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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinemas in the News   » St. Louis, MO: Former AMC theater becomes church

Author Topic: St. Louis, MO: Former AMC theater becomes church
Kyle Muldrow

Posts: 143
From: Laguna Hills, CA
Registered: Jul 2003

 - posted August 07, 2005 06:49 AM      Profile for Kyle Muldrow   Author's Homepage   Email Kyle Muldrow         Edit/Delete Post 
This is a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about an AMC theater than has closed and become a church. Even though it's not a full-time movie house anymore, it's still a neat story. Enjoy!

Northwest Square Theatre becomes a church

Now praying at a theater near you
Bryce Chapman
Of the Suburban Journals
Hazelwood-Bridgeton Journal

Four years ago, members of the Northwest Foursquare Church in St. Ann took a leap of faith and purchased a nearly vacant, 72,000-square-foot strip mall.

The mall, adjacent to Westfield Northwest mall, included a former AMC 10 movie theater — a non-traditional yet exciting prospect for a church, leaders of Northwest Foursquare believed.

Mike and Debbie Masters, a husband-wife team who pastor the church, thought the visibility of the place would give the church a presence in a community they desperately wanted to reach. They also wanted to get away from "the traditional small brick building with a white steeple" where the church was then worshiping, Debbie Masters said.

And if they could fill up the vacant storefronts, it could even be a good move financially.

"We thought it was just a perfect idea," said Debbie Masters, as she and her husband stood in the church's fellowship hall, once the movie theater's lobby. "All the businesses in the strip mall could pay for the mortgage, and we could have church in the theater."

But then an unforeseen tragedy occurred a month after the purchase. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks caused the economy to falter. Some small companies went out of business, like the few that were still operating in the mall.

But with an unwavering faith, the Masters saw their vision through. Now, the once-blighted strip mall is again in business, with all but two storefronts occupied.

In 2003, John Zhang decided to buy the Hong Kong Wok on the church's parking lot, in part because of the church's presence.

"I felt my business was very blessed because of the church," Zhang said.

But even more importantly to the Masters, people who might not ordinarily step inside a traditional church are attending.

"When people come in here they really get what they expect," Mike Masters said, describing the church's contemporary flair. "It's a little less rigid, a little less religious."

About 250 people attend the church on any given Sunday, more than double the number of attendees before the move into the theater.

True to its original purpose, the church still looks strikingly similar to the movie theater that closed nearly six years ago.

The theater's original popcorn machines still sit inside the refreshment area. Phrases like "Jesus our Savior'' fill the slots above the theater's doors where movie titles were once displayed.

The big screens are used on Sunday mornings for technology-enhanced sermons.

But during the week, they are sometimes used for their original purpose — movies.

In fact, last summer, when St. Ann's Movie in the Park event was nearly cancelled because of inclement weather, the church opened its doors to the community. With rain pounding outside, nearly 600 people watched a movie sitting in the same chairs where church members sit to worship.

"We really want to serve the city," Debbie Masters said. "When we began this adventure we saw a lot of hurting people, and we knew we needed more room to embrace them."

Reach Bryce Chapman at

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Amanda Jones
New Member

Posts: 14
From: Indianapolis, IN
Registered: Aug 2005

 - posted September 27, 2005 11:44 PM      Profile for Amanda Jones   Email Amanda Jones         Edit/Delete Post 
It must be a new trend. The old Washington Square General Cinema in Indianapolis just reopened as a church and the theater I work at right now we rent out 2 of our auditoriums on Sunday for a church to use.

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Dan Suomi
New Member

Posts: 5
From: Grand Rapids, MI
Registered: May 2003

 - posted October 04, 2005 01:37 PM      Profile for Dan Suomi   Email Dan Suomi         Edit/Delete Post 
We have the same thing here in Grand Rapids, except I call them the cult.

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Fred Einsle
New Member

Posts: 7
From: Naperville, IL
Registered: Mar 2006

 - posted March 22, 2006 08:07 PM      Profile for Fred Einsle   Email Fred Einsle         Edit/Delete Post 
In the Chicago area there are lots of movie theaters, turned churches, even as close as they shared the same name. Hillside Theater and the multi-plex, both former Cineplex Odeon/Plitt theaters turned church.

I know there have been some in the city, any thing can be a church types.

But, Barrington, Illinois has the ultimate Theater turned Church - former Willow Creek theater - the church outgrew the now closed theater and is it's own quasi relegion, offering a low-cost "Multi-media religious experience" as they now call it, that can be bought as a power point presentation for any church. They are now a mega-church with a Starbucks in what they call the atrium (meeting place, complete with escalators to the higher levels of the church.

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Ron Keillor

Posts: 125
From: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Registered: May 2003

 - posted March 23, 2006 10:57 AM      Profile for Ron Keillor   Email Ron Keillor         Edit/Delete Post 
For the record, in Vancouver BC the Roxy, Cambie and Kingsway all served as church venues after having been closed.

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Kyle Muldrow

Posts: 143
From: Laguna Hills, CA
Registered: Jul 2003

 - posted April 26, 2006 06:00 PM      Profile for Kyle Muldrow   Author's Homepage   Email Kyle Muldrow         Edit/Delete Post 
Out here in Orange County, CA, I can think of at least three operating theaters that rent out auditoriums for churches to use on Sunday. The AMC 30 at the Block in Orange, the Edwards (well, ok, Regal) Kaleidoscope 10 in Mission Viejo, and the Edwards South Coast Village 3 in Costa Mesa have churches meeting in their auditoriums on Sunday AM before the movies start. No, I haven't visited any of these churches, but who knows? If any of my fellow OC'ers know of other churches using theaters, post a reply.

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