Showing 15 comments
Design is essentially identical to the Short Pump 14 and most other 14-16 screen Regals built in the 2000s. The only way to tell which theater you are in from the inside is to look for the extra auditorium at the end of the hall.
This venue was purpose-built by Regal in the late 90s but uses a design I’ve never seen anywhere else.
The theater does not have an outdoor-facing box office or a “no glass” indoor ticket counter, the two designs I have seen at all other theaters I’ve ever visited. Instead it has an enclosed glass box office as an “island” within the lobby. Being able to line up out of the elements during rain or cold is convenient, though there is very limited space and often the line backs up to the entry doors, making getting in when you’ve already purchased a ticket inconvenient.
Go around the box office island and you get the concession stand, with the entry chokepoint to its right. Even though this complex has 20 screens they do not use a “wing” or “ring” design, instead all traffic flows unidirectionally into a series of hallways starting with a left turn beyond the ticket-taking stand that puts you behind the concession stand.
The total amount of travel from the ticket collection point to the farthest screen is substantially larger than at any other theater in the area. To make up for this disincentivizing trips to the concession stand, there is a quite large satellite stand located within the maze of corridors, which I have never seen active on any visit. While the practice of multiple stands used to be common, Regal no longer includes them in their new builds and this is the last surviving “satellite” stand in a Richmond-area theater even though it appears to be permanently out of use.
This theater opened as a Carmike in March 1997 after a lengthy battle with local residents over rezoning the property.
In June 1997 the theater was picketed for a month by IATSE Local 370 over its use of non-union projectionists.
On weekends this theater had a huge problem with crossovers & sneak-ins from teenage mall patrons, combined with disinterested fire code enforcement - crowds weren’t particularly unruly but busy movies would sell the auditorium down to the last seat which is a problem when you also have 50+ non-ticketed viewers in popular shows. I had the “pleasure” of sitting through Titanic from the very front row here. A more positive experience was the first Friday night show of Star Wars Special Edition when in addition to the sold-out seating there were easily 100 people sitting in aisles, leaning against the walls, and standing in the back of the auditorium behind the last row of seats - the only movie I’ve seen that felt like a packed rock concert.
While the building itself isn’t easy to see from the street, they do maintain an old-fashioned hand-changed signboard advertising the current movies which is right alongside Broad Street and easily read from a passing car.
The opening of this theater was much celebrated, as Richmond had no first-run movie theater in the city limits for many years.
It’s debated as to when the last time it was that such a theater existed. Cloverleaf was technically just a few feet over the line in Chesterfield County, and Willow Lawn was the same for Henrico. In any case both theaters had closed by 2001. The Byrd is located in the heart of the city’s cultural district and never closed from 1928 until it briefly shut down during the Covid pandemic, but it has only shown second-run and festival product since the early 80s.
I believe the actual answer to “what was the last movie theater that unambiguously showed first-run, mainstream films in Richmond before Movieland opened?” was the Westover, which closed in 1995, and the last one north of the river was the Grace Street prior to its conversion to a porno/arthouse venue in 1987.
The venue is very unique and is set in a booming yuppie district, within walking distance of several trendy restaurants and right next door to the baseball stadium. On summer nights you can see the fireworks being set off from the stadium as you are walking back to your car in the theater parking lot (and you can also hear them during quiet parts of movies!) The major drawback of this venue is that the smaller houses have VERY tiny screens, the worst being auditorium #10 which is actually tucked behind the concession stand and measures 20 feet across at best.
A unique “feature” at this building that I have never seen at another theater - due to the decision to split such a small building into 4 auditoriums, no space could be spared for the hallway that usually employs both distance and angling to separates a theater’s lobby entrance from the auditorium doors. You can actually open the door from the inside of the auditorium and look straight out the glass front doors of the building, complete with sunlight during the day or the parking lot lights/car headlights at night shining directly onto the screen! To mitigate this, each auditorium has a blackout curtain in front of the door that has to be pushed aside as you enter and exit.
The two auditoriums whose walls comprise the external side walls of the building also have WINDOWS, another thing I have never seen in a movie theater. These are also blacked out.
