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Published: Friday, 6/11/2010

Maumee 18-screen theater complex to shut by summer's end

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Just 12 1/2 years ago, Titanic premiered to mark the grand opening of the area's then-newest and largest state-of-the-art cineplex, the 18-screen Cinema De Lux on Conant Street in Maumee.

And like the doomed ocean liner, the new owners of the two-story, 90,000-square-foot complex confirmed Thursday that the Maumee 18 theater will sink into history by summer's end.

Rave Motion Pictures, which bought the area's four largest theater complexes in December from National Amusements Inc., decided the South Toledo area has too many movie screens.

It will close the Maumee 18 at 1360 Conant St. in August or early September.

"It is going to close. We haven't officially announced it, but it's not really a secret," said Danny DiGiacomo, a spokesman for Rave, based in Dallas.

The theater chain, he said, plans to bolster its 14-screen theater at the Shops at Fallen Timbers mall in Maumee to handle increasedcustomer traffic. It is adding 3-D projection technology to one screen at Fallen Timbers this week and is considering adding a much larger screen there.

Some area experts seemed surprised that Rave didn't instead pick one of its less-frequented area theaters to close, but the Conant building is the only one the company owns and thus it doesn't have a lease there that it would have to honor as at the other sites. Plus, it is responsible for maintenance at the Conant site, whereas a mall landlord takes care of much of that duty at its other local movie theaters, experts said.

The Maumee 18 is Rave's largest theater in the area. It has 4,600 seats and 33.5 acres. National Amusements spent $12 million when it was built in 1997, and Rave spent $4.7 million to buy it in December. The company took on the leases at the Levis Commons, Fallen Timbers, and Westfield Franklin Park cinemas.

Jim Walter, owner of Great Eastern Theater Co., which owns the Maumee Indoor Theater, said he heard the Maumee 18 might close but thought it unlikely.

"That's they're second-biggest money maker behind Franklin Park [16]," he said. "You'd think they'd close Fallen Timbers or Levis Commons first and not even think twice about it."

Mr. Walter said it isn't as if the Maumee 18 was losing business. "It's always busy," he added.

Mr. DiGiacomo said Rave officials determined there were too many screens - 44 - among the Maumee, Fallen Timbers, and Levis Commons in Perrysburg theaters.

"The three theaters are all just 4 miles apart," he said.

He said he did not know how many employees the Maumee site has or if they will be offered jobs at the firm's other local theaters.

One of the Maumee 18 theaters was dedicated to the late Blade columnist and Nancy Drew book series author Mildred Benson, who died in 2002 at age 96.

Steve Serchuk, a retail specialist and commercial real estate agent with the Toledo office of Signature Associates, said the Maumee 18 has desirable land, but the building may not be suitable to too many other uses. A school is a possibility, he said.

Mr. Serchuk, the agent trying to sell two previously closed Showcase Cinema theaters in the Toledo area, said, "It's going to be a real challenge because theaters are tough to convert to retail use."

If Rave had decided to close its Fallen Timbers theater instead, he said, it still would have had to pay rent. But shutting Maumee 18 cuts its operating costs, drives business to other sites, and gives it a saleable asset, Mr. Serchuk said. "But with Maumee, you also have got a real successful thing going and they're basically saying, 'We will not lose any customers. We'll just force them to go to other locations," Mr. Serchuk said.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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