It’s official: Fondren’s Pix/Capri Theater will re-open as a multi-screen cinema as early as summer 2013. Principal partner Jason Watkins, along with Marcy and Aaron Vick, David Pharr and Dorsey Carson have signed the deal with big plans for the historic space. “Our idea,” Watkins says, “is to restore, redevelop, and relaunch it as a movie theater with a dine-in concept.” Similar concepts have been carried through with much success in other cities where moviegoers can enjoy full menu food service while seeing a first run feature. The $5 to $10 million plan has never been for a single screen complex. “Historically, that hasn’t worked in Jackson,” Watkins reminds us. He plans to add on to the existing structure without disturbing the significant nature of the building. And, the Pix/Capri main theater will have some stage aspect to it to serve a multipurpose, hopefully for performing arts groups.
Also in the plans? An underground parking structure will be located behind the theater with a green space on top. “That green space has always been a part of the mix,” he says. It’s expensive, he tells us, to build parking underground, but it wouldn’t require lots of digging. He also says that land is too valuable for a surface lot. “We will vision that with our architects and see what it looks like. It’s such a natural and obvious thing to do.”
Another aspect Watkins and his group are exploring is a residential development. With about 100 condo and apartment units, this portion would be built across the back section of the property. Adding this could bring the total cost to around $30 million. He also mentions that there are no plans to lose existing homes on Mitchell or Oxford.
Realistically, he says, dirt won’t likely turn until 2013, but that’s not stopping the building from being put to good use in the meantime. Good Samaritan Center’s N.U.T.S. announced plans last month to move a retail thrift shop location into the front lobby on a temporary basis. And on the day we stopped by, crews were inside the theater cleaning up. “This isn’t something we look at five years down the road,” Watkins explains, “and say ‘when will this happen?’ It’s happening right now.”
As for the overall Whitney Place development (a separate project all together), what is known as The Strip will be redeveloped in some way. Watkins is a part of its development and says that when the time comes, it will fit in with the Pix/Capri project. They have spoken with tenants and architects alike to come up with a plan that they believe satisfies everyone. “We want to maintain the facade and then recreate from there.” He says plans that made the rounds in the early days of Whitney Place talks were never ready for public eyes. “Those were only concepts on paper.” For now, Watkins and his group hope people will love what they see and understand the commitment they are making to bringing back this historic treasure. “What we want to do, Watkins tells us, “is let this project be absorbed by the neighborhood. This is a really big deal for Fondren.”