Historic theater’s drawing power helps downtown Miamisburg businesses

The Historic Plaza Theatre’s resurgence in Miamisburg is being credited with drawing thousands of non-city residents downtown, bringing nearby businesses more customers.

The renovated theater built nearly 100 years ago has shattered attendance goals since reopening Christmas Day 2015, with a significant chunk of its customers coming from out of town, Miamisburg City Manager Keith Johnson.

“We’re seeing about a third of the people who go into the theater aren’t from Miamisburg,” said Johnson, who three years ago noted the Plaza project “has the potential of being the single largest catalyst project downtown that we’ve done to date.”

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Recently released attendance figures indicate the Plaza has drawn 16,093 customers this year, nearly 100 past its goal. Combined with 2016 and 2017 numbers, the theatre that originally opened in 1919 before shuddering in the late 1960s has topped its three-year attendance objective of 42,000.

The theater’s ability to draw people to downtown Miamisburg has had a significant residual impact on other activities and downtown businesses, Johnson said.

Those include includes an array of independent specialty retail shops, restaurants, two breweries and a music venue at Riverfront Park.

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“We’re finding a lot of these people come down for a movie (and) they’ll go to (restaurants) and grab a bite to eat,” he said. “Or they’ll stop off for a concert in the park or go get some ice cream.

“So, yes, it has done everything that we had hoped it would do,” Johnson added. “And downtown needs it to be successful. You’re not drawing people to the downtown – for the most part – that are citizens. A lot of the services (residents) want they get outside of the downtown.

“But these are destination visitors that come downtown just for the experience of being in the downtown,” he continued. “And downtown needs to be more than just restaurants to be successful. And the movie theater is an example of those types of other uses.”

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The single-screen theater at 33 S. Main St. reopened with the concept of showing classic films with digitally-enhanced technology for $5 a ticket, an admission which hasn’t increased.

A $350,000 project spearheaded by the Plaza Theatre Association transformed a building had been vacant for more than a decade into a 5,200-square-foot auditorium with more than 280 seats, and a concession area and lobby.

Having surpassed its 2018 attendance goal, the task ahead is “to break even financially, which is within reach,” Doug Sorrell of the theater association said in an email.

The plaza’s self-sufficiency is important to the Miamisburg City Council, which agreed three years ago to guarantee its five-year loan.

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“The only thing that we’ve done is set aside some money,” Johnson said, adding that “the theater has been able to meet its obligations. So it’s not costing the taxpayers anything.

“It’s paid off,” he said of the city’s support of the Plaza. “It’s doing everything and more that we thought it would be doing.”

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