A Massachusetts-based movie theater company is planning to reopen two former Cinemagic locations, in Westbrook and Saco, by the end of September.
Apple Cinemas, based in the Boston area, is taking over the former Cinemagic properties on County Road in Westbrook and Route 1 in Saco, said Jegan Gomangalam, the company’s founder. Gomangalam said Tuesday that his company already has begun hiring staff for both locations and is encouraging anyone who worked at Cinemagic to apply online at [email protected]. Banners announcing the new theaters were hung at each site over the weekend.
The theaters will continue to play first-run, mainstream movies and no major changes will be made at first. Eventually, some renovations could be made and more food options could be added, Gomangalam said. Though the movie theater industry nationally and in Maine is still trying to recover from the pandemic, he said the Portland area’s appetite for movies seems strong.
“We are excited to be coming to Maine, those are really great locations,” Gomangalam said. “We’ve been watching the Portland market and it’s a really good one.”
Both the Saco and Westbrook theaters have been dark since February, when the New Hampshire-based Cinemagic chain closed permanently. Cinemagic also closed its location at Clark’s Pond in South Portland, which is owned by Portland-area landlord Joe Soley. He has said he’s had interest from other theater operators to take over that location and thinks that movies are the building’s best use. With Cinemagic’s closing, Greater Portland lost 35 movie screens.
It’s not clear whether the closing of Cinemagic – which ran eight theaters in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts – was solely caused by the pandemic. About a month and a half before Cinemagic announced it was closing, company founder Mark Adam died in Naples, Florida, at the age of 61, according to his obituary. Though Cinemagic was closed for much of the pandemic and lost revenue, managers at Cinemagic did not give a reason for the chain’s closing and did not respond to emails and phone calls asking for more details.
Apple Cinemas has been operating theaters since 2013, Gomangalam said. The company currently has seven theaters. One is in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the rest are in Connecticut: Hartford (two locations), Torrington, Simsbury, Waterbury and Barkhamsted. But that number soon will grow to at least 12.
Besides taking over the leases of the Saco and Westbrook theater buildings, Apple Cinemas also will run former Cinemagic sites in Hooksett and Merrimack, New Hampshire as well as a former Showcase Cinemas site in Warwick, Rhode Island, Gomangalam said. The Saco and Westbrook locations are owned by EPR Properties, a Missouri company that owns and leases movie theaters around the country, and will be leased by Apple Cinemas.
Greater Portland also is slated to get another cineplex location in Westbrook two years from now. Cinemark – the nation’s third largest movie theater chain with more than 325 locations – plans to build a 12-screen theater in the Rock Row retail and entertainment development in Westbrook, said Julia McCartha, of the Cinemark public relations department.
The project was announced by Cinemark and Rock Row developers Waterstone Properties Group in 2019, with a tentative opening date in spring 2021 but was delayed by the pandemic. Cinemark has signed a long-term lease with Waterstone and now aims to open in late 2023, said Waterstone co-founder Josh Levy.
There are signs in Maine and nationally that people are going back to the movies in fairly big numbers. Both the Smitty’s Cinema and Flagship Cinemas chains – which have theaters in Greater Portland – have seen large crowds in July for long-awaited major films. Nationally, several new movies have had strong box office numbers this summer, including “F9” and “A Quiet Place 2.” The former earned $70 million in its first weekend, and the latter made $58 million in its opening days. Disney’s “Black Widow” also made $80 million its first weekend.
Still, the pandemic has pummeled the movie theater business – worth $11.4 billion in 2019 and just $2.3 billion last year – leaving it with an uncertain future and crucial questions, like whether moviegoers who’ve grown used to seeing blockbusters streamed into their homes will come back and whether continued COVID-19 surges will keep audiences away.