Discount movie screens fade to black


POSTED: Monday, August 03, 2009

The days of discount movie theaters on Oahu are gone, for now.

Several thousand people turned out at Restaurant Row yesterday to watch the last movies at Hollywood Theaters where about 40 employees lost their jobs.

The darkened screens came as landlord Pacific Office Properties paid $2.45 million to buy out the lease of Wallace Theater Holdings LLC, which owns Hollywood Theaters.

Under its 45-year lease agreement, the theater company would pay $1 per year for the space while charging up to $1.50 for a movie and offering 3 1/2 hours of validated parking for moviegoers.

“;The landlord made us an offer that we couldn't refuse,”; said Scott Wallace, theater chief executive officer and chairman. “;It was a very significant lease premium to be paid.”;

Despite the economic downturn, Wallace said, “;profitability had increased in 2009”; from a climb in ticket sales.

However, Pacific Office Properties Executive Vice President Larry Taff said the buyout was offered because “;it was a poor lease that generated a very small amount of income.”;

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An outpatient surgical center is expected to fill some of the space the nine-screen facility occupied, which, according to Taff, “;is consistent with our long-term plans for the property.”;

Debbie Soliman, manager of the nearby Subway, said people often bought lunch or dinner after going to the movies, and believes food sales will suffer once the theaters are gone but expects it “;to pick up once the new tenants move in.”;

The first movie showings yesterday drew several hundred people with the line extending from the ticket office to Ala Moana Boulevard.

Each show of the day sold out.

Punchbowl resident Mary Villamor said she came about once a week “;for many years”; to watch movies, even when she was homeless—when she could find enough money.

“;I'm going to miss it,”; Villamor said. “;It's economically feasible. I'm really not sure if I will be going to the movies as much.”;

Others came to watch films they had missed in other theaters.

“;You can't catch every first run (of a movie) ... so this has always been the place to check it out,”; said Waikiki resident Ron Richey, who came to the theaters as often as three times a week.

Some came from the other side of the island for a change of pace.

“;I've never really come down this side very much,”; said Waimanalo resident Franklin Lawrence. “;It's a lot more different to come down this side and watch a movie.”;

Other discount theaters on Oahu in Laie and Kailua have closed in the past few years, although the two screens at Laie have reopened with regular ticket prices.

Wallace Theaters will continue to operate the Kress Cinemas in Hilo, the only discount theater in the state. However, the company is optimistic.

“;We are always looking for opportunities,”; Wallace said.