Enzian Theater hoping to expand

Enzian expansion

The preliminary plans for the Enzian’s expansion show the current building in brown and the proposed additions in purple. (photo provided by City of Maitland)

From The Orlando Weekly, April 24, 2013

The Enzian Theater could be seeking to almost triple its current size by adding two screens and two lobbies to its existing building, according to the City of Maitland and other sources with knowledge of the plans. The independent art cinema currently has just one screen, in addition to an outdoor bar and restaurant.

In November, the Enzian submitted a proposal to the City of Maitland, according to Jacqueline Holt of the city’s Planning Department. The proposal is only a preliminary one, and subsequent plans must be approved by the City of Maitland before construction begins. But if the ideas come to fruition, the expansion would be an exciting and welcome boost for independent and art-house cinema in Orlando.

The Enzian has not made an official announcement, and would not directly confirm its plans for an expansion, instead saying that the theater is simply “exploring the possibilities,” adding, “it will get much more interesting in time, if there ends up being a story at all.”

The preliminary proposal on file with the city of Maitland lists Chronus Construction as the builder and calls for a second theater on the north side of the current building and a third one on the east. The two new theaters would be connected by a concessions lobby, while a main lobby and additional restrooms would be situated to the south of the third theater. The current entrance, fountain area, iconic trees, Eden Bar and outdoor movie area would be untouched. It’s not known whether the two new theaters would be built in a café style, mimicking the current auditorium, or whether they would contain seats only.

Despite the specificity of the current plan, any final proposal would likely look quite different. “The drawing … is simply an expression of area to see if that space would be usable,” said Enzian General Manager Hollie Mahadeo. “It is in no way actual construction plans, and the interior layout is not a design we would consider bringing to life [exactly as it appears in the preliminary proposal].”

The Florida Film Festival, which just completed its 22nd year on April 14, might also be in for exciting changes. Instead of being split between the Enzian and Regal Cinemas in Winter Park Village, the event could become a single-site affair. However, the preliminary proposal depicts the two new Enzian theaters as smaller than the current one – and considerably smaller than the largest of the Regal theaters – perhaps necessitating the continued involvement of Regal. But the festival’s future is difficult to predict, as sources say the positions and sizes of the new theaters may change drastically from the depiction in the current drawing if and when the Enzian chooses to submit a final proposal.

The expansion depicted in the preliminary proposal would be the largest in the Enzian’s 28 years, bringing the building’s square footage from 7,629 to 19,127. The entire site covers about 3 acres, and the proposal calls for keeping almost 2 acres of green space while also preserving virtually all of the parking area. The height of the proposed structure would not exceed 50 feet.

The Enzian is already in the midst of a major renovation, this one on the inside of the current auditorium. The carpets, wall coverings and most of the tables and chairs are being replaced. The theater has sought donations for those improvements, but it’s not known whether funding for the proposed expansion would also come from donations, or from another source. No timetable for fundraising or, indeed, any of the new plans has been announced.

Copyright 2013 © Orlando Weekly

 

Update

In a letter to Enzian supporters in November 2013, Executive Vice President Elizabeth Tiedtke confirmed what I first reported in my April article in The Orlando Weekly: The Enzian will indeed expand to a second and third screen.

“To respond to our community’s hunger for what we offer, we have developed plans to add two theaters to our current site, tucked behind the existing theater,” Tiedtke said. “Our aim is to honor and preserve the Enzian you know and love, simultaneously enhancing and improving the patron experience. The Old Florida oasis in front of the theater will remain just as it is, with the entrance to a new lobby and all three theaters just peeking around one corner. The new theaters, seating 80 and 50, will have Enzian-style seating and screens as large as our current screen. Programattically, we will offer more of what you love: more festivals, more single-event screenings and more variety. And we will stay open during this expansion, vowing the least possible disruption of your film, food and friends experience.”

The Enzian is asking for donations, which are partially tax-deductible.

“We will accomplish this only with the community’s support,” Tiedtke said. “Plans and more details will be revealed in the new year.”

Tiedtke’s description of the expansion sounds virtually identical to the preliminary plans filed with the City of Maitland in 2012 and revealed for the first time in my Orlando Weekly article in April 2013. However, that article, and Tiedtke’s comments, did not address the issue of parking.

(The Orlando Weekly reblogged this post, with the diagram of the preliminary construction proposal. See http://www.orlandoweekly.com/Blogs/archives/2013/11/20/enzian-announces-expansion-plans.)