 17, Downtown Memphis Commission’s affiliate board, Center City Development Corp. (CCDC), approved a matching, reimbursable Storefront Improvement Grant of up to $125,000 to help with Malco Theatres Inc.’s $9 million undertaking to retrofit the Powerhouse at Central Station into an eight-screen movie theater.

Antonio “Tony” Bologna of Bologna Consultants LLC attended the meeting on behalf of Malco and said the theater chain wants to start construction as soon as possible in order to open in time for next year’s expected holiday-season blockbusters, such as “Star Wars, Episode VIII,” which is scheduled for release on Dec. 15, 2017.

The Malco theater will take about 10 months to complete, with a projected opening date of summer 2017.

Malco vice president Jimmy Tashie originally applied for a $200,000 grant that would have paid for half the $400,000 soft costs associated with renovating the Powerhouse.

Since the Storefront Improvement Grant is intended to be applied only to exterior work that can be seen from the public right of way, $125,000 was approved to assist with brick tuckpointing and window repair/modification.

The approval is the CCDC’s largest storefront improvement grant, trumping Ghost River Brewing Corp.’s $66,455 grant in May.

CCDC board member Carl Person said as long as CCDC has the funding, he doesn’t mind supporting the board’s largest approval to date.

“We don’t typically have a petitioner asking to build a $9 million movie theater,” Person said.

The Central Station theater will incorporate a new concept for Malco, with balconies and an outdoor rooftop screen and lounge.

Malco is renovating the Powerhouse for ticket sales, concessions and a small restaurant.

“Being a Downtown architect, I’ve always wanted to see the Powerhouse renovated, and by including food operations for the movie theater, it has a viable chance,” Bologna said.