Epic Theatres of Deland has purchased the orange grove behind Target in Mount Dora where it has been planning to build the city's only movie theater for about two years.
The recorded Lake County deed shows that Epic Theatres paid the May and Whitacre Family Partnership $1.89 million on Jan. 7 for the 17 acres behind Target, which lies adjacent to an apartment complex and residentially zoned land on the south side of U.S. 441, according to the deed recorded on Wednesday.
While the community -- which has to drive to Leesburg Mall or to Sanford and other larger towns to see movies -- has been excited about having big screens in town since the deal was announced in February 2014, the project still faced some opposition.
It survived a contentious city approval process when residents worried that a height variance for the theater would open the door to taller buildings in the city's iconic downtown. The controversy pushed back the original opening date set for December 2015. That date passed as Epic worked to get its site plan approved. It sought relief from having to build a fence around the development.
The city's planning and zoning board agreed in December to waive the wall requirement around a retention pond, and then voted to allow the developer to postpone construction of the rest of the required wall until it develops two retail parcels adjacent to the theater. Even then, the developer has the option to ask for another waiver from building the wall at that time.
Next, the theater will submit building construction plans to the city. Frank DeMarsh, president of the company, has said that once construction starts it should take nine months to complete.
Epic, a Deltona-based company, has five locations in Florida now, including a very successful location in Clermont, and is adding five more, including Mount Dora as well as Orlando near the airport and others in Jacksonville, Titusville, Deland.