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Regal Entertainment Group did not renew the lease agreement for the UA Northpark 14. Consequently, the property owner is seeking a new tenant.

Metro Jackson picture show market shifts with demand

By JACK WEATHERLY 

As 2016 dawned, there were five movie theaters in Hinds, Rankin and Madison counties, the heart of metro Jackson.

By the end of the year, there will be one fewer, possibly two.

Regal Entertainment Group, the largest movie-house chain in the nation, decided not to renew leases for the UA Clinton Center 10 and the UA Northpark 14.

A nondenominational church with five campuses in the metro area has a contract to buy Clinton’s only theater.

Jeff Stevens, president of United Development Co. Global, which owns both theaters, said Tuesday that Pinelake Church has signed a contract to buy the property.

The church was was to ask for a conditional use permit from the Clinton Board of Councilmen Tuesday night.

The Ridgeland theater, which is located north of the Northpark Mall on its perimeter drive, has been seeking a tenant since Regal notified United Development it was not renewing the lease, Stevens said.

Stevens said AMC Theatres, which is the second-largest chain in the nation, “doesn’t want it.”

“Nobody has come forward and said I want it as a movie theater, a church or a basketball arena,” he said.

Jeff Speed, president of Jackson-based Speed Commercial Real Estate LLC, who is working for Southlake, Texas-based UDC to find a tenant, said the developer has a number of UA theaters around the country.

Regal has seven movie houses in Mississippi, with 56 screens, according to its 2015 report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

B&B Theaters bought Vicksburg’s only movie house last fall and will soon upgrade it.

Asked if the Kansas City-based chain might be a potential operator, Speed said,“B&B has not approached us, but if they want it, we’d be more than happy to talk with them.”

Ted Duckworth, president of Duckworth Realty, which is about to launch into the picture show market, said that “the Malco opened in Madison and sucked the one in Ridgeland dry.”

Calls to Knoxville, Tenn.-based Regal were not returned.

Duckworth expressed confidence that the theater planned for the $135 million District at Eastover, a mixed-used project on Interstate 55 in Jackson, will not have a problem drawing ticket buyers.

Duckworth said metro Jackson is “underscreened” compared with other metro areas, but that is a reflection of local demand.

So the upscale, nine-screen theater at the District at Eastover is a result of fine-tuning the picture-show formula, as on-demand movie viewing at home has cut into the market, Duckworth said.

The upscale, nine-screen theater – which will have reclining seats and probably a bar – will also benefit from the fact the site is with in a five-minute drive of the “highest daytime population in the metro area.”

Duckworth said negotiations are underway with a potential operator but he would not reveal its identity.

He expects the theater to open in 2017 as part of the second phase of the development. The first phase is an office building, the first tenant of which has moved in, and a hotel, a Residence Inn by Marriott, which is to open in June.

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