News Column

Southland mall is battleground for rival movie theater proposals

July 3, 2014

By JC Reindl, Detroit Free Press

July 03--Presently without a movie theater, Southland Center mall in Taylor is now the battleground for two dueling multiplex proposals.

No one is predicting that both first-run theaters can survive.

The project with the earliest planned opening date is a new 10-screen MJR Digital Cinemas within the old AMC Star Taylor theater, across from the mall at 22265 Eureka Road.

This week MJR announced it has a lease for the vacant building and hopes to begin extensive renovations there by late July. Plans call for new screens and projection equipment, as well as a bar in the lobby.

There would be a reduction in seating capacity to 1,100 from 2,500 to make room for new overstuffed and fully reclining theater seats with footrests. The goal is to open in time for the 2014 Christmas season, said Dennis Redmer, the company's vice president of operations.

Rooting against MJR's plan is the owner of Southland Center, New York-based Rouse Properties.

Rouse announced its own plan Wednesday to start razing the mall's former Mervyns store within 30 days and then construct a 12-screen Cinemark theater. The 50,000 square-foot movie house also would come with reclining leather seats.

Officials were mum on the question of whether the theater would stock liquor.

In a statement, Rouse expressed skepticism about the competing project across the road.

"We believe it's unlikely that the other potential theater would move ahead," the company said in a statement.

First-run theaters typically prefer to keep at least three miles of distance from competitors, in part to secure good relationships with movie distributors.

Tom Gerdom, a Grand Blanc-based movie theater consultant, said it can be tricky having two theaters so close together, as "most of the distributors don't like to play against themselves that close."

If both projects happen, Gerdom said the more successful one would likely be the theater with the better leverage with distributors for the most desirable movies.

"It's one thing to be a few miles away, but another to be right across the street," he said, adding, "If they had one (theater) overseeing 20 screens instead of two with 10, they might be better off."

Paul Glantz, the founder and president of metro Detroit movie chain Emagine Entertainment, said it is unusual, although not unheard of, to see neighboring and thriving first-run theaters.

The ultimate winners in such scenarios are moviegoers, he said, as they get a bigger variety of films and showtimes.

Contact JC Reindl: 313-222-6631 or Follow him on Twitter @JCReindl.


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Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)

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