UA Town East 6

3635 Gus Thomasson Road,
Mesquite, TX 75150

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dallasmovietheaters on March 7, 2015 at 5:43 am

The UA Town East was a direct competition attack to the established General Cinema Corporation’s (GCC) Town East cinema. The UA Town East had a successful run from 1982 to 1998 though eventually failing to make it through its entire 20-year lease.

In the 1980s, Mesquite, Texas was growing fast with two malls — The Big Town Mall (1959) and the superior Town East Mall (1971). GCC controlled this zone cinemas adjacent to each mall. But the traffic was at Town East and shopping centers sprouted all around that mall in the 1970s and 1980s. Opening theatreless in 1974 was one example: the Driftwood Shopping Center. United Artists circuit felt the time was right to challenge in the Town East zone and announced a theatre to open within the Driftwood the summer of 1982. Unlike the twin-screen GCC Town East I&II, the UA would have the big number six for its competitive UA Town East 6 six-plex.

From an architectural point of view, this UA was not a destination theater like the UA 150 well before it or the UA Plaza after it. John Panzeca, vice president of United Artists Realty in charge of the company’s Plaza project said of theaters such as Town East, UA’s Bowen, and UA’s Northstar, “For years we built theaters that were little, rectangular boxes….I used to point with pride to how inexpensively I could get those projects to come in.” But the non-descript theater delivered for the circuit going online at just the right time opening June 4, 1982 sharing opening days with the also architecturally-benign AMC Irving 6 and GCC Redbird Mall V-X. The UA Town East’s opening films were “Star Trek II,” “Bambi, “Hanky Panky” on two screens and “On Golden Pond.” The UA Town East would compete with GCC’s Town East for big summer clearances getting in addition to “Star Trek II”, “Blade Runner,” and “Firefox,” the biggest prize of that summer.

The UA Town East 6 would be known as the multiplex built by “E.T.” as the 1982 smash hit almost paid for the theater single-handedly playing for 42 weeks. Concession sales were brisk. That same rookie year, “Officer and a Gentlemen” was another huge hit for the UA 6-plex. The theater’s salad days happened right out of the batter’s box and over the next two years. But choppier waters were just ahead.

The GCC Town East figured out how to divide its twin-screener into a five screener re-opening on December 17, 1982. A poor effort that UA would counter delivering a curved screen experience with a 70mm THX house in 1984 to present the megahit ”Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.” A blow to GCC which had boasted superior presentation. As the Towne Crossing Center was being built opening across the highway from the Town East theaters soon delivering the AMC Towne Crossing Center 8, GCC closed the Town East 5 again to deliver a much better thought-out design for that cinema launching December 7, 1984 with one “A” screen to compete with the UA Town East’s 70mm THX house. And like a game of Risk, GCC decided to blunt the AMC Towne Crossing with six more screens adjacent to the newly-built flop-to-be Outlet Mall at Town East opening May 22, 1985. When the Towne Crossing 8 opened that same year, there were four multiplexes in the same vicinity – two “Town East 6’s”, one “Town East 5” and AMC’s 8-screener. Confusing but effective as Mesquite suddenly became the area’s third-most populous movie destination behind only the Central Zone and Prestonwood in which the three circuits would also battle it out.

The Mesquite battle was being won by GCC with its 11-screen to 8 for AMC to 6 for UA advantage. AMC’s Towne Crossing would descent to dollar house status but traffic would decrease throughout the 1990s to all four aging multiplexes. The game would end with some arrows and then the big bomb. A Cinemark 15-screener in Garland just to the North opened in 1992. UA would build a beautiful 9/10 screen destination theater near there opening in 1996. And AMC put all its Risk armies into a 30-screen megaplex just two exits to the south of the Town East opening in 1998. That megaplex spelled the end for all of the Town East multiplexes. Starplex Cinemas would add a 10-screen discount house in Mesquite and a 12-screen theater in Forney. A megaplex also came to Rockwall. And Terrell got a multiplex. But it was the AMC Mesquite 30 that doomed the circuit’s own Towne Crossing 8. Then the GCC Town East 6 went down as classes started up in August 1998. Then the UA Town East 6 on Halloween of 1998. Then the Town East 5 just a week prior to Christmas of 1998. Oddly enough, the Big Town Cinema would hang on the longest closing a month later as a Cinemark discount house.

The UA Town East 6 could have some solace as its property closure had company as all over the city in the Fall of 1998 multiplexes were closing as megaplex mania had taken over. UA’s Prestonwood Creek and South 8 and GCC’s Prestonwood Town Center, Collin Creek, Carrollton, Northpark III&IV, Redbird I-IV, Irving IV-VII, Northpark I&II all closed in a tight time frame that fall. Also closing were the theaters which opened on the same day as the UA Town East, the Redbird V-X and AMC Irving 6. The UA Town East 6 building would be repurposed for retail that included a grocery store that had the features of the theater and then super-gutted for an Aldi store that was still there in the mid-2010s. But the theater’s run with E.T. and its 70mm presentations including “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” will always be a fond memory for Mesquite moviegoers.

Movies-N-Things on October 17, 2012 at 2:40 am

Great Picture, it was nice to see the theater again. I remember you could make a night of it in this shopping center by going to a movie here and a Bonanza to eat (Its the Post Office now).

Driveintheatre2001 on January 23, 2012 at 8:50 pm

2 Photos from 1999-2000 of the UA Town East 6 before the conversion over to a grocery store. Enjoy..

Randy A Carlisle – Historical Photographer