Editorial: Movie Theater Deal a Remarkable Achievement

Once again, a big bad Washington, D.C.-based media outfit has descended on the little City of Falls Church to publish a misleading article based on sources derived from local ax grinders opposing a popular plan, in this case to do the almost impossible by securing a theater chain to place a first-rate multi-screen operation in the Founders Row development on West Broad at N. West Street.

In the news industry, the practice, in this case involving the Washington Post is called “parachuting,” and it involves a news organization with no roots in a community getting a tip that often comes from an opponent to a local government policy, makes a few phone calls or emails, and produces an article that more often than not sews confusion if not misinformation. From the media outlet’s standpoint, the result is a juicy formula story of locals opposing their local leaders.

In the case of Falls Church, it has happened numerous times, including a particularly egregious case in the mid-1990s where a D.C. TV station’s so-called investigative unit was coaxed into showing up to interview a handful of community nay-sayers well-known as such to the locals and produced a “scandal” segment about corruption at City Hall involving real estate assessments. In that case, the City was lucky to have us (the mighty News-Press) around to set the record straight to the effect of unruffling a whole batch of feathers. The TV station said it stood by its account, but then never said another word. The paratrooper had done his thing, packed up and a hitched ride out of Dodge.

In this week’s case, the Post featured an article on the front page of its Metro section Tuesday entitled, “Tax Dollars Could Be Ticket to the Movies,” with the subtitle, “Falls Church Considers Theater Finance Plan But Not Everyone is Sold,” by Teo Armus. The article quotes a lone opponent to the plan, and highlights one of his quotes in article with a big type font feature. The commissioner was one of three votes on the Planning Commission not to recommend the project’s changes as the other “no” votes were more a protest against the City Planning Department for failing to provide information, and not a matter of substance on the revisions, themselves.

The Post article concluded with the highly misleading quote that the movie incentive “was not worth eating into funds that could serve some sort of public infrastructure.” However, in reality, it is not a case of “eating into funds,” since the incentive involves taking a portion of funds generated by the theaters, themselves, and that would otherwise not exist at all.

On the contrary, the deal negotiated by the City and the Economic Development Authority with Mill Creek and Paragon Theaters was an incredible achievement, pushing economic development and a boon to