On July 27, Uptown’s up-from-the-ashes Victory Park development may finally have found the people magnet it’s longed for during its slog to profitability. And it’s a solution many a dating couple figured out years ago.
If you want to attract regular folks on a regular basis, try serving up dinner and a movie.
At the end of the month, the Mexican-born theater chain Cinépolis will open its first location in the city of Dallas (there’s one in Euless). At 44,000 square feet, it will mark the second largest draw in the district’s main corridor, behind only the American Airlines Center, home to the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars.
Backers of both Victory Park and the theater see it as an especially symbiotic relationship: Cinépolis needs visibility to boost brand awareness with the stateside crowd. And for this current crop of restaurants and retailers to survive, Victory just needs humans, and plenty of them. That’s something the initial Victory Park developers found elusive.
Creating a “destination dining district was one of our primary goals,” said Terry Montesi, chief executive of Fort Worth-based Trademark Property Company, which was brought into the Victory project in 2012, about six years after it opened, to “re-envision, redevelop, lease and manage,” the 75-acre mixed-use development.
“A luxury cinema like this, in particular, helps us reach the audience that the restaurants are interested in, and it has helped us for sure with our leasing efforts,” he said.
And since Cinépolis is fairly new to the North Texas market, “clearly Victory is one of the high-profile places a retailer or entertainment use or restaurant that wants to make a high-profile splash in Dallas could pick,” he added.
Victory Park, snugly tucked near the intersection of the Stemmons and Woodall Rodgers freeways, launched in the mid-2000s with much promise but has had decidedly less retail and restaurant success.
With a retail mix initially populated with $200 T-shirts and dining options for the well-heeled, the development failed to find enough of an audience as consumers complained about the prices and the parking. Venue after venue closed.
The recession stalled work on the project, and German investors took control of most of it in 2009.
Enter Trademark, which now aims to fill the space with more approachable and affordable, yet sophisticated, options.
“The original programming, there just wasn’t enough of it, and it didn’t really connect with the customer,” Montesi said. “During the few years we’ve been working on it, a cinema was in our hopes and dreams and marketing plans. We agree that there needed to be another anchor other than the AAC. And the cinema was really at the top of our list.”
As sunlight streamed in through floor to ceiling windows in the lobby of the nearly completed Cinépolis Victory Park, Luis Olloqui could see the future.
“This is our flagship,” said the new president of Cinépolis USA, which moved its headquarters from Los Angeles to North Texas in 2016. “We’re really targeting this to be one of our best … We really believe that the area is ready for our concept, and I think we’ll be doing very well.”
In the U.S., where Cinépolis has been showing first-run movies since 2011, the brand offers two theater styles.
Cinépolis Victory Park, with eight screens, is tagged “luxury,” sporting a long granite-topped bar in the lobby, reclining leather seats in the theaters, and an upscale menu that will include marinated olive stuffed porkloin tortas and chicken tinga bowls with rice, beans and avocado.
All seats are reserved in advance, and at Victory Park, the 19th U.S. location, patrons can order food from their seats.
Euless, with 12 screens, is tagged “premium.” The seats aren’t quite as wide, you can’t order from them and the menu is more compact.
Euless is expected to sell more tickets. Victory Park, where the bar is open to the public, is expected to sell more food and drink, which is the more profitable part of the movie theater business.
In California, the brand’s former home, Cinépolis theaters have hosted Hollywood royalty including Tom Hanks and Django Unchained’s Quentin Tarantino, according to Olloqui, who’s been president since March. In Europe, the brand has hosted actual royalty, including the King of Spain.
In North Texas, Olloqui knows his brand is not a household name.
Born in Morelia, Michoacán, in central Mexico in 1971, it’s the largest theater chain in Mexico, and has expanded to 665 theaters and 5,431 screens in 14 countries across the globe.
Yet locally, it’s overshadowed by industry leader AMC, which has a commanding presence at NorthPark Center, and by Plano-based Cinemark, the nation’s third-largest movie house with 339 theaters and 4,566 screens in 41 states.
And in central Dallas, Cinépolis will compete with the still newish Alamo Drafthouse in the Cedars, which is only two miles away.
Landing in a prominent perch, Olloqui said, will help.
“Most of our clients will be new to the concept and the brand,” Olloqui said, as workers continued to prep for the July 27 grand opening. “Most of the people don’t know we’re a Mexican company. That’s part of the process of us growing in the U.S. [As more open] they will start getting to know our brand. Victory Park will help a lot in the Dallas market.”
Initially, unfamiliarity with the brand led to some standoffishness by U.S. developers, Olloqui said.
“I don’t know why but sometimes when they think ‘Mexican,’ they don’t think that we’ll do a very good job,” he said. “Some discrimination, I don’t know, stereotypes. We have to break that barrier.”
To get around that, Cinépolis bought theaters in California and began converting them.
“When [developers] saw what we were doing in California, that’s when things started moving faster,” he said. “Now it’s easier to get more deals because now we have built enough theaters so that developers know how we build, the quality of the building and also the quality of the service.”
Victory Park is one of three U.S. locations expected to open this year. Next year, Olloqui hopes to open five in the U.S.
Last year Scott Beck, owner of a planned Dallas Midtown mixed-use development, said a Cinépolis theater will help anchor the first phase of his 100-acre project.
Montesi hopes many of the moviegoers at the Victory Park location will be locals.
There are 11,500 residents, about 4,000 apartments and condos, 17,000 workers and 4.5 million square feet of office spaces within walking distance of the theater, according to statistics from Trademark.
That compares to 754 residences and 621,000 square feet of office space in 2013, Trademark’s first full year on the job. Stats on the 2013 headcount were not immediately available, but the trend clearly is on the upswing.
Developers are finishing up the last of four new high-rise apartment buildings in Victory Park that will have more than 1,000 luxury rental units.
Those numbers, Montesi said, will help Cinépolis’ numbers.
“Having more people within walking distance is an enormous influencer on what our foot traffic should be, on what our sales should be,” Montesi said. “If you’re going to have a walkable retail district, you really need people who are within walking distance. Having a few thousand more people within walking distance [than 2013] is one of the key influencers of what should drive additional foot traffic. Absolutely.”
While scanning the nearby landscape, taking in views of the AAC and downtown Dallas, Olloqui said he’s not put off by the ghosts of Victory Park’s past.
“For us this is like a marriage,” he said, leaning forward in a lobby lounge chair. “We will have our issues, yes. But we will solve them. We’ll be here. We want to be here for a long time.”