The latest movie theater news and updates

  • December 2, 2016

    Steubenville, OH – Concrete company helping to revive the Grand Theatre stage

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    From WTOV-9: The Grand Theatre in downtown Steubenville has seen a massive amount of reconstruction during the past several years.

    And a crucial piece of the historical building – it’s stage – was worked on Monday, free of charge, thanks to the folks at Byers Concrete.

    “If this place can get rolling, the sky is the limit on what they can do with it,” said Jonathan Byers, owner of the concrete business.

    Byers said when he came down and saw what it entailed, he immediately knew he was in.

    “This is exciting to me,” he said. “Because the atmosphere walking into this building, the history behind it, and just walking in here, it kind of gives you a different, weird kind of energy."

    The theatre has seen a number of volunteers and businesses donate in some fashion during the past 6 years.

    “I think without that, we wouldn’t get it done,” said Scott Dressel, president, Grand Theatre Restoration Project. “Especially in a community that has been struggling as hard as Steubenville.”

    “Anybody that is interested in putting up about 10,000 square foot of drywall on a ceiling that’s 5/8th thick, we need someone to do that,” Dressel said with a laugh.

    Byers hopes, like has, that others will follow suit.

    “There’s a lot of people that maybe don’t realize how big of a deal this is,” Byers said. “If this place could get kickin again, it might open up something big down here.

    “Little positive things like this, hopefully it’ll boost something bigger, and then it’ll overcast all that negativity that goes on around this area."

    If you would like to lend a hand and volunteer at the Grand Theatre, you can contact Dressel at 740-632-2899.

  • November 30, 2016

    Newport, RI – $3.1M tax credit OK’d for renovation of Opera House Theater in Newport

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    From The Providence Journal: The Rhode Island Division of Taxation has approved a $3.1 million in state historic preservation tax credits for the renovation of the Opera House Theater and Performing Arts Center at 19 Touro St. in Newport.

    According to the agreement, the renovation is expected to cost $14.5 million and is scheduled for completion in 2018. The tax credits are awarded after work is completed.

    The theater was built in 1867 and was originally a four-story building with a mansard roof, according to the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission. The fourth floor was removed in 1957 after a fire at the building next door.

  • Medford, OR – Holly Theatre receives $300,000 in new donations

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    From the Mail Tribune: Supporters of the restoration of the historic Holly Theatre in downtown Medford announced this week the project has received another $300,000 in donations.

    Fundraising is continuing, with supporters hoping to bring in enough money to launch major construction in the months ahead.

    “I’m excited, because if we’re able to raise about another $500,000 by the end of the year, we’ll be able to start construction in the first quarter of 2017,” said Randy McKay, executive director of Jefferson Live!, the organization in charge of the restoration. “And that means we’ll be able to be open in early 2018 so the community can come back and enjoy this beautiful place that’s been boarded up for the last 30 years.”

    The cost of the restoration is estimated at $4.3 million, although updated bid figures are being sought, McKay said.

  • Jennings, LA – $75,000 face-lift in works for Strand Theater

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    From The American Press: A restored marquee and a new paint job will soon greet visitors to the historic Strand Theater in downtown Jennings. Work has begun on a $75,000 face-lift project, which is expected to continue through the spring.

    “The Strand Theater is our pride and joy on Main Street, and it just needed a face-lift,” said City Project Coordinator Dusty Chaisson.

    The theater, built in 1939, still hosts plays, music shows, classic movies, pageants and other events, but was “looking rundown,” said manager Lin Fake.

    “We want the public to be proud and see Main Street Jennings for what it was back in the day,” Chaisson said. “We are very proud to try to restore the pride and take care of a historical structure that offers service to the community that so many other cities do not have.”

    Not many old historical buildings like the Strand Theater are still being used today, he said. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    The old marquee has been removed and is being restored, cracks in the facade are being repaired and windows are being replaced. Crews are also working to repaint the exterior in the theater’s original colors, which were hidden under layers of paint.

    “It is going to be a painted lady, like it originally was,” Fake said. The retro colors will include hues of violet, red and yellow.

