The latest movie theater news and updates

  • December 22, 2016

    Leawood, KS – Regulators: AMC Can Buy Smaller Movie-Theater Chain Carmike


    From ABC News: Federal regulators gave conditional approval Tuesday to movie-theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc.’s $1.2 billion buyout of smaller rival Carmike Cinemas Inc., making AMC the biggest U.S. movie theater operator.

    The U.S. Department of Justice said its approval hinges on Leawood, Kansas-based AMC selling theaters in 15 local markets in nine states where it competes with Carmike.

    AMC also has to divest most of its holdings in National CineMedia, a cinema advertising company, and transfer 24 theaters to a rival theater ad company, Screenvision LLC.

    The Justice Department said the deal, which requires court approval, would lead to higher prices for moviegoers without such conditions.

    AMC, which was bought by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group in 2012, called Tuesday’s action “the final regulatory hurdle” in its push for Carmike, adding in a statement that it expects to complete the transaction “expeditiously.” It did not elaborate.

    “Needless to say, we are in a good mood in Leawood, Kansas,” Adam Aron, AMC’s chief executive and president, said during a conference call Tuesday with reporters and analysts. “Today is a glorious day and another great day for AMC.”

    Aron said 15 to 20 theaters would be sold off, most all of them from the Carmike network.

    AMC, already the world’s biggest theater operator, operated roughly 388 theaters with a total of 5,295 screens in 33 states and the District of Columbia as of the end of September. Its U.S. box office revenues were about $1.9 billion last year.

    Carmike, based in Columbus, Georgia, has 271 theaters with a combined 2,917 screens in 41 states. Carmike’s 2015 U.S. box office revenues were roughly $490 million.

    The local markets where AMC must sell off theaters are in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

    The deal includes $585 million in cash and $250 million in AMC’s Class A common stock. AMC is also assuming about $367 million in debt in the deal.

    AMC shares rose 25 cents to $33.45 on Tuesday. Shares of Carmike closed at $33.40, up 15 cents.

  • Atlanta, GA – Atlanta’s Fox Theatre to be subject of Georgia Public Broadcasting documentary


    From the Atlanta Business Journal: The Fox Theatre is as entrenched in Atlanta history as The Coca-Cola Co. (NYSE: KO) and “Gone with the Wind.”

    And on Dec. 25 at 7 p.m., the venue will be the subject of a documentary airing on Georgia Public Broadcasting in celebration of the 87th anniversary of the Fox’s 1929 sold-out Christmas Day opening for the premier of Disney’s first cartoon starring Mickey Mouse, “Steamboat Willie.”

  • December 19, 2016

    Meeker, CO – Personal recollections of a small-town movie theater


    From the Rio Blanco Herald Times: Meeker’s first movie theater, the “Princess,” came to Meeker with the building of the Rio Theatre by Harlan Coulter in 1920. When Glen B. and Dixie Wittstruck purchased the theater in 1936, it was renamed the Rio Theatre, possibly reflecting the Spanish name for river, since the White River was an icon of the town and county.

  • Washington, NC – Carmike Cinema 7 in Washington now closed


    From A movie theater in the east has closed its doors after 40 years in business.

    Carmike Cinema 7, located on Washington St. in Washington, announced on their facebook page today that they are closed.

    Officials with the theater say they were not allowed to advertise the closing and that it did come as a surprise to all who worked there.

    Cinema 7 officials say while a Carmike Theatre won’t return to Washington, they are in talks with an independent theatre company that they hope will take over.

    In the message Cinema 7 thanked everyone for their 40 years of patronage and have high hopes that they will reopen, in the meantime, the Carmike Cinema Theatre in Greenville remains open.

  • Johnson City, NY – Stage is Set for Revival of Johnson City’s Historic Goodwill Theatre Building


    From The former Goodwill Theatre, a nearly century-old building in Johnson City that’s sat vacant for almost 50 years, is set to receive $500,000 from New York State’s latest Regional Economic Development Council awards, but before the theater can cash in, they need to raise enough money to match the award.

  • December 17, 2016

    Sag Harbor, NY – Historic Sag Harbor Cinema Burns, Facade Demolished


    From Southampton Patch: Sag Harbor Fire: Historic Theater ‘Gutted,’ Community Vows to Rise From Ashes

    Fire swept through the heart of Sag Harbor Village in the icy pre-dawn hours Friday, damaging at least four shops and an iconic, historic movie theater on Main Street.

    Friday afternoon, firefighters continued to douse the rekindled ruins of the Sag Harbor Cinema, where all that remains is the four walls and the facade, fire officials said. “It’s gutted. It’s basically gone,” a fire department official told Patch.

    “The roof is completely gone. You can look from the front of the building right out through the back,” Sag Harbor Fire Department officials said.

    The fire is believed to have started on the back deck Friday morning; the fire is still under investigation by the fire marshal.

