Editorial: Let’s move beyond the coming attractions

The first Facebook comment we received on a story we published online last week about plans for a multiplex in Riverhead said it all.

“Forgive my skepticism,” the man wrote. “But I’ll believe it when I actually buy my popcorn and sit down in a seat. I’ve been hearing about the mythical Riverhead movie theater for 30 years.”

He isn’t alone. The community has become exhausted by decades of reports about a movie theater possibly coming to town and then never being built.

During a staff meeting last week, an editor suggested that the odds of a multiplex materializing in Riverhead were similar to those of an indoor ski mountain rising at the Enterprise Park at Calverton. He was only half-kidding.

A search through our archives turns up stories about possible movie theaters at three different sites on Route 58, which now house a Costco, a Home Depot and Tanger Outlets. Similar proposals have been made for the former Woolworth building downtown and a site on Railroad Avenue.

It’s easy to understand why yet another report about a multiplex at the former Walmart site on Route 58 might breed skepticism.

It’s not for a lack of desire within the community. Last week’s article was one of the most-read News-Review stories in months — and most of the feedback we’ve seen about the proposal has been positive.

Many readers seem to believe the nearest theater in Mattituck is inadequate and they’re tired of driving to Stony Brook or Holtsville for a better experience.

Riverhead Town officials once changed town code to disallow building a movie theater on Route 58. At the time, the hope was that a theater would instead become part of revitalization efforts downtown. It didn’t.

Over the years, other Route 58 retailers came to town instead, including Costco, BJ’s, Sports Authority, Modell’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Target, two Walmarts and a Kmart. The large shopping centers built in recent years to attract a few of the aforementioned retailers have left vacancies at several existing big-box plazas.

The Town Board <f”Minion Pro”>now wants to change town code again to enable plans for a multiplex at the former Walmart to move forward.<f$> It’s something they should have done years ago.

We hope the next story we write about a Riverhead movie theater is an announcement that one is officially opening at a shopping center near you. Until then, maybe we’ll see you on the slopes at EPCAL.