LINCOLN, Neb. — A proposal that would allow construction of movie megaplexes at shopping centers outside downtown Lincoln could hurt the downtown movie theater business, according to a study conducted for the city Planning Commission.

Councilman Roy Christensen wants to remove the city’s six-screen limit at regional shopping centers in 2022 and immediately allow single-screen theaters at smaller centers, where they’re now banned.

What he wants, Christensen told the Lincoln Journal Star ( ), is a policy that won’t restrict new development. Christensen’s proposal runs counter to the current protective policy, which the commission study says is serving its purpose.

The city’s theater policy began in 1984 to help transition downtown Lincoln into an entertainment destination as offices and retailers left. The policy was reaffirmed in 2005, in part to protect the 14-screen Grand Cinema that was built downtown with the help of $3.25 million in subsidies from tax increment financing. City leaders promised then not to change the policy before 2014, when the tax increment financing bonds were paid off.

The policy likely helps other businesses downtown. The Grand sold 592,000 tickets last year — more than 1,600 a day — and many of those moviegoers also probably spent money at other downtown establishments, according to the analysis.

A new multiplex built in Lincoln within the next five to 10 years could drive one or more existing theaters out of business, the analysts said.

“Maybe no one closes. Maybe someone does,” said Christensen, adding that businesses that give the public what it wants at a price it likes will survive.

A Planning Commission public hearing on Christensen’s proposal is scheduled for Nov. 9.

Information from: Lincoln Journal Star,