US cities without movie theaters continue to grow – IndieWire

US cities without movie theaters continue to grow – IndieWire

In Chicago, the nation’s third largest city, about 1.2 million people live on the South Side. Until recently, it was served by three cinemas with a total of 32 screens, making it an underserved area by industry standards. Today there are two theaters and 18 screens.

AMC Ford City 14 and the four-screen Harper Theater remain. The recently closed Chatham 14 Cinema was centrally located on a major freeway. It leaves a huge void, especially for films aimed at the large black community in adjacent neighborhoods.

According to a statement from Anthony LaVerde, CEO of Emagine Entertainment, Chatham was no longer “economically viable.” The numbers bear it out: Last year, total US/Canada movie ticket spending per capita was about $24 ($9.1 billion in tickets sold, population 370 million). On that basis, the South Side, not including the considerable suburban appeal of Ford City, should have earned $25 million; the actual gross for all three theaters was less than $7 million.

Maestro - BTS - (L to R) Hairstylist Lori McCoy-Bell, Sound Mixer Steven Morrow, Bradley Cooper as Leonard Bernstein (Director/Writer/Producer), Costume Designer Kat St.  John and makeup designer Kazu Hiro on the set of Maestro.  Kr.  Jason McDonald/Netflix © 2023.

Cinema Chatham represents the latest in a troubling trend of population centers across the country where it’s increasingly difficult to find a multiplex nearby. Much of the press about theater closings focuses on New York and Los Angeles, but far more toxic to the show is the closing of movie theaters across the country. When they’re gone, many people have nowhere to watch actual movies except their homes.

New theaters are still open or renovating locations, mostly through the efforts of independents or smaller companies like Alamo Drafthouse, which has led the charge (Chicago’s North Side last year; Boston and St. Louis are coming soon). soon). According to sources, among the three largest exhibitors only AMC opened a new theater last year (Boston Causeway). Dine-in theaters are popping up in several cities. However, these improvements are not addressed to communities where basic movie shooting is no longer available.

Through various sources and with a heavy reliance on local media, IndieWire tracked the closings of theaters that served unique audiences. Pre-COVID, virtually all communities of any size had a first-run multiplex. Today, that is no longer the case.

The rise of streaming parallels the rise of online shopping (and if Amazon has its way, you’ll soon be able to do both at once). Most theater closings occur in shopping centers, which also continue to experience losses of major retail tenants.

Like hospitals, post offices, schools, churches, and parks, theaters make up the fabric of what it means to live in a city or neighborhood. They are institutions we take for granted, but, as bookstores have shown, they can become an endangered species.

panoramic view of the south side of Chicago
South Side of ChicagoGetty Images/iStockphoto

Unfortunately, the South Side of Chicago is not unique. Among other large and medium-sized cities:

Detroit, Michigan (city population: 624,000)

This month saw the closing of Maple in suburban Bloomfield Township. Another first-run location, Landmark Main Art in Royal Oaks, closed in 2021. Both were major specialty locations.

In downtown Detroit, the nearest theater is nine miles away and requires crossing an international border. The city’s only remaining multiplex is the suburban Bel Air Upscale Cinema, about 14 miles from the city. Other major suburban locations are equally remote.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin (city population: 569,000)

Milwaukee makes watching current first-run movies a nuisance for most residents. The city’s last multiplex, the Marcus Southgate Cinema, closed in September 2023. For many of the city’s residents, the nearest multiplexes are more than 10 miles away. Landmark’s first two-screen Downer Theater in Milwaukee also closed last September.

Residents in these cities have no options within 20 miles:

Grand Island, Nebraska (regional population: 90,000)

The state’s third-largest city, with a regional population of nearly 90,000, saw AMC evicted from its seven-screen theater last spring. There is a theater downtown, but it shows movies on weekends the week after release. The closest multiplexes are in two smaller neighboring towns – Hastings, Nebraska (26 miles), with two three-screen theaters often playing the same movies, or an eight-screen theater in Kearney, Nebraska (42 miles).

Ashtabula, Ohio (regional population: 100,000)

The largest population center between Cleveland, Ohio and Erie, Pennsylvania lost its last theater when AMC closed Ashtabula Mall 6 in July. From the city center, it is 39 miles to the nearest multiplex.

Elkhart, Indiana (city population: 58,000)

Elkhart, the largest city in his county, lost AMC 14 in December. AMC inherited the lease with the purchase of Carmike Theaters, but chose not to keep it open. The closest theaters are now in South Bend, Indiana or Goshen, Indiana, which are 30 minutes or more away.

Abandoned Globe Cinema in Detroit, Michigan, USA, 1986. (Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty Images)
Abandoned Globe Cinema in Detroit, Michigan, USA, 1986Getty Images

New Haven, Connecticut (city population: 135,000)

With the October 2023 closing of the Criterion 9 bow tie in New Haven, the home of Yale University has no theaters. The theater program included current specialty films alongside major plays and was a key part of downtown entertainment.

The region has other multiplexes, including a Cinemark seven miles away, but the Criterion served a city and campus audience that might not have cars.

Other cities or regions (population: over 50,000)

Other areas with county or regional populations of over 50,000 that are now 25 minutes or more from a multiplex include Orangeburg, South Carolina (50 miles, county of 90,000); Yucca Valley, California; Lincolnton, North Carolina; and Stonecrest, Georgia.

Smaller cities now far from theaters include Centralia, Illinois (20 miles); Rutland, Vermont (48 miles); and Clarion, Pennsylvania (37 miles).

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