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Movie theater expansion project breaks ground in Polson

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POLSON – Movie-lovers in Polson will have more options for viewing films by next summer. 

On Sept. 21, Polson Theaters broke ground on an expansion to the Showboat Cinemas building. Construction on an addition to the south side of the existing building is underway, and an addition to the north side of the building will soon begin. When the project is finished, there will be a total of six auditoriums in the facility. The proposed name for the new facility reflects its expansion. It could be called Showboat Stadium Six.

The south-side expansion will feature three new auditoriums and a new concessions and ticketing area. The north-side expansion will feature new bathrooms and two new auditoriums. The two existing auditoriums will be combined into one auditorium, which will be the largest in the theater. Each viewing room will hold stadium seats with rocking-chair seating. The new concessions area will allow the theater to offer an expanded selection of refreshments. 

Chief Operating Officer Gary Dupuis said the expansion would allow the theater to offer a larger selection of films. With only two screens in Polson and one in Ronan, the company has trouble getting film companies to allow their movies to be shown. Dupuis said the expansion would allow the theater to offer more movies that aren’t mainstream blockbusters. “Our regulars will have more chances to see new movies,” Dupuis said.

The project is a big step for the family-owned theater company. Dupuis’ in-laws, Howard and Ayron Pickerell, have owned the Polson Theaters chain since 1971. Hu Beaver Builders will facilitate the construction project.

Dupuis said despite the increase in streaming services that allow people to watch movies at home, the Mission Valley has always been a loyal movie-viewing town. According to Dupuis, the opportunity to get out of the house, see something entertaining and interact with others in the community are factors that bring customers back to the theater repeatedly. 

He said the big-screen experience is one that can’t be had a home. “Directors say, ‘I made the movie for the theater, not the iPad.’” 

Dupuis said the theater decided to expand because they saw demand for more film options. The theater’s last significant project was the transition from film to digital screening equipment in 2011. The existing theater will stay open during most of the construction. It will close for some short periods during the most disruptive construction. The outside of the building will get a facelift too. Dupuis said the new look would add to Polson’s downtown. 

The decision to remain in downtown Polson also allowed the theater to take advantage of Tax Increment Finance funds for the project. In 2018, the theater was awarded $160,000 to improve the exterior of the building. TIF funds are awarded to businesses and individuals to improve designated blighted areas in the city of Polson.

Dupuis said the theater considered moving locations for the expansion project but ultimately decided to keep its Main Street location. The decision made financial sense because the theater already owned a parcel of land adjacent to the existing building. 

Retaining the location was seen as a community-building decision. “We feel that with being able to stay downtown, we can keep people coming downtown,” Dupuis said. “We feel like we’re adding to the community with year-round entertainment.”


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