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Published: Thursday, 3/4/2004

Theater chain aims for bigger picture in Toledo

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Under a plan approved a year ago, National Amusements would tear down and replace Showcase Cinemas. Under a plan approved a year ago, National Amusements would tear down and replace Showcase Cinemas.
LONG / BLADE Enlarge

Eight years ago, National Amusements, the dominant theater chain in the Toledo area, changed the theater scene locally by buying out its competition, closing a major theater, and paving the way for a new cinema in Maumee.

Two years from now, the Dedham, Mass., company could be mixing things up again for the local theater-going public.

It plans to start construction next month on a 20-screen complex it has agreed to build in the Levis Commons project in Perrysburg. The project is one of two theaters in metro Toledo the company said it intends to build.

"We have signed an agreement for Perrysburg for the Levis Commons location, and we also have signed an agreement with Westfield [America Trust] for its Franklin Park mall location,'' said Jennifer Maguire Hanson, a National Amusements spokesman.

The Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park cinema is to have 16 screens, but when it will be built is less clear, depending on construction of a new wing in the area's premier mall.

National Amusements may not stop there. It has been in discussions with General Growth Properties about a possible theater at National Growth's Shops at Fallen Timbers project in Maumee, although no deal has been worked out, Ms. Hanson said.

The current Franklin Mall 6 theater building on Monroe Street in front of the Franklin Park mall is to be torn down as part of a redevelopment of the mall. But National Amusements has not indicated what will happen to its two nearby theaters, the Showcase Cinemas on Secor Road and the Franklin Mall Cinemas on Monroe Street.

Jim Walter, owner of Great Eastern Theater Co., which owns the twin-screen Sundance Kid Drive-In in Oregon and the Cla-Zel Theater in Bowling Green, said he expects one or both of the Toledo theaters will be closed. "I don't want to speak for them, but certainly, when you're talking about major chain operators like National Amusements and others, they all have moved to fewer venues with a lot more screens,'' he said.

National Amusements received city approval a year ago to replace the Secor Road theaters with a 16-screen complex. It hasn't moved forward on that project, however."The approval remains in effect. It doesn't have an expiration date on it,'' said Bart Wagenman, a Toledo lawyer who has represented National Amusements."But nothing has changed since it was approved.''

Ms. Hanson said she was unsure what changesthe company intends for its Toledo properties.



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