    The theater last underwent renovations just prior to the 1993 Hollywood-style premiere of John Sayles’ “Passion Fish,” which was filmed in the Jennings and Lake Arthur area.

  • Leawood, KS – AMC Theatres Is Now the Biggest Movie Theater Company in the World

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    From The Wrap: AMC Entertainment Inc., the parent of AMC Theatres, is now the biggest movie theater chain in the world, after the company announced that it has completed its acquisition of Europe’s Odeon & UCI Cinemas in a $1.2 billion deal.

    With the addition of Odeon, Europe’s No. 1 exhibitor, AMC now operates 636 theatres with 7,623 screens across eight countries. AMC intends to rename the chain to Odeon Cinemas Group.

    Odeon CEO Paul Donovan will be departing, with former chief financial officer Mark Way becoming president of AMC Europe and managing director of Odeon Cinemas Group. Ian Shepherd has been named executive vice president of AMC Europe and chief operating officer of Odeon Cinemas Group. Odeon will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of AMC, maintaining its headquarters in London.

    China’s Dalian Wanda Group — whose founder and CEO Wang Jianlin is China’s richest man — bought AMC for $2.6 billion in 2012, and has continued to expand its theatrical holdings. Wanda operates 187 cinemas in China with 1,657 screens — including 117 Imax theaters. The company is IMAX’s biggest consumer worldwide.

    Last month, shareholders of Carmike Cinemas, the U.S.’s fourth largest chain, approved a $1.2 billion offer by AMC to acquire the exhibitor, which would also have made it the world’s biggest even without Odeon & UCI. That deal is pending Justice Department approval.

    Wanda’s Hollywood shopping spree has hardly been restricted to movie theaters. This year, the Chinese conglomerate acquired “Jurassic World” production company Legendary Entertainment for $3.5 billion and Dick Clark Productions for $1 billion.

  • November 29, 2016

    Sonoma, CA – Sebastiani Theatre has new ‘lease’ on life

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    From the Sonoma News: Sonoma filmgoers can look forward to sequels, spinoffs and retro classics for years to come at the Sebastiani Theatre on the Plaza. At the Sonoma City Council meeting on Nov. 21, the City of Sonoma and the foundation that operates the theater entered into a 25-year lease with the owners of the building, with an option for an additional 25 years.

    The five-member Council approved the lease agreement unanimously.

    “We’ve worked for five years on this,” said Darryl Bellach, president of the Sebastiani Theatre Foundation, adding the 50-year commitment “will allow the efforts of the Foundation, and the City, and all of those involved to shepherd the theater into the foreseeable future.”

    Since 2011, the City has been renting the 84-year-old movie palace from Oakland-based Sebastiani Building Investors, then subleasing it at a lower price to the Sebastiani Theatre Foundation, which operates the facility.

    Under that model the rent for the theater increased against the Consumer Price Index, a sometimes volatile measure that sent rental rates up to its current $5,426 per month. In 1986 when the City started leasing the building, the rate was $3,000 monthly. The new lease holds annual rent increases to a predictable 2 percent.

    Longtime theater manager Roger Rhoten spoke at the Monday meeting about his 25 years at the Sebastiani. “We want to keep and maintain the theater for future generations,” said Rhoten, who described the lease as the start of a “new era.”

    “We want to improve the theater top to bottom and bring new and exciting programming to the theater.”

    The City was also granted the right of first refusal in the event of the theater being sold, an added assurance that Sonoma will maintain some degree of control over the fate and use of the historic building. The Art Deco structure dominates the Plaza on First Street East, and was the last theater designed by noted Bay Area architect James W. Reid, who with his brother, designed many of Northern California’s most luxurious movie theaters as well as hotels and other large buildings.

    Key to the new agreement is the condition that the theater must be upgraded to Americans with Disability Act (ADA) compliance, which pleased Jeanne Allen. “For 16 years I’ve been going to the Sebastiani for movies and events – and for 16 years I haven’t been able to use the bathroom,” said Allen, creator of the regional Incredible Accessible guides.

    Allen added that it would take more than providing bathroom access to bring the theater into ADA compliance: a ramp or lift is needed to provide access to the stage, 1 percent of the seating must have companion seating, and another 1 percent must be aisle seats with no arm rests or, at least, folding armrests.

