“Lights, camera, action” … and don’t forget the popcorn.

Movies are coming back to downtown Evanston.

The new developer of Church Street Plaza, Mitch Goltz, says his GW Properties has signed a contract with AMC Theatres, the largest such operator in the country, to take over the currently vacant Cinemark site on Maple Avenue.

“We were always a believer” that the theater space would fill, Goltz tells Evanston Now.

“We chose AMC because it’s the biggest name and will have the widest offerings,” he added.

Cinemark closed its Evanston property in 2020, but Goltz says factors such as COVID, landlord-tenant issues with a previous owner and corporate matters within Cinemark had more to do with the shutdown than a lack of confidence in Evanston.

GW Properties purchsed the 200,000 square-foot Plaza last year. Goltz says his company would not have done that without believing that the vacant portions could be filled, and that, he says, is exactly what’s happening.

With 18 screens, Goltz says, Cinemark had too many theaters within the theater. So the new AMC will have only 12. The rest of the theater, and some adjacent empty storefronts, will be modified for other tenants.

Those newcomers include a trampoline/recreation center called SkyZone, along with an e-gaming spot (from UK-based Belong Gaming).

In fact, Goltz says, only about 15,000 square feet of the 200,000 square foot total are not signed-for yet, but he adds that those should fill as well.

“Our goal is to be 100% leased by the end of spring,” he notes.

And who knows, maybe someday, someone will make a movie about how movies made a comeback in downtown Evanston.

“Great days lie ahead,” says Goltz. “We’re very encouraged and optimistic.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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