Not So Grand

September 22, 2005 at 2:27pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

I doubt this surprises most of you, but The Grand isn’t doing as grand as either the city or Douglas Theaters had hoped. The article does a good job of showing how dirty the city’s hands are in the fiasco that is The Grand. The article states that the city squeezed Douglas to take a risk on The Grand in exchange for allowing Douglas to maintain its monopoly in Lincoln (via the restrictions on theaters outside of Downtown). That Douglas didn’t call the city’s bluff shows how little common sense the company used before diving head-first into a project that few people outside of City Hall and the Downtown Lincoln Association thought could succeed. It doesn’t help that The Grand’s interior is not especially well designed, and that, despite its moniker’s implication otherwise, it is just another theater. Douglas didn’t even bother to follow the nationwide trend of sprucing up food and drink options at the snack bar.

I can’t help but be reminded of another project for which expectations among a few were high, but support from the public was weak. Like the Archway Monument, The Grand can be saved. (The question of whether or not it, like the Archway, should have been built in the first place is moot at this point.) But at what cost? Specifically, at what public cost? Lincolnites have already been forced to chip in over $3 million to support a theater that few of them have been willing to support with their business. Is it fair to ask Lincolnites to help out again by keeping out the very competition they may want to support?

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Mr. T September 23, 2005 at 2:43am

A few things….

First, I have not been too impressed with the place myself. But its not as if I was expecting something akin to the movieplexes in places like NYC or LA or anything. It just strikes me, as the lay consumer of movies from time to time, as a pretty average complex. And its not as if I am a huge movie goer anyways.

Second, what is your opinion on the whole new proposed SE location movieplex? One thing I learned from my work down in southern Lancaster Co is that, apparently, a lot of the folks down there (hallam, wilber, etc.) regularly come up to Lincoln to catch a movie, obviously because the choice here is much better than what they would get down there, if they have a choice. But they only go so far north as that theater complex at southpointe. I guess its not worth the extra time, navigation, and parking hassle for them to go all the way to the grand (understandably). I assume that people north of town (raymond, ceresco, etc.) may also venture into Lincoln from time to time as well.

Anyway my point being, to what extent was thought given to the grand as not just a draw for lincolnites, but lancaster-ites as well?

On an unrelated sidenote/diatribe, I might also add that as someone who lives in downtown, or very near to downtown (stones throw from the unicam), there isn’t a whole lot that makes me want to “hang out” in downtown. When I go to downtown I go to my office or campus and pick up lunch at a nearby restaurant and thats pretty much it. One observation I have noted is that in Iowa City, where I spent 4 years living in prior to Lincoln, the main pubic library there was awesome, MUCH better than the downtown Lincoln branch, and its presence made the Iowa City downtown really very colorful and lively.

Lots of people, tons of space, nice place to just “hang out.” It is so much better that I was actually shocked when I first walked into the downtown Lincoln library branch and experienced its completely dismal atmosphere. It seems to me that the branch libraries are just plain superior to Bennett. Where I am originally from, the Twin Cities, the main downtown libraries, are just huge, and very nice places to hang out as well.  It’s really unfortunate here because if Bennett was better, I would probably spend more time in the weekends or evenings just hanging out there to read or write.

Mr. Wilson September 23, 2005 at 4:23am

1. I concur. It is average.

2. Business-wise, the southeast corner is a far better location for a megaplex than Downtown is. Were Lancaster-ites (?) considered when The Grand was built? It doesn’t appear that way. Your impression of non-Lincolnites from around the area is pretty much correct: many of them never venture any farther north than Highway 2.

3. A renovation of Bennet Martin has been discussed for quite some time. Its inadequacies are well known. Solutions have been proposed (e.g. moving into Pershing Center), but neither concrete plans nor money have presented themselves.

Abe of Lincoln September 27, 2005 at 6:20am

I’m among those Lincolnites who have never been inside The Grand. I just generally look for a more convenient place to see a movie, and most any other theater is more convenient than going downtown. At the prices of movie tickets these days there are few that are worth plunking down that kind of money vs. waiting a few months and renting for a tenth the cost. (Serenity will be an exception.)

When I was a kid, Bennet Martin was a first rate library. The collection is still good, but appearance and atmosphere are in the tank. A library is not a homeless shelter, and allowing it to become one was a surefire way to drive off the taxpaying customers. That’s working.

Mr. T September 28, 2005 at 4:22am

Abe - I couldn’t agree more. The atmosphere of the Bennett Martin Library strikes me as being akin to an industrial basement. It is dark, cramped, and generally an unpleasant place to be at. Literally the first time I was there (when I initially moved to Lincoln and wanted to check email accounts and had no internet connection at home) the staff herded me into a queue of people waiting to use their computers and did nothing as the line of people “self-selected” how long they could actually use the few available stations. God the place is horrible. The contrast with some of the outer city library branches is remarkable. Resident of donwtown/near downtown, could make use of a habitable public library. The deteriorating shape of Bennett Martin is pretty alarming.

Abe of Lincoln September 28, 2005 at 4:39am

In the late 60’s, as a teenager, I went there for Lincoln Chess Club every week. At the time it was quite nice.

Downtown was quite safe at night, as it is today, as well. My friend and I used to walk from Bennett Martin to the Lincoln Journal-Star to get a ride from his dad, but no worries even for two teenagers at 10 pm on a weeknight.

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