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Regal Montrose may soon close, joining movie theaters in Solon and Bainbridge

Empty theater shutterstock_Fer Gregory.jpg
Fer Gregory
The AMC Classic Solon 16 opened in 1991 and abruptly closed this week. It will be followed by nearby Cleveland Cinemas' Chagrin Cinemas, which closes this weekend.

Another multiplex in Northeast Ohio could be closing in the near future. CNN reports that Regal Cinemas plans to close its Montrose theater in Summit County. The move comes as part of the parent company’s bankruptcy filing.

The Montrose theater opened in 1989 on the former site of a drive-in. In 2015, it hosted the Ohio premiere of the LeBron James film, "Train Wreck."

AMC just closed its Solon 16 theater this week. Regal Cinemas opened the facility in 1991 as the Solon Commons 8. It expanded over the years and went through a succession of names and owners, including Cleveland Cinemas (owners of the Cedar Lee in Cleveland Heights) and the Digiplex.

AMC has removed the theater from its website, and, in a brief statement on the website, directs visitors to the AMC Ridge Park Square 8 in Brooklyn. The company has not responded to a call for comment.

Ticket sales have lagged as the industry rebounds from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Yahoo Finance, ticket sales were up 70 percent last year, though that was down 30 percent from pre-pandemic levels. Variety reports that last summer, 88 percent of moviegoers felt comfortable visiting a theater - up from 59 percent in 2021.

Solon Economic Development Director Angee Shaker called the news "a disappointment."

“With the theater shutdowns, a lot of people invested in home theaters," she said. "They've just gotten used to watching movies at home. So, realistically, I don't think we're ever going to have the need for a 16-screen movie theater again.”

Shaker said she’s discussed with the property owner ways to repurpose the 10-acre site and 53,000 square foot building.

"It's going to be expensive to repurpose it," she said. "But if we could keep a few screens and have a more intimate movie experience, I think that that is something that could possibly be successful. Then think about creative ways to use the rest of the space, whether it's a cool little bar, restaurant or entertainment center. Virtual reality [also] seems to be popular."

The closure in Solon comes just a month after Cleveland Cinemas announced that its nine-screen Chagrin Cinemas will close on January 22, with a final weekend of classic films “Back to the Future,” “Grease” and “Jurassic Park.” The theater opened November 26, 1989, on the site of the Valley Drive-In.

Jon Forman, president of Cleveland Cinemas, said a lack of new movies is challenging operators.

"If you're running a complex with ten or more screens and there are only one or two new movies coming out every week... there are not enough movies to keep all these theaters running as profitably as they would like to," Forman said.

Cleveland Cinemas will still operate the Apollo Theatre in Oberlin, the Capitol in Gordon Square and the Cedar Lee in Cleveland Heights.

Seeing films at movie theaters might bring nostalgia for some. The Cleveland International Film Festival grew from a day-long event at the Cedar Lee in 1977. Owner Jon Forman discussed their eclectic concession offerings at the time in this story with WGAR/WEWS personality “The Real” Bob James:

Forman said that a lot has changed since the Cedar Lee introduced what he called "non-traditional movie theater foods."

"The Cedar Lee was the first in this market to serve beer and wine," he said. "You would have thought that we were burning babies, the way people reacted. The truth is, now most theaters who want to attract an adult crowd are serving alcohol and real food."

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.