    “It’s important that an active wheelchair user be involved in the design,” urged Allen, who volunteered to be that person.

    Attaining ADA compliance has been a major stumbling block en route to getting a food and beverage license, as the model of serving wine or beer with movies has become increasingly popular in recent years. Such an upgrade is planned for the Sonoma Cinemas, at the recently-sold Fiesta Plaza on Sonoma Highway.

    “It’s a big thing in movie theaters these days,” Rhoten has said. “If I could, I’d have done it a long time ago.”

  • Kaimuki, HI – Hoping For A Queen Theater Comeback In Kaimuki

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    From The Hololulu Civil Beat: The Queen Theater’s neon marquee has been dark for years, its double doors shuttered.

    Some people would love to see the venerable Kaimuki venue reopen for live shows or classes and have even formed a Friends of Queen Theater organization.

    But the theater’s reclusive owner, Narciso Yu Jr., is said to be reluctant to sell the space.

    Once a neighborhood anchor at the corner of Waialae Avenue and Center Street, the Queen is now the quietest building on the lively block.

    In bygone decades, it screened Disney cartoons, surf films and porn flicks, and its history is as quirky as Kaimuki’s business district.

  • Scranton, PA – Downtown Scranton movie theater to open in early 2017

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    From the Times-Tribune: The Iron Horse Movie Bistro won’t be open in time for the new “Star Wars” release Dec. 16, but the return of the downtown Scranton movie theater shouldn’t be too far away.

    Phoenix Theatres Entertainment expects to reopen the former Marquee Cinemas 8 in the first quarter of 2017, said Joe Gibbons, a spokesman for Marketplace at Steamtown developer John Basalyga.

    The timeline for the rebirth of the eight-theater complex into a luxury establishment with bistro-style food, alcohol and squishy red leather recliners moved back a few times from the original target of the first half of 2016 amid engineering and millwork manufacturing delays.

    Carl Scartelli, superintendent for Eco Trade Construction overseeing the $4 million renovation, expected the remodeling work to wrap up in the second week of December.

    Mr. Scartelli led The Times-Tribune on a brief tour of the building amid a flurry of activity as roughly 20 contractors painted walls, installed carpeting and tiles, worked on finishing ceilings and continued adding curtains and speakers.

    Keph Construction crews, who specialize in movie theater projects all over the country, worked on setting up Theater 1, which Project Manager Charlie Harrison described as the facility’s prime auditorium with 22 speakers.

    “This would be where their mega-blockbusters play,” Mr. Harrison said. “You’re going to have a much better experience with the surround sound. They’ll have upgraded seating. These are love seats. If you’re on a date, you can raise the arm rest and scoot your honey right next to you. The silver screen is a 3-D screen. Everything is upgraded. They’re making the theater experience like a ride in a theme park.”

    Once construction is done, Phoenix Theatres will still need to set up the kitchen, hire staff and train the workers, which is why Mr. Gibbons said the opening of the theaters at the intersection of Penn and Lackawanna avenues will come early next year.

    “This is exciting,” Mr. Gibbons said. “We see this as a corner that all of a sudden is going to have an incredible amount of life.”

    Mr. Gibbons spoke about the movie complex in the context of Delta Medix and Luzerne County Community College occupying space in the mall, the planned opening of the Scranton Public Market in the near future and more retailers moving in.

    Mr. Gibbons highlighted the recent return of eclectic gift boutique La Ti Da to the mall, along with Pink Shades by Kimberly, a women’s clothing store targeting 18- to 35-year-olds, scheduled to open Thursday.

  • November 28, 2016

    Lorain, OH – Ohio city’s historic theater helping revive downtown (Palace Theatre)

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    From WTOL.com: A theater in northern Ohio has been restored to look like it did when it opened in 1928.

    Operators of the Palace Theatre in Lorain hope the restoration will bring more people back to the city’s downtown.

    The theater has undergone many restorations over the years and this summer saw another $100,000 spent on improvements.

    Operations director Chris Pataky tells The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer (http://bit.ly/2fyO8BM ) the theater was one of the first in Ohio to show films with sound. It also has the largest single floor seating of any theater in Ohio.