    Both buildings on either side of the movie theater were lost or severely damaged, as was the south side of the shopping mall, fire officials said.

    Flames and heavy smoke spread rapidly to at least five businesses on the street.

    Cars were still not allowed down Main Street in Sag Harbor Friday afternoon.

    According to the Sag Harbor Fire Department, the fire broke out at 6:14 a.m. near the Sag Harbor Cinema, with brutal winds and freezing temperatures posing challenges for firefighters who, covered in ice, battled the blaze.

    But despite the widespread devastation and damage to property, no one was injured, the Sag Harbor Fire Department said.

    Residents turned to social media to document the devastating scene they witnessed:

    “I can barely hold my phone. It’s 22 degrees out,” wrote resident Tanya Malott, who lives close to the fire, on Facebook early Friday morning. “I saw flames shooting 20 feet in the air. The streets are covered in ice. The wind is blowing hard and the entire East Hampton side of Sag Harbor is covered in smoke. This is such a tragedy for Sag Harbor.”

    She added, “I saw fireman covered in ice. The streets are covered in ice and salt. The guys who are fighting this are amazing.”

    Full story, photo gallery:

  • December 16, 2016

    Aledo, IL – Aledo family has fun reopening historic movie theater


    From At the holidays, it’s a pleasure to see a family-friendly Christmas movie in a single-screen theater, with concessions, and not have to take a second mortgage to do so.

    Since this month started, that’s been possible here in the seat of Mercer County, as Aledo native Dan Mellgren and his wife, Michelle, reopened the historic Aledo Opera House. The 1904 building — with 414 seats — had been closed for two years.

    “This town needs some entertainment,” Dan said recently. “We didn’t have to do anything. The building’s here, the screen’s here. Everything was here.”

    “We’re gonna gear it toward the junior-high age group,” he said. “Parents are looking for a place to drop their kids for a couple hours. That’s what it was when I was a kid — here’s 10 bucks and we’ll see ya in a couple hours.”

    Dan said it last closed because of the costs for licensing each movie. The Mellgrens lease the theater — and since Aug. 1, The Slammer Bed & Breakfast — from Dick and Jennie Maynard, and run the businesses.

    “This building has been a million different things,” Dan said of Aledo Opera House, including a roller rink and a basketball court. “Nothing’s really changed in here,” he said, noting the main difference since he was a kid was that three rows were removed to make more leg room between rows.

    The theater opened on Feb. 26, 1904, with a production of the play “Quincy Adams Sawyer.” It was first used as a movie theater in 1909, and also has served as a church. While operating as a movie house in the ‘70s and '80s (when Mr. Mellgren grew up here), it closed in 1997.

    An October 2000 fire in a neighboring building damaged the theater, and a renovated opera house reopened in 2002. It closed once before during the past decade.

    “It’s a historic building in our downtown area, been part of our community for 100 years. It’s really an asset,” said Tarah Sipes, Aledo’s economic development coordinator. “It’s an amenity for our residents; there’s a big nostalgia factor as well. I also spent time there in my youth. The movie theater was a great place to go.”

    She’s working with the city administrator and Main Street director about securing private funding to get digital projection needed for new films.

    “I’m excited; the Mellgrens do have quite a bit of energy and passion for what they’re doing, which makes a big difference,” Ms. Sipes said. “If we can harness their energy, make more it visible, I hope that we can get things rolling in the same direction.”

    Dan met Michelle when they attended Southern Illinois University. While they didn’t graduate, Dan worked in management with AirTran airlines for 10 years. They’ve been married since 2000. They have two children — 14-year-old Emma, and 11-year-old Colin.

    The Mellgrens lived in the Miami, Fla., area for eight years; he left AirTran in 2010, and started working as vice president for a company that sold merchandise to duty-free stores.

    “I left that because I was gone nine months out of the year,” Dan said, noting he traveled all over the Caribbean.

    When they moved back to Aledo about two years ago, he started a “pay it forward” gift business.

    “This is the best way to slow it down — move to a small town, tie yourself to some big anchors,” Dan said of the historic landmarks they manage. “The nice part of it is, the kids can be part of it,” Michelle said, noting their kids help out.

    “I want my kids to have a little bit of what I had growing up,” Dan said. “This was an easy fix. With the Slammer, I usually do the morning stuff, so it leaves the afternoon for this. It’s a win-win, and my son helps me clean. He actually takes the money for tickets and enjoys it. The reason we’re back here is family. … My son, daughter, wife and I can all be here together.”

    “It’s definitely good for both of them,” Michelle — whose family is in Chicago — said of their kids. “Emma’s friends come and help. They take pride in it.”

    The nine-room Slammer is in the 1909 former Mercer County Jail. It was listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1997 and was converted into a bed and breakfast in 1998 (originally The Slammer was the restaurant and B & B called The Great Escape).

