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Landlord demands millions from only Charlotte movie theater not yet reopened. What’s next?

·3 min read

There’s only one movie theater chain that has yet to reopen in Charlotte — Studio Movie Grill in the University area — and it’s fate remains unclear even after the company’s recent emergence from bankruptcy.

What’s more, the landlord of the dine-in movie theater’s Prosperity Village site is seeking in court over $3.5 million from the company.

The Texas-based movie theater chain, consistently rated as one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. before the coronavirus pandemic, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, and exited bankruptcy in April.

Studio Movie Grill had rejected its Charlotte lease while still in bankruptcy court, court records show.

A rejected lease means the tenant is in breach of contract, allowing a landlord to terminate the lease. However, the movie company’s website still lists the Charlotte venue as temporarily closed.

Studio Movie Grill told the Observer last month that whenever possible, it intends to reopen shuttered theaters. They sent the same statement this week seeking comment about the future of the Charlotte theater.

Studio Movie Grill in Prosperity Village in Charlotte remains listed as temporarily closed as the Texas-based company emerges from bankruptcy.
Studio Movie Grill in Prosperity Village in Charlotte remains listed as temporarily closed as the Texas-based company emerges from bankruptcy.

Lockard, the Iowa-based landlord of the Charlotte property, is seeking administrative expenses of $48,000 for storage of Studio Movie Grill’s property at the site, according to court filings with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Northern District of Texas. The landlord is demanding its money by June 30.

Lockard also is seeking more than $2.7 million for future rent, damages and other charges for breaching the lease, and over $760,000 for unpaid past rent, filings show.

However, a new lease could still be negotiated, according to documents filed by Lockard

Post-bankruptcy, Studio Movie Grill lists 21 locations on its website, including in Charlotte, in eight states, down from 33 venues pre-bankruptcy.

The Charlotte theater anchors the 8.9 acre, 64,584-square-foot retail center, taking over the former Bi-Lo grocery store space, according to Lockard’s website.

Lockard’s lawyers would not comment on the case. Law Offices of Frank J. Wright of Dallas, Texas, representing Studio Movie Grill, did not respond for comment.

Studio Movie Grill in Charlotte

Studio Movie Grill debuted in 1998. Three years ago, it said it was planning to expand to add 50 screens to its 333 screens in 10 states, including in Charlotte.

In December 2019, Studio Movie Grill opened the 47,000-square-foot, 10-screen theater in the University area with over 1,000 leather recliners at 5336 Docia Crossing Road. It was the company’s second Charlotte location, having opened its first in uptown’s Epicentre in 2013.

The University site was a $12-million project, CEO Ted Croft, formerly the CFO, told the Observer before the Prosperity Village theater opening. The theater was looking to hire about 200 people.

Studio Movie Grill opened in Prosperity Village just months before the coronavirus pandemic. The dine-in movie theater venue remains temporarily closed as the company emerges from bankruptcy.
Studio Movie Grill opened in Prosperity Village just months before the coronavirus pandemic. The dine-in movie theater venue remains temporarily closed as the company emerges from bankruptcy.

But in March 2020, the company closed its Epicentre theater, citing “an unusual amount of operational challenges.”

That was just before theaters in Charlotte and across the country were ordered closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Theaters in North Carolina were allowed to reopen at limited capacity and with other restrictions in October. Gov. Roy Cooper lifted most COVID-19 restrictions in May.

Other theaters closing, one opening

Some movie theater chains permanently closed venues during the pandemic.

AMC theaters closed AMC Classic Rock Hill 7 in Rock Hill.

Knoxville, Tennessee-based Regal closed two theaters. In May 2020, the company said it would not reopen Regal Manor Twin on Providence Road in Myers Park, Charlotte’s oldest operational movie theater and last full-time art house. Months earlier, Regal Ballantyne Village closed in February to make way for office space.

The future of the 10-screen Regal movie theater at 6911 Phillips Place Court is unclear as Charlotte-based real estate developer Lincoln Harris plans to build a 10-story office tower and parking deck there. Regal previously told the Observer it has no plans to close and its lease there runs through the end of 2025.

Meanwhile, the Charlotte Film Society plans to open a three-screen cinema in the fall on Raleigh Street in NoDa, and is actively fundraising for the project.

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