Downtown McHenry theater progresses; seating arrives

Remodeled facility expected to open in January

McHENRY – McHenry is one step closer to the opening of its indoor movie theater after volunteers moved a truckload of seating into the three-screen space.

The theater has been in the works since February after McHenry City Council members approved plans for its development. The theater has been closed since 2014 and has undergone a massive transformation since construction began.

Remodeling of the building has included roof replacement, interior wall and floor work and facade improvements. The project’s cost is estimated at about
$1.5 million – about $1.2 million for the building, and another few hundred thousand in build-out and equipment.

The theater will operate under a community-owned model, with community members and business owners investing in the redevelopment, including McHenry Mayor Wayne Jett.

Woodstock-based D.C. Cobbs will complement the theater. The restaurant plans to open a location next to the theater in February.

The burgers and brews-style pub will offer a menu in McHenry similar to its Woodstock location, including 24 beers on draft, owner Dan Hart said.

The restaurant also will feature outdoor dining on a patio and roof.

The space almost entirely has been built from reclaimed resources, aside from things that must be bought news, such as kitchen equipment, tables and chairs.

“Less than 10 percent of our construction materials are from new things,” Hart said. “We have also designed a louvered roof that will open and close, and we have gas fire pits to let people [sit] out longer.”

The theater will hire between 16 and 18 employees, and manager Scott Dehn – who also runs McHenry’s outdoor, drive-in theater – said he wants to offer a fun, unique experience for moviegoers.

“I want a fun, clean, family-friendly experience,” Dehn said. “And I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve that I know other theaters don’t offer. Every time they come there, they will remember something special about it.”

The indoor theater has been something residents have wanted for a while, and its presence should complement the outdoor theater space, which only is open seasonally, Dehn said.

“Customers always say they wish there were an indoor theater so they can see movies the other half of the year,” he said. “The outdoor theater is really a different kind of experience. I’d not think one is going to impact the other because they are so different. … If anything, they will complement each other and help each other out by being neighbors.”

Construction is ongoing, and the theater is expected to open in January, he said.

The theater, located downtown by the McHenry Riverwalk at 1208 N. Green St., will enhance the area around it, McHenry Chamber of Commerce Director Kay Bates said.

“I have walked through and have been impressed by the amount of work put into this theater,” Bates said. “It’s going to be wonderful, and the combination with D.C. Cobbs is incredible. … We think it’s going to be a big enhancement for the downtown.”

The theater could act as a catalyst to redevelopment for the riverwalk, as well, which is about a third of the way complete, said Kit Carstens, vice chairman of the Riverwalk Foundation.

Carstens said the nonprofit has been on a “five-year quest” to get an entity into the theater to anchor the area. The foundation wants to continue work on the walkway to increase tourism. The next step is to link the riverwalk between retail areas on Green Street and Riverside Drive, he said.

“The whole concept of the riverwalk was an economic development tool for the downtown,” Carstens said. “The concept is if we can create a destination, there really isn’t very much competition [north of] Chicago.”

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