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No film at 11, or any time; Regal shuts Coconut Point theater

IMG-8490.jpg
Sheldon Zoldan
/
Special to WGCU
Signs on the theater doors say “Regal Coconut Point is now closed. We invite you to visit Regal Gulf Coast.”

The Regal multiplex theater at the Coconut Point shopping center is not having a happy ending. The 16-screen cinema closed Thursday.

Signs on the theater doors say “Regal Coconut Point is now closed. We invite you to visit Regal Gulf Coast.”

Regal still has multiplexes in Naples, at Gulf Coast Town Center, Bell Tower Shops and Port Charlotte Town Center in Southwest Florida.

Regal’s parent company, Cineworld, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy September 7, in Houston. The company says it has $1.9 billion in debt.

Chapter 11 allows a company to continue doing business while coming up with a plan to reorganize and pay lenders. The company said its goal is to come out of bankruptcy in the first quarter of 2023.

Regal is the second largest theater chain in the United States, only behind AMC.

Cineworld, based in England, purchased Regal in December 2017 for $3.2 billion. Movie theaters already were facing stiff competition from streaming services and then the crushing effects of the pandemic.

Regal closed 12 of its 542 multiplexes September 30, according to deadline.com.

IMG-8491.jpg
Sheldon Zoldan
/
Special to WGCU
Regal’s parent company, Cineworld, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy September 7, in Houston. The company says it has $1.9 billion in debt.

Coconut Point’s management would not comment and referred questions to the Simon Property Group, the owner of the mall, in Indianapolis. Simon Property didn’t return calls this week.

Googling the theater brings up photos and a bold red bar saying "Permanently closed."

Naples Gourmet Ice Cream sits around the corner from the movie theater. Laura Decker and her husband opened the store January 1.

“I was not aware at all,” she said of the closing. “It was a big surprise.”

She learned about the closing from customers who came in after finding out the theater was closed.

The ice cream store tailored its hours around the theater movie times, she said.

She and her husband picked Coconut Point because it was a prime location and the rent was reasonable compared to Naples.

Decker wasn’t sure if she would have opened at the location if she knew the theater would close.

Mike Lehneberg, owner of Lehne Burgers near the mall, said his restaurant and the movie theater “was a perfect fit.”

The movie theater was a reason, but not the main reason he opened at Coconut Point, he said.

He opened his restaurant in December 2020, during the pandemic.

“Since we’ve been there the movie theater has never been crazy busy like it used to be,” he said.

He thought the theater would make a comeback, but even the blockbuster “Top Gun: Maverick” didn’t bring in crowds like at the Bell Tower, Lehneberg said.

The closing was the second whammy for Lehneberg. His Cape Coral store had $70,000 in damage from Hurricane Ian. It will reopen Thursday.

Finding a tenant to replace a movie theater isn’t easy, said Gary Tasman, CEO and principal broker at Cashman & Wakefield Commercial Property of Southwest Florida.

“I don’t know what the answer is,” he said. “Tear it down and build residential.”

Theaters are highly specialized buildings, making them difficult to redevelop, he said.

Some churches have moved into theater spaces. In fact, Next Level Church had used the Coconut theater for services for a time before Hurricane Irma in 2017. But Tasman doubted that would happen at Coconut Point.

Churches aren’t good for mixed-use projects like Coconut Point, which have a mix of retail, residential and entertainment, he said.

The day after the closing the mall manager told Lehneberg the mall was trying to figure out what to do. Residential is one option, he said.

Lehneberg said he isn’t sure more residential is needed. He would like to see some kind of entertainment destination like a Dave & Busters.

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