News Column

Viva Cinema goes dark after 7 months

November 28, 2013

YellowBrix

Nov. 28--Viva Cinema, the theater that filled a long-shuttered space in the PlazAmericas Mall, closed its doors after seven months in business, company officials said Wednesday.

The cinema opened in May in a spot that sat vacant for five years in the former Sharpstown Mall, which was damaged by Hurricane Ike in 2008. The remodeled 42,500-square-foot cinema, which included an adjacent cantina and entertainment center, was seen as a sign of hope for the ailing retail center.

Manager Art Seago said the theater shut down Nov. 10 because studios released new movies exclusively to the AMC Studio 30, which is three miles away.

Movie distribution studios use a "competitive zone process" to determine which theater within a given area would give their movies the best exposure. Studios withheld the movies from Viva Cinema because it was considered substantial competition to AMC, Seago said.

Viva Cinema, which offered $7 tickets, would receive the movies from studios four to 12 weeks after they were released.

The cinema, like the rest of PlazAmericas, aimed to appeal to the diverse but mostly Latino community in its southwest Houston neighborhood. It showed movies dubbed in Spanish and independent films from Latin countries.

"There is a demand in that market for what we had to offer. We were going to a market that was not being served," Seago said. "The consumers are the ones who lose. The big theater chains are blocking small theaters from being successful."

AMC spokesman Ryan Noonan said competitive film zones are common in the industry.

"Viva Cinema clearly, and we assume knowingly, entered into a competitive film zone by opening a first-run location in close proximity to AMC Studio 30, which has a long-established reputation of playing Spanish-language films, as well as first-run films with Spanish subtitles or dubbing," Noonan said.

"At no time did AMC Theatres ever prohibit movie studios from playing films at Viva Cinema."

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(c)2013 the Houston Chronicle

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