On a signpost jutting from the dirt in a fenced-in lot at the corner of Third Street and Gass Avenue is a rendering of a modern, streamlined building accompanied by the words “COMING SOON…Downtown’s own VIP Movie experience.” In January 2014, the Las Vegas Planning Commission approved plans for construction at this location of a 72,000-square-foot, three-story, 550-seat multiplex called Eclipse Theaters. Although its original slated opening date of fall 2014 came and went with no apparent progress since, this long-awaited project appears to be finally coming to fruition.
In April, Eclipselaunched its website at EclipseTheaters.com, which shows off architectural renderings for the “upscale, concierge-style venue.” And just last week, it was announced that the project’s funding had been fully realized, thanks to the completion of federal and state New Markets Tax Credits that closed the gap between the facility’s construction budget and the private funding it had already secured. What does that all mean? According to Managing Director Nic Steele, Eclipse will likely see a groundbreaking by August, with a projected opening by spring 2016.
“Opening date is really just a date in the future that we back into based on when we start construction, and construction doesn’t happen until you have financing in place,” Steele says, “The good thing is that all that’s been resolved. With financing fully complete, we’ve already gone in front of utility agencies and are just getting our designs back in front of everybody. Hopefully we get everything ready back from everyone and we’ll be good to go for August.”
The New Markets Tax Credit program was created by the Nevada State Legislature in 2013 to “help businesses located in low-income areas get access to below market loans,” according to the state’s website. Steele says that although going through the complicated process of acquiring the credits delayed the timetable for construction of Eclipse Theaters, it was worth it for him and his development team to push through.
“We could have gone through with a project that was much smaller in scale,” says Steele, “but to really do something how we designed it and how we actually thought it should fit within the city, we needed the full package to be available. We want to make sure this project is one of the marquee projects downtown. Everybody wants a movie theater, but we didn’t want to bring an ordinary movie theater. We want to bring the full experience that’s missing here in Vegas. I was personally against scaling down our project just because of a self-imposed deadline.”
That “full experience” includes eight movie theaters offering “chef-driven” menus and alcohol served directly to guests’ reclining seats, a second-floor restaurant and lounge with an outdoor patio, and a third-floor VIP level that can be used for special events.
“When you go to this kind of model, it’s more about the experience and the customers aren’t treated as a commodity,” Steele says. “This is more about ‘come in, see a movie, have a waiter serve you, take your time’—it’s a more comfortable feeling. The spacing of the movie times are wider, the theaters range from anywhere from 50 to 90 seats. It’s definitely more intimate.”
Steele says that although Eclipse Theaters’ primary goal is to be a first-run movie theater, he recognizes there’s a lack of alternative film programming in Las Vegas in general, and hopes Eclipse can be more than just another popcorn movie multiplex.
“What we want to do is supply films that fulfill the demand,” says Steele. “If there is demand for indies, then we want to try and show those. We probably won’t be showing them on Friday and Saturday, but I think there is an opportunity on the off nights to show an indie film or an international film. I keep hearing there’s a lot of demand for indie here, but when people build an indie house, they typically don’t last long. Our goal is to offer the programming and see if that’s possible. It’s one of those things you don’t figure out until it actually happens.”
Eclipse plans to do considerable outreach to local businesses and nonprofits long before ever selling a movie ticket in order to establish relationships in the downtown community. And Steele says he hopes to attract other types of creative endeavors to Eclipse’s flexible venues, including possible partnerships with institutions such as the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts.
“I’m interested to see if bringing this theater helps with film festivals,” Steele says. “I think people are interested in doing arts downtown, so if nothing else, this gives individuals another venue for testing their market. The good thing is, we’re not in a shopping mall. We own the land. It’s our project from front to back. We don’t have the normal demands of having to meet the rent in a casino.”
Ultimately, Steele says he’s less interested in focusing on the project’s delays or the drawn-out bureaucratic “I”-dotting and “T”-crossing that made its financing possible. He just wants Eclipse to fulfill his vision of it becoming a “significant focal point for arts and entertainment Downtown.”
“When it’s here, nobody even thinks about the process to get there,” says Steele. “They’ll be enjoying the movies at that point. I’m super excited. There’s a lot of excitement out there. It’ll be nice to be a part of it.”