    Michelle is studying at Black Hawk College, with plans to become an elementary-school teacher, and is the current PTO president in Aledo.

    The first weekend of December, and their first running the theater, was hectic — in addition to showings of “It’s a Wonderful Life” in 35-millimeter, they hosted It’s a Mystery dinner theater and the Untangled women’s conference at The Slammer (both Saturday).

    The dinner theater (a special, and not regular, event) was catered by La Belle Vie, a local restaurant. “Little did we know we’d be running a movie theater at that time,” Michelle said.

    “It was a little crazy, but everything worked out,” she said, noting she didn’t expect to have the theater up so soon. “I had agreed to it. I just didn’t know he was doing all the work. It was in the middle of (Black Hawk) finals.”

    However, the 35-mm projector didn’t work well, so Dan got a projector to play DVDs (now attached to the 20-foot-high ceiling), which is the fix before they raise money ($25,000 to $50,000) for a digital projection system.

    Geneseo’s 1924 Central Theater is owned and operated by the Geneseo Park District, and made the digital conversion in 2012. It shows first-run films.

    “What we’re trying to do is give people an experience,” Dan said. Tickets for the 7 p.m. showings are $5, and popcorn is just $1.50, among other concessions. They have a new sound system loaned by True Audio in Aledo, for as long as they need.

    “To have everything line up like that, who gets that blessed?” Michelle said. “I’ve had so many people reach out and say, ‘If you need help, I’m here.’ It just seems unreal.”

    “It looks sexy to get into, but once you get into the bills, it’s not,” Dan said, noting there are licensing fees for each film. “Keeping old buildings open, letting people experience this is half of why we’re doing it. It’s a cool old theater.”

    “There’s just so much history here,” Michelle said of their two businesses. “I think Aledo takes pride in their history, where they come from. To be part of it, someone’s gotta lead it. Somehow we’re crazy enough.”

    At The Slammer (, “I would definitely love to do more community things, just some things to open up the doors, for groups to meet there,” she said.

    People have asked the couple if the theater is just a seasonal thing. “We genuinely will be year-round. This is forever,” Michelle said. They plan to show films every weekend, at 7 p.m. each night — including Christmas and New Year’s Day, she said.

    “Elf” is showing this weekend. “White Christmas” will be Dec. 23-25.

  • Kankakee, IL – Paramount ditches old seating for recliners


    From the Daily Journal:
    The longtime theater in downtown Kankakee on North Schuyler Avenue is moving into the next generation of the movie-going experience, swapping out more than 860 seats for 300 power recliners.

    “We’re doing a complete refurbishing of the auditorium,” said Mark Mazrimas, marketing manager for Classic Cinemas. “We’ve had to prep the floor. We’re doing new carpeting. We’re redoing the walls and putting in new aisle lighting.”

    The biggest change though will be from going from an 868-seat auditorium to one with 300-plus recliners.

    “The math is not great when you go from an 868 seating to 300-plus seating,” Mazrimas said. “At the Paramount with 300 seats, you’re losing 60 percent of your seating. But at 300 seats, it will be the largest venue in Illinois with power recliners. Nobody has an auditorium with as many seats.”

    Classic Cinemas, headquartered in Downers Grove, believes the recliners will boost attendance at Paramount. Its main auditorium was its second-largest venue.

    “The industry is saying you will see a 50 percent increase in attendance,” Mazrimas said. “We can say from what we’ve seen, we have two locations that made the switch, is a 50 percent increase from the new seating.”

    Classic Cinemas also owns and operates Meadowview Theatre in Kankakee.

    The new carpeting already is down in the large auditorium, which has been closed for a couple weeks, but the smaller auditoriums at Paramount have been showing movies. The seating is scheduled to arrive this week, and Paramount is planning to reopen the renovated theater in a week.

    “We’re really going to shoot for Universal [Pictures] opening of ‘Sing’ for the first movie,” Mazrimas said. “That will be on Tuesday the 20 at 6 p.m., and we’ll show matinees on Wednesday the 21.”

    “People seem to like the comfort they’re getting with it,” Mazrimas added. “It creates a whole new world for us.”

    This is just the first phase of Classic Cinemas investment in its Kankakee theaters.

    “The plan in 2017 is to renovate the rest of Paramount and get Meadowview started with an expansion and the new seating,” Mazrimas said. “Meadowview is a little further off. The plan is to get it to six auditoriums. … That’s down the road.”

    Cinemark in Northfield Square mall in Bradley installed recliners in its auditoriums in the past year.

    Overall, domestic movie attendance has stayed relatively flat throughout the past several years, according to the Motion Picture Association of America. The number of tickets sold in the U.S. slipped 1.5 percent from 2012 to 2013, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The decline comes amid growing competition from video-on-demand streaming services such as Netflix and other entertainment options.

