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3-D theater seeks a home
New location sought for proposed theater

Crews film “Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk 3D.” A special Williams version of the film is planned for Williams should developers find a suitable site location.

Crews film “Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk 3D.” A special Williams version of the film is planned for Williams should developers find a suitable site location.

The location for the proposed Williams 3-D theater is once again up in the air, after officials with Burlington Northern and Santa Fe (BNSF) decided against a building lease to project developers, though a parking lease may still be utilized through the company. Theater representatives are seeking a third location for the building itself, though where that location may be has still to be determined. Developers with MacGillivray-Freeman Films (MFF) said they hoped to build the theater as close as possible to the Grand Canyon Railway.

MFF representative Paul Fraser, with Blaze Partners, said designers are currently working on a new concept plan for the proposed theater.

"Although we had been encouraged by representatives of BNSF that we could rent their land for the 3-D theater building and its new parking lot and driveway, BNSF ultimately decided they would require us to limit the use of their land to theater parking and driveways only," Fraser said. "They won't allow the theater building on the BNSF parcel we requested, because as a policy, they like to keep their lands that run alongside their tracks free of any buildings."

Fraser called plans for the theater a "work in progress."

"We still believe the best available location in Williams for a permanent theater building is next to the visitor center, but this means leasing land from the city, plus securing some of the nearby BNSF land for extra parking and driveways, all of which would come with certain conditions," Fraser said. "Our plans may become more complicated, and it will take more time to get all the lands properly secured before construction could begin."

Williams Mayor Ken Edes, in a letter to the editor published in last week's edition of the News, said theater developers would have to adhere to a number of the city processes should they desire to place the theater on city-owned property. The first process, he said, would include a Request for Proposal (RFP) in regards to a specified parcel of land. Public input would be sought regarding the RFP for a period of 60 days. While some have speculated that the theater may be located where the Williams Recreation Center buildings currently stand, Edes said there has been no decision to move in that direction.

"John (Moore) and I have talked and both our stands is that we're not even considering moving the rec center for space for the 3-D theater unless there is a new rec center," Edes said, adding that city officials have not received any proposals or requests in relation to a proposed building location as of May 23.

"I do know that they are coming on June 12 to go before council with some ideas. We don't have any current proposals or requests from them," Edes said.

A temporary 3-D theater, however, is in the works. MFF representatives, partnered with officials from the Red Feather Lodge, are hoping to screen their recent film in Tusayan. Fraser met with officials from the Coconino County Board of Supervisors Planning and Zoning department May 27 to seek a 12 to 18-month conditional use permit that would allow construction of a temporary structure in the Tusayan area.

Fraser said a temporary structure provided developers with an attraction option when it came to screening their film.

"It would allow us to get a theater up and running in a relatively short period of time. A permanent theater, obviously, takes a lot more time to get developed. MFF's new 3-D film, 'Grand Canyon Adventure,' has been released to giant-screen theaters around the world and is enjoying outstanding box office results and critical praise. Tourists to the Grand Canyon region would love this film, yet we can't show it to them," Fraser said. "We've been studying this temporary theater idea for several months as a 'plan B' and not just for Tusayan, although our plans there are the furthest advanced."

He said plans are also being considered to show the film in the temporary structure in Williams as well, though not in the visitor center location, while plans for a permanent theater proceed.

The 3-D theater has gone through a number of incarnations since it was first proposed to Williams City Council members in March 2007. Representatives with MFF originally hoped to place the theater between the Williams Recreation Center and the Williams Visitor Center. Rather than work out an agreement with city officials on that property, plans shifted to a new location. Though still near the Williams Visitor Center, MFF representatives moved their plans for the theater to a proposed location between the Williams Visitor Center and the entrance to the Grand Canyon Railway. Members of Williams City Council gave unanimous approval to the concept during their regular meeting Jan. 24.

MFF representatives plan to show a special Williams version of the film should they find a suitable location for the theater. While Grand Canyon Adventure is billed as the theater's primary film, other films may also be shown at the location, including possible Christmas-related films. Grand Canyon Adventure opened nationwide March 14 to coincide with World Water Day March 22. Noted environmentalist and actor Robert Redford narrated the film.

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