    Lorain’s mayor says the theater is a gem and he hopes to see even more events there.

    The theater hosts live plays, concerts, comedians, holiday events and an occasional film.

  • November 23, 2016

    Los Angeles, CA – Siblings clash over control of L.A.-based movie theater chain Reading International

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    From The Los Angeles Times: Los Angeles-based movie theater chain Reading International Inc. has dozens of cinemas around the world, major real estate holdings, and a nearly 200-year history with roots in the railroad and coal business.

    But the future of the storied company has been clouded by an extraordinary family drama that is playing out in court. The three children of Reading’s late chief executive, James J. Cotter Sr., are waging a battle for control of the company, a feud that is reminiscent of the discord that created chaos at the media giant Viacom Inc. this year. Unlike the Viacom case, however, this dispute has largely gone unnoticed in Hollywood.

    The son, James Cotter Jr., sued the company’s directors last year after he was ousted as CEO in what he calls a “massive power grab” by his sisters, Ellen Cotter and Margaret Cotter. The sisters are also dueling with the brother in Los Angeles court over their father’s controlling stake. Both cases are pending.

    Compounding matters, the siblings are also clashing over whether to entertain a $400-million offer to buy Reading. James Cotter Jr. has accused the company led by his sisters of giving short shrift to an offer from Paul Heth, the CEO of a major Russian theater chain, to buy the company for $17 a share. The company maintains the price is inadequate.

    The court battles have weighed on Reading’s stock, which trades at about $15 a share, virtually unchanged from a year ago. A shareholder lawsuit was settled earlier this year, but investors remain anxious about the infighting and uncertainty over Reading’s direction.

    “I think a more independent board would be more aggressive in seeking objective advice from knowledgeable bankers, rather than from Cotter’s daughters, who are spending millions against their younger brother fighting to control the entity,” said Andrew Shapiro, an investor whose firm Lawndale Capital Management in Mill Valley, Calif., has long owned Reading stock (it holds about 7% of non-voting shares).

    As with Sumner Redstone’s Viacom — in which the company’s CEO was ousted after clashing with the mogul’s daughter, Shari — the infighting at Reading International highlights the perils that sometimes confront family-controlled publicly traded companies. James Cotter Sr. owned 70% of Reading’s Class B voting shares, leaving non-voting Class A shareholders with virtually no say in how the company operates.

    “It’s designed to preserve family control in perpetuity, but sometimes the person you pick in perpetuity doesn’t work out or the family doesn’t work out,” said Charles Elson, a corporate governance expert at the University of Delaware. “So the other shareholders are essentially stuck in the middle.”

    Billionaire Mark Cuban owns about 12% of the voting shares, but has mostly stayed on the sidelines of the various disputes.

    The Cotter siblings and Cuban declined to comment for this story. Reading also would not comment.

    Reading operates 57 theaters and 465 screens in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, including numerous locations in San Diego and Hawaii, and employs about 2,300 people. The company also owns live theaters — including the Orpheum and Minetta Lane in Manhattan, and the Royal George in Chicago — and other commercial properties.

    Launched in 1833 as the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Co., the business was created to move anthracite coal mined in Pennsylvania. But after World War II, railroad companies and the coal market declined, leading Reading to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1971.

    James J. Cotter Sr., a Los Angeles businessman, took control of the Reading name (made famous in the Monopoly board game) in the 1980s. Later, Reading began to acquire and develop real estate, focusing on properties with cinemas and live theater venues.

    Cotter Sr. resigned as CEO and chairman in August 2014 because of declining health, leaving son James Cotter Jr. in charge. Cotter Sr. died in September 2014 at age 76.

    Shortly thereafter, his two daughters went to court, alleging their brother improperly convinced their father to add him to a trust that would control the voting shares of the company. Ellen and Margaret Cotter said in court papers that James Cotter Jr. unduly influenced their father while he was in the hospital after suffering a fall in his home. The daughters said their father lacked “the knowledge and understanding necessary” to make such financial decisions.

