Just as the theatrical exhibition industry appeared on the verge of rebounding from the pandemic, some devastating news has been announced that has shaken Hollywood’s movie community to its very core. Decurion, the company that owns the movie theater chains Arclight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres, has announced that those theaters will be closing permanently, which seemed unthinkable a little more than one year ago.
I feel like I’m writing a eulogy for a close friend here, as I’ve spent countless hours at the ArcLight Hollywood, the ArcLight Culver City, and Pacific Theatres at the Grove. My heart goes out not just to the millions of movie fans who considered those theaters a second home, but to the hundreds of employees who staffed them for low wages 365 days a year.
The bombshell news left all of Los Angeles reeling on social media, with thousands mourning the 58-year-old Cinerama Dome, which has hosted countless movie premieres over the years. Now, in all likelihood, some deep-pocketed investor will come in to rescue that specific location (knock on wood!), and it’s possible that Amazon could follow Netflix’s theater-buying lead and take over the lease for ArcLight Culver City, which is right next to its Amazon Studios campus, but both scenarios involve wishful thinking. And sure, AMC could buy high-trafficked locations such as Pacific Theatres at the Grove, the ArcLight Sherman Oaks inside the Sherman Oaks Galleria or the Pacific Glendale 18 located within the Americana at Brand shopping mall, but AMC is also over-leveraged as it is, and should probably focus on returning the theaters it already owns to profitability.
Decurion issued a sad statement, suggesting the decision was unavoidable given the toll the pandemic has taken on theaters across the world.
“After shutting our doors more than a year ago, today we must share the difficult and sad news that Pacific will not be reopening its ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres locations. This was not the outcome anyone wanted, but despite a huge effort that exhausted all potential options, the company does not have a viable way forward.
To all the Pacific and ArcLight employees who have devoted their professional lives to making our theaters the very best places in the world to see movies: we are grateful for your service and your dedication to our customers. To our guests and members of the film industry who have made going to the movies such a magical experience over the years: our deepest thanks. It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve you.”
Deadline reports that Decurion had hoped to reopen theaters in time for Memorial Day weekend when A Quiet Place Part II and Disney’s Cruella are slated to hit theaters that would finally be open at 100% capacity in Los Angeles, but it just couldn’t hang on until then. Over the weekend, an image of an eviction notice posted on the front door of the ArcLight Culver City indicated that the landlord was owed approximately $181,900 in unpaid rent for March 2021. With that rate in mind, a full year of unpaid rent would come to nearly $2.2 million.
Decurion hasn’t declared bankruptcy yet, nor has it put either chain up for sale, but its announcement represented a crushing blow to Los Angeles-area movie fans. Speaking on behalf of Collider, we’d developed a really successful screening series partnership with ArcLight Hollywood in 2019, and hoped that momentum would carry into 2020 before the exhibition industry came to a screeching halt last March.
As a token of appreciation, ArcLight gave me and my fellow For Your Consideration hosts Scott Mantz and Perri Nemiroff a gift card that allowed us to see free movies for an entire year. It was perhaps the most incredible gift I’ve ever received. I used that card exactly twice, if I’m not mistaken — the last time to catch a late-night screening of Onward at the Grove — and now that card is just a useless piece of plastic in my wallet. What’s funny is that I’d pay an obscene amount of money to be able to see a movie at either the Grove or the ArcLight Hollywood right now.
Here’s hoping that some rich Hollywood denizens will come together to save the iconic Cinerama Dome — the only concrete geodesic dome on Earth. After just 16 weeks of rapid construction, the theater celebrated its grand opening on Nov. 7, 1963 with the world premiere of Stanley Kramer‘s farce It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in 70mm. If Los Angeles allows that theater to die, a piece of Hollywood history will die with it, and it’s not just incumbent on our new streaming overlords to play the hero.
Of course, ArcLight and Pacific are hardly the only theater chains feeling the pinch of COVID-19, as Alamo Drafthouse filed for Chapter 11, while AMC has declared $4.4 billion in losses. ArcLight, though, had just opened up a new location here in Boston, and it also had a presence in Chicago and Maryland. I can’t tell you how hard this news hit me, if only because it truly looked as though we’d turned a corner in this pandemic. We could finally see a light at the end of the tunnel — we finally had some hope — but these closures are almost too much to bear.
Thank you to every single staffer I’ve ever interacted with at an ArcLight or Pacific theater, from the ticket takers to the concessions workers to the projectionists in the booth. I sought solace within your hallowed walls and time and time again, you were there for me. I know there will still be movie theaters scattered around Los Angeles when I eventually return, but the landscape will never quite be the same. I, for one, am grateful for all the memories I made at those theaters, the people I met there, and the conversations we shared about movies. That’s what matters, and I can’t wait to indulge in those conversations again, no matter what theater lobby they take place in.
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