Topic: Springfield (MA) Cinemas close
From: Oxford, OH
Registered: May 2003
posted June 24, 2004 03:28 PM
From the Springfield Republican:
The last picture show
Sunday, June 20, 2004
By WILLIAM FREEBAIRN
As the sun set Thursday, the letters came down from the signboard in front of the Springfield Cinemas for the last time.
The second-run theater complex, open for more than a decade, closed after operator National Amusements decided it was not profitable.
Customers were disappointed to learn the news. "That's sad," said Majester L. Poyser of Springfield, who brought her family there regularly.
Another customer, Alexis Rodriguez of West Springfield, said he would miss the theater's low prices.
"Everything's cheaper here. It's almost 10 dollars at other theaters," he said.
The demise of the cineplex closes the curtain on a period of rapid change in the Greater Springfield movie theater business, which has seen the construction or remodeling of dozens of screens and closing of dozens more.
The evolution towards the steeply stepped floors and reclining seats of "stadium-style" theaters is almost complete with the closing of the Springfield Cinemas.
Only a few non-stadium seating theaters with sloping, flat floors remain in Western Massachusetts, mostly smaller specialty theaters. The closing also leaves the Agawam Family Cinemas as the only second-run theater house in Hampden County.
This year has seen additional changes, including the sale this spring of the MegaStar Cinemas to Marquee Cinemas and the purchase by National Amusements of a former Hoyts theater complex in Enfield.
National Amusements, the giant theater chain that operates Showcase Cinemas in Springfield and West Springfield, said it was closing the 12-theater Springfield Cinemas after nine years of operating them. The theaters have shown second-run movies for $2 since 2002, and spokeswoman Jennifer Maguire Hanson said the business was not doing well.
National Amusements bought the Enfield 12 Cinema multiplex late last year, giving it a dominant presence in Greater Springfield.
MegaStar Cinemas sold its Springfield Plaza multiplex - the only non-National Amusements theater complex in the area - to West Virginia-based Marquee Cinemas in March for an undisclosed sum.
"They (National Amusements) control the market pretty much, but we think we can do well there," said Curtis E. McCall, president of Marquee. "It's still a very viable area with a good population base."
He would not say how much Marquee paid for the 16-theater complex, but implied his company got a good deal. "Every deal has gotten a little better for the buyer," McCall said.
The theater complex was built by Regal Entertainment in 1999, then sold to MegaStar in 2001.
MegaStar sold most of its theater holdings late last year to other major chains.
McCall said his company is close to adding an ice cream counter to the theater complex in space where a cafe had been operating.
National Amusements' Hanson said her company is satisfied with the performance of its area theaters. The Enfield 12 Cinemas was not built as a Showcase and so will retain the name by which most customers know it.
John Valente, general manager of the three-screen Mahaiwe Triplex in Great Barrington, said he was not surprised by the closing of the second-run theater in Springfield.
The Mahaiwe Triplex is doing well by running big Hollywood movies alongside independent and foreign films that appeal to its southern Berkshire County audience, Valente said. "It's not a formula, but it's a strategy," he said.
The closing of the Springfield Cinemas may be part of the ongoing trend of new theaters in larger markets squeezing out older complexes. That trend is less common in outlying areas such as Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties, Valente said, in part because of the huge investment required to build modern stadium-style seating theaters.
"There's a lot of new screens out there today. There were a whole lot of closings a few years ago, now it looks like there might be some more," Valente said.
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