    The daughters contend that after their dad was admitted to the hospital, their brother convinced an estate attorney to draft an amendment to the trust that made him a co-trustee. They allege he lied to Margaret by saying the changes were made based on videos he took of their father expressing his wishes.

    Distressed over her father’s failing health, Margaret tried to convince her father to sign the amendment, the daughters’ petition said. Cotter Sr. signed the amendment only after Margaret begged and “tears were shed,“ according to the petition.

    Cotter Jr. struck back with his own petition, calling the allegations against him “nonsense” and “fictional.” He said his father was “in full control of his faculties” when he signed the amendment to the trust and accused his sisters of “abusing their power… and breaching their duties.” He further contended his sisters tried to prevent him from selling his Reading stock, in order to “choke off” funds and force him to settle. Cotter Jr. owned about 16% of Reading’s shares as of April 2016, according to a regulatory filing.

    In June 2015, the company’s board of directors fired Cotter Jr. for undisclosed reasons and put Ellen Cotter in charge. Cotter Jr. quickly sued his sisters and other Reading directors, accusing them of staging a “boardroom coup” to wrest away control of the company. He said in court documents that his sisters, and company directors loyal to them, had him forced out because he refused an ultimatum to give up his claim to the trust.

    He also accused the sisters of choosing their own financial interests over the well-being of the company and trying to use Reading resources to pay for personal expenses, including an expensive Thanksgiving dinner for Ellen, the company’s CEO; Margaret, its vice chair; and their mother.

    The company said in a regulatory filing that “numerous of the factual allegations included in the complaint are inaccurate and untrue,” and vowed to “vigorously defend” against the claims. A trial date in the case has not been set.

    All the squabbling has created unease among investors. “The biggest issue is who gets to call the shots,” said B. Riley media analyst Eric Wold, the only analyst who covers Reading’s stock. “It’s been a distraction.… I’d love for them to settle this."

    Further clouding matters is whether Reading should be sold. In a May 31 letter, Heth offered to buy Reading for $17 a share, a 35% premium above the stock price at the time, but the board rejected the bid.

    A rebuffed Heth in September sent another letter saying he was “disappointed” that Ellen Cotter had not engaged him in talks about his all-cash offer, financed by prominent investment firms TPG Capital and the Santo Domingo Group.

    Heth, best known as the CEO of Karo Film Group in Russia, told The Times that he wants to buy small theater chains in North America and retrofit them in the image of his high-end cinemas overseas.

    “Reading has the footprint I’m looking for,” Heth said. “I respect what the family’s done, but I and my team can take it to the next level. I think there’s a lot I can do with it.”

    Ellen Cotter said in a recent earnings call that the board met in June and November to review Heth’s proposal and determined that shareholders would be better off if the company remained independent. “We don’t believe that the pursuit of a short term premium to market through a sales process is the best way to realize the value in our company,” she said.

    Investors interviewed by The Times agreed that Heth’s offer was low, but said the board needs to entertain offers.

    “I agree with the company that $17 greatly underestimates its value, but I don’t agree with the company not being willing to engage with a serious party interest,” said Jonathan Glaser, whose Los Angeles firm JMG Capital Management owns Reading shares.

    JMG was part of an investor group that sued Reading last year for breach of fiduciary duty after Cotter Jr. was fired. The funds later withdrew their complaint and the case was settled.

    Notwithstanding the legal skirmishes, Reading’s business has been growing. Revenue in the quarter ended Sept. 30 jumped 23% to $71.3 million compared with the same period a year earlier. Profit was $3.9 million, up from $327,000 in the prior-year quarter.

    Reading has had some success renovating its theaters in San Diego and elsewhere by improving food and beverage options, seating and other amenities. The company also expects to generate substantial cash flow from a six-story retail and office development in Manhattan that will replace an off-Broadway theater. The project is projected to open in 2018.

    B. Riley analyst Wold, whose price target for Reading is $26, said the company ’s movie theater and real estate businesses are showing signs of strength, despite its relatively small size and ongoing court battles.

    “There’s clear indication that there is value,” Wold said. “It does put pressure on management to deliver more value for shareholders.”

    Story link: http://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-reading-international-drama-20161109-story.html