  • Chicago, IL – Historic Lincoln Square theater reveals $5 million makeover


    From Curbed Chicago: Built in 1918, Lincoln Square’s old Davis Theatre is preparing to open its doors this week after an extensive $5 million overhaul. Originally known as the Pershing Theater, the 98-year-old building at 4614 N. Lincoln Avenue is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The remodeled Davis brings back numerous cues from its Art Deco past such as red curtains and detailed moldings and shows off newly-uncovered original organ pipes in its main theater.

    The renovation work was a collaborative effort between Kennedy Mann Architecture and Analogous Design and saw the building’s two rear theaters combined into a single 300-seat venue with stadium seating. Two smaller 150-seat theaters have also be restored and upgraded with new bathrooms and state-of-the-art projection equipment.

    The revamped Davis—along with an adjacent 3,500-square-foot dining and cocktail establishment known as Carbon Arc Bar & Board—will open for business this Thursday. The theater’s grand opening coincides with its screening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

  • Dennis, MA – Cape Cinema launches campaign to restore chairs


    From the Cape Cod Times: The historic Cape Cinema is planning some restorations, and the job will start with what most affects audience comfort: the seats.

    Cinema managers and the Cape Cod Center for the Arts Inc., which owns the building, recently launched a campaign to raise more than $165,000 to restore the 277 original art deco chairs that were built back in 1930 specifically for the movie theater space – and specifically to match its massive, celestially themed ceiling mural.

    While a small portion of the chairs have been previously patched, covered, reupholstered or replaced, this will be the first time in the intervening 86 years that the seats have been rebuilt to the original vision.

    Synthomas Upholstery in Hyannis is due to take each chair apart and, by hand, rebuild and reupholster it in tangerine suede to match the original plan, according to Eric Hart, who operates the theater. While the covers will be fire-proof and stain- and rub-resistant, there will also be padding and support added. Contemporary patrons will likely welcome those additions, Hart notes, especially for the multi-hour simulcasts of live opera, theater and ballet the cinema has offered in recent years.

    About half of the money (so close to $80,000) needs to be raised by the end of the year for the project to go forward, says general manager Hugh Hart. Once repairs begin, 15 chairs are scheduled to be restored by hand per week, with the project taking more than five months while the cinema remains open.

    The moviehouse will likely shut down for a couple of weeks in spring, Eric Hart says, to finish up the work and make other changes (including new carpeting, sealing the floors and rebuilding the lobby concession stand in an art deco style) before the 2017 summer season begins.

    Although all donations are welcome, the campaign urges patrons to donate $600 for the cost of restoring one chair (which includes the floor work). Those who do will have their name engraved on a plaque on the chair, get free admission to movies there for a year and, according to a fundraising letter from Hart and center president Leslie A. Gardner, “become a part of the ongoing legacy of this historic building.”

    Pretty much every part of the cinema has an art-related history – including those chairs. Raymond Moore, founder of the 90-year-old Cape Playhouse next door, opened the summer movie theater in 1930, with New York architect Alfred Easton Poor designing the facade using Centerville’s Congregational Church as a model.

    The auditorium was created in art deco style and the arm chairs designed by Vienna-born Paul T. Frankl – considered one of the most influential artists of the American art deco period, according to cinema lore – through his New York City gallery. The chairs were produced by the Johnson Furniture Company with black lacquer frames and tangerine suede, meant to complement the cinema’s 6,400-square-foot ceiling mural of the heavens designed by American painter, printer and illustrator Rockwell Kent.

    The chairs, according to Eric Hart, were individually cut for a specific space in the theater, with legs different sizes because of the sloped seating. The three dozen or so chairs in the balcony were replaced sometime in the 1970s – before Hart was involved – with flip-down movie-theater chairs and those are not part of the current restoration plan. But the extra originals from that balcony replacement have, over the years, been used to fill in for broken chairs downstairs. Chair legs have had to be trimmed, though, so the replacement chairs would fit specific spaces, Hart notes.

    Regular patrons know the current chairs have white seat-covers, which Hugh Hart believes may have been originally used to protect the seats when the summer-only theater was shuttered. More recently, the covers have obscured rips and wear as the year-round use of the theater over the past decade has accelerated deterioration. Some of the chairs were also damaged decades ago, Eric Hart says, when the sprinkler system was tripped during the winter and poured 2 feet of water into the theater.

    Restoring the seats has been under discussion for a decade and multiple companies were consulted and explored. Acknowledging such a large fundraiser is “a risk,” Eric Hart says he hopes the major community effort needed to restore the seats will also be the start of a wider push to raise money to restore the Rockwell Kent mural, too.

    There could be “a whole movement to restore the theater rather than just maintain it,” he says. “We could make it as beautiful as it was when it opened in 1930.”

    But, the Harts hope, with the comfort level desired by 21st-century patrons.