Theater being renovated, but signage nixed

Photo courtesy Google


JASPER — Showplace Cinemas will have to go back to the drawing board to figure out a new plan for its signage.

The Jasper Board of Zoning Appeals did not approve a sign variance for the local movie theater that is under new management and undergoing renovations.

Showplace now owns what used to be Jasper 8 Cinemas at 256 Brucke Strasse. Showplace owner Mick Steiler said the company originally built the theater in 1981 and leased it to BR Associates for a time before selling it to the company. BR Associates, which changed to SERVUS! in 2014, recently sold the theater to Showplace.

Now, Showplace is completing renovations to update the theater. “We’re working on a lot of renovations,” Steiler said. “The whole lobby is being renovated. We’re putting in new seating, new screens.”

Part of the update plan was to replace the current 288-square-foot sign at Brucke Strasse and Third Avenue that lists the movies showing at the theater. Showplace wanted to install a 116-square-foot sign that would have a 50-square-foot digital display underneath a “Showplace Cinemas” sign that is 66 square feet.

The digital display would be 20 square feet larger than what is allowed in city code. And members of the board were split on their perspectives of whether the variance should be approved.

“It’s a big sign,” board member Randy Mehringer noted.

The digital sign would show photos of the movies that are showing at the theater, Scott Elpers with Custom Sign & Engineering explained to the board. “This is not live video,” he said. “It’s still shots.”

To make sure the words on the photos can be seen to passing traffic, the sign needs to be bigger, he explained.

The requested digital sign is smaller than ones at Showplace’s other cinemas, Elpers said. For comparison, he mentioned that the sign in Evansville is 70 square feet and the one in Newburgh is 60 square feet.

“We think this is what needed to update what is currently there, and be effective,” Elpers said.

One demonstrator, Leslie Seger of M&M Exhaust Center, said she was concerned about the sign’s size in comparison to other signs in that area, as well as its aesthetics in relation to the Old Town Jasper look of the area.

The board compared the requested sign to other digital signs that have been allowed in the city, such as the 40-square-foot one at Holiday Liquors. The digital sign at St. Joseph Church is 27 square feet. The one at Shiloh United Methodist Church, which is not in a congested area, is 48 square feet.

Elpers said those signs have moving text and content, which is different than the still shots of the proposed sign.

Board member Paul Lorey said he understood why the company wants to improve the sign that is on the main thoroughfare; the theater is located on Brucke Strasse west of the intersection.

“They want to catch that traffic that’s coming down Third, coming across the bridge,” he said.

“Sure,” Board President Josh Gunselman said, “but anyone can make that argument.”

After making a motion to approve the variance, the board’s vote split 2-2, with Lorey and board member Anthony Seng voting yes, and Gunselman and Mehringer voting no; board member Dan Buck was absent.

Since the vote was tied, the motion failed and the variance was denied, Gunselman said.

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