MOORE — Bill Warren of Warren Theatre said after reading a story in Wednesday’s Norman Transcript, he wanted to set the record straight regarding the location of the $30 million movie theater in Moore.
The sales tax generated by Moore’s Warren Theatre has been a long standing point of contention in Norman city politics. The dispute came to a head recently in the campaign for Norman mayor.
A campaign mailer sent out by Tom Sherman for Mayor challenges Rosenthal’s leadership in three areas, saying she “rejected the Warren Theatre, which then went to Moore,” resulting in the loss of tax dollars for Norman.
However, Bill Warren made the announcement that he would build the $30 million theater in Moore on July 9, 2005 — two years before Rosenthal took office as mayor.
After reading the story in the Norman Transcript, he called to set the record straight and to comment on the positive relationship he has with Moore’s city leadership.
“The thing about the current mayor rejecting Warren Theatre is a bald-faced lie,” Warren said in a telephone interview. “I read your article. I don’t know either candidate, but this is a lie.”
Warren said he wants to put the rumors to rest once and for all.
“We never approached the city government in Norman for one simple reason, and that’s because there is already an existing movie theater there,” he said. “I’m not trying to inject myself into local politics, but it was a lie.”
The Warren Theatre outgrosses any theater in a 10-state area, he said. And the IMAX at Moore is the No. 1 IMAX in America and Canada.
“It outgrosses New York,” Warren said. “When it opened, the first week it opened, it had the highest gross of any IMAX in the world.”
The Moore City Council approved $2 million in sales tax rebates for the IMAX theater and a restaurant as an incentive.
“The Moore people, Deidre Ebry, the mayor, the city council — it’s more than just incentives,” Warren said. “They have been fantastic, and I use that in capital letters.”
Warren said his relationship with Moore city leaders has evolved from business into a friendship.
“It has been a wonderful partnership that has evolved,” he said. “It’s not just the money. It’s the ability to work with city government and know that it’s to both our advantages,” he said.
Warren said he suspects he knows where the rumor about Norman got started.
“There is a female mayor that rejected Warren Theatres,” he said. “I don’t remember her name, but we approached the mayor of Edmond, had a meeting with her and she was polite, but she basically said, ‘We don’t want a big movie theater.’ That’s how we ended up in Moore.”
Warren said his team looks at cities and how well the government functions. Research of a city in Kansas under consideration revealed that the city was dysfunctional and not business friendly.
“We didn’t move to the stage of incentives,” he said. “Why would you want to marry into a dysfunctional family? And I don’t know anything about Norman — that’s not a comment on Norman. I’ve heard only good things about Norman.
“A lot of cities ought to take a look at Moore,” Warren said. “It’s an example of good government working like it should.”