The Genito Forest 9, less than two miles away, closed just a few months after the Commonwealth completed its south wing. Various small, dumpy cinemas in the county were on their way out shortly afterwards. From 2002-2008 the only other first-run, mainstream movie theaters in Chesterfield County or the City of Richmond were the Chester 6, the Chesterfield Towne Center UA 9, and a Carmike across the street from the CTC. The Commonwealth boasted more capacity than all its competitors combined plus the latest in presentation technology and was strategically placed right at the exit to Route 288 with easy access to larger highways. The entire population of Chesterfield and Richmond that was closer to this theater’s location or the highway than to the Regal multiplexes at Short Pump and Virginia Center Commons tended to patronize this theater, explaining its extremely high attendance. In 2008 Regal closed down the mall theater at Chesterfield Towne Center and opened a brand new 14-screen complex at Westchester Commons, and the Bowtie chain opened its first Richmond location within the city at Movieland. Combined with the economic effects of the recession this marked the end of the regular 40,000-patron weekends at Commonwealth, though it is still a very busy and profitable complex.
Opening date was February 17, 1989. The building had 2336 total seats, calculated to make it just barely the largest theater in the area at the time, and used Dolby Stereo with platters/automation. “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” “The Naked Gun,” “The Accused,” “A Cry in the Dark,” and “Gorillas in the Mist” played opening day.
The last day of operation was January 18, 2001 with “What Women Want,” “The Family Man,” “102 Dalmatians,” “Dracula 2000” and “Dude, Where’s My Car?” The theater lost most of its business to the Commonwealth after summer 2000. The owners may have also been concerned about further competition from a rumored AMC multiplex in the Winterpock area which came close to being built around the same time but ultimately did not materialize.
The building is still there and has been used as a church since the end of its time as a movie theater.
This was considered the best first-run facility in Richmond presentation-wise for the 20-year period between the Byrd going second-run and the opening of the Commonwealth. The offices of Regal’s district manager and the former projectionists' union were located on-site. Auditorium 1 here was the largest screen & seating capacity in town and brought the first midnight blockbuster premiere to the metro area with The Phantom Menace in 1999.
The property is now home to a Kroger store.
In August 1991 there was a shootout inside the lobby of the theater between two groups that got into a dispute during a showing of the movie “Mobsters.” With the much safer Chesterfield Towne Center mall theater not far away, most patrons abandoned the Cloverleaf. In 1996 there was an extensively reported double homicide at another store in the mall that further damaged the facility’s reputation. In its last years the lightly attended 8-plex operated with one manager and one employee on duty at a time, covering ticketing, concessions, and projection.
The roof of the lobby caved in from a snowstorm during the winter of 1999-2000. UA did not believe that the theater, which was already experiencing dwindling business due to competition and changes in the neighborhood, could recoup the costs of repairs. It never reopened as a UA and was sold to the church group.
From the closing of the Ridge in 2002, the six largest rooms at Commonwealth (theaters 1, 2, 5, 11, 12, and 15) were the largest non-IMAX screens in the Richmond metro area. Prior to the digital transition, the theater used common-height screens with movable side masking, the only first-run theater in the area to do so. Screen 12 was converted to IMAX in 2010, and the other five are still the largest screens available for non-IMAX presentations.
Screens 1, 2, 11: 296 regular seats and 6 ADA seatsScreens 3, 9, 10, 13, 19, and 20: 133 regular seats and 6 ADA seatsScreens 4 and 14: 174 regular seats and 6 ADA seatsScreen 5 and 15: 256 regular seats and 6 ADA seatsScreens 6, 7, 8, 16, 17, and 18: 283 regular seats and 6 ADA seatsScreen 12: 286 regular seats and 10 ADA seats
In total this multiplex can accommodate over 4600 patrons per round of shows. During the peak summer and Christmas seasons in the 2000s, prior to the economic crash of 2008 and the building of new competitors such as Movieland and the Westchester, the building routinely sold out every show from the Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon sets, meaning over 37,000 people saw a movie here in each of those 48-hour periods.
Opened in July 2000.
Scheduled to open for the start of the 2000 summer movie season but construction delays prevented the theater from opening in time for Gladiator, The Patriot, and other big titles in May and June. The theater opened with only one side (theaters 1-10, the north side of the building and the left when facing the front entrance in the picture) open to patrons in order to generate revenue during the end of the summer while construction continued on theaters 11-20, which comprise the right/south wing. By the Thanksgiving/Christmas season of 2000 all screens were operational.
Consolidated sold all of its theaters to Regal in February 2008 and Regal converted all of its Richmond-area theaters to digital projection in 2009. Formerly the theater used Strong XL equipment. Due to the multi-phase construction, the audio gear was not all purchased at the same time, so availability constraints meant the north wing had only Dolby digital sound capability installed and the south wing had only DTS.
Actually has 20 screens - screen 12 was converted to IMAX rather than a new auditorium being built.