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    Tuesday, November 29, 2022

    Movie theater closure may not spell the end for Pawcatuck cinema

    Stonington ― The parking lot of Regal Cinemas in Pawcatuck sits empty the week following its closure.

    A sign on theater door reads, “thank you! It has been our pleasure to serve you at this theater. Regal Stonington is now closed. We invite you to visit Regal Waterford or any of our other locations.”

    The theater, owned by Cineworld, which is the second largest movie theater chain in the world according to its website, stopped selling tickets on Sept. 18, and closed its doors late last week.

    Lisa Konicki, president of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, confirmed the closure, and said “I know for certain that somebody has made an offer to Regal to pick up and run with it.” She said she was not at liberty to provide specific details at this time.

    She continued, “fortunately for us in this region, we have two amazing alternatives. We have Olde Mistick Village which has the most comfortable seats anywhere, and a great little cinema with easy parking, and we have the United Theater (in downtown Westerly) which just came online a year ago, which is an awesome space, with an incredible sound system-- brand new--and they’re offering a wonderful experience to see the movies.”

    Cineworld purchased Regal Cinemas in 2018 for $3.6 billion, and, according to media reports, has almost $5 billion in debt.

    Cineworld, which owns 750 theaters worldwide, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Southern District of Texas Sept. 7. The filing will allow it to retain financial control over its assets, continue to operate their businesses, and cancel contracts such as leases.

    In a statement released by Cineworld, Mooky Greidinger, chief executive officer, said, in part, “the pandemic was an incredibly difficult time for our business, with the enforced closure of cinemas and huge disruption to film schedules that has led us to this point. This latest process is part of our ongoing efforts to strengthen our financial position.”

    Greidinger went on to say, “the outstanding success of recent blockbusters such as Spider-Man: No Way Home; No Time to Die; Top Gun: Maverick; Dune; Minions: The Rise of Gru; Thor: Love and Thunder and others proves clearly that people love to go to the movies and that, once supply of product returns, our business will reap the benefits.”

    According to The New York Times, theaters were already struggling prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Forced theater closures and a rise in streaming service usage during the 2020 global pandemic combined to create an environment where up to 8% of formerly regular theatergoers will not return. In mid-2021, ticket sales in theaters were down almost 50% over pre-pandemic levels.

    The theater property is owned by READCO Stonington II, LLC according to town records.

    Michael Lech, chief executive officer of READCO, declined to comment on the closure, ad Regal Cinemas did not respond to requests for comment.

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