The Van Wert County Courthouse

Saturday, Jun. 3, 2023

Cinema owners showcase upgrades, plans

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent editor

A big city feel in a small town – that’s the goal of Van Wert Cinemas owners Rod and Donna Saunders.

The couple met with local media members on Wednesday to showcase improvements made to the existing facility on Lincoln Highway. The most notable improvements include the completed installation of world class Barco laser projectors and Dolby ATMOS sound systems in two of the five cinemas. Luxury heated and reclining seats were previously installed in each of the five theaters.

Van Wert Cinemas co-owner Donna Saunders points to some of the speakers that make up the ATMOS sound system in two of the five cinemas. Scott Truxell/Van Wert independent

The Barco projectors provide stunningly bright images on the big screen while the new sound systems give an immersive experience via 46 speakers in each theater, plus three more behind the screen. The closest city with this type of dual technology is Columbus.

“The reason cinema owners invest like this is to get people into the seats,” Donna Saunders said. “We were closed down for a year (COVID-19) so we took advantage of that time to do a significant investment since we were closed anyway, betting that people would want to get out of their homes. It’s working now that new movies are out.”

With an eye on the future, the couple gave an update on plans for a 10,000 square foot addition to Van Wert Cinemas. Those plans call for a seven day a week restaurant/bar and a 40-piece arcade with a party room. The VW independent previously reported on those plans in May. A link to the story can be found here.

“It’s a redemption game center, our version of a Dave and Buster’s,” Rod Saunders said. “It’s not going to be a chain, it’s going to be our own brand. We’re going to control every aspect of what food goes in there, what the menu is going to be and all of that.”

They acknowledged there are a couple of big hurdles to clear, including getting approval of Pleasant Township voters this fall.

“This township is a dry township so we had to put an issue on the ballot (in November) to have a liquor license,” she explained. “Now we need the voters to say whether they want it.”

The other hurdle is securing financing for the project, which is expected to cost at least $2.5 million. A specialized broker has been hired to find investors for the addition.

The hope is to have the new addition up and open sometime in 2023 but delays are possible due to supply chain issues.

In addition to Van Wert Cinemas, the couple owns Van-Del Drive-In, a drive-in in Liberty Center and a historic three-screen theater in Bryan.

POSTED: 08/04/22 at 3:48 am. FILED UNDER: News