In my review of Paranormal Activity I mentioned how much I despise the AMC/Lowes theater in town. About a decade or so ago a theater opened here that was part of a small local chain called Ritz Theaters. They specialized in art houses and built this flagship location after years of toiling in the business with decent, but not great, buildings. This one was amazing. It boasted leather couches in the hallways, beautiful architecture and elegant accessories to match, clean, professionally-manned concessions all at a great price. Sadly, the owner of that chain retired a few years back and sold off the building to National Amusements. I know them because they built a lousy theater in nearby Atco that’s worse than the AMC. When National bought it they sent in representatives to assure the older, more laid-back customers that they were viewing this as a new chapter in their history and planned to keep things pretty similar.
Of course changes did come. They effectively split the theater (16 screens) in half with half getting mainstream fare and the other half keeping the art house films. As time went on that evolved to about a 70-30 split towards mainstream movies.
They also apparently fired the entire staff and brought in a bunch of barely trained kids to work the concession stands and things ground to a halt there. The prices also jumped up but not anywhere near the stratosphere of the AMC theaters.
Then I heard about financial troubles and wondered how long it would be before it might force my hand back to AMC again. Tonight I found this news article from IMDB:
Although reports on Wednesday had indicated that Sumner Redstone‘s National Amusements, in its effort to reduce debt, was selling off nearly $1 billion in CBS and Viacom stock because it couldn’t find a buyer for its theaters, today’s Los Angeles Times reported that the holding company plans to unload 35 theaters as well. The National Amusements theater chain, headed by Redstone’s daughter Shari, currently owns 79 multiplexes in the U.S. According to the Times, it plans to sell venues in the Midwest and south of New York but hold on to those in New England and the New York areas. It will also keep its theaters in the U.K. and Brazil.
We’re south of New York but also sometimes considered part of the New York area. If you count up all their theaters in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island that ads up to 40 theaters leaving four theaters unaccounted for. New Jersey perfectly has four theaters. That would mean a nice theater in Philadelphia that I just found, The Bridge, would be closing but it has only six screens and it never looks that busy to me.
It’ll be very interesting to see what happens next. Here’s hoping a new buyer steps in to keep the Ritz the upscale theater it is. With my luck AMC will buy it.