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North Adams Cinemas Go Dark — For Now

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Movieplex 8 in North Adams closed its doors after the last film Monday as its parent corporation filed for bankruptcy.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The owner of the former Kmart building has vowed to reopen the shuttered cinemas, says Mayor John Barrett III.

The parent corporation of Movieplex 8 abruptly closed the city cinemas and eight others on Tuesday and plans to declare bankruptcy. Rumors were rampant Monday night on Facebook that the North Adams theater would lock its doors after the last reel ran.

Barrett said on Tuesday afternoon that Neil H. Ellis of Connecticut, president of First Hartford Realty, had indicated last week that the cinemas' bankruptcy was imminent and that his company was prepared to step in.

"Absolutely, they're staying there," he said, adding Ellis had told him "we will reopen the theater with first-run pictures and are prepared to operate the theater ourselves."

Ellis was unavailable for comment on Tuesday. First Hartford Reality purchased the nearly 100,000 square-foot former Kmart building and the L-Shaped Mall in 2005. Kmart closed its North Adams store in 2002.

Cinema North Corp. of Rutland, Vt., operates seven multiplexes in New York and one in Rutland. Calls to several other of the company's cinemas were not answered or had a message saying the theater was "temporarily" closed. Its only Connecticut multiplex was sold in April.

A sign on the front of the cinema's doors in North Adams also says it's "temporarily closed." All information was wiped from the corporation's Web site late Tuesday morning. Calls to its headquarters Tuesday have gone unanswered. The Rutland Herald reported that an employee in the corporation's headquarters said the owners would be not be releasing any information on Tuesday.

North Adams theater manager Scott Ingalls told the Berkshire News Network on Tuesday morning that the closure means the loss of 15 to 20 full- and part-time jobs, including his and a full-time projectionist.

The eight-theater cinema opened in January 2007 in a completely remodeled space in the former department store building. The city been without a film theater for months after the multiplex's former home, the North Adams Plaza on Curran Highway, was condemned. It was the third new business to open its doors in the so-called Steeple City Plaza after Peebles and Staples.

Planet Fitness has since opened on the other side of the theater and another store is close to signing for the vacant space that was once Kmart's garden center, said Barrett.

The mayor said Ellis had been working with Cinema North in an attempt to keep the screens going as the corporation struggled financially.

Cinema North has run into money problems before. In 2008, the state of Vermont closed its theaters temporarily in Rutland and West Rutland for failure to pay its meals and entertainment taxes. At the same time, the owner of the Rutland Shopping Plaza was trying to evict its nine-theater cinema for the third time in several years for back rent. (The West Rutland theater closed last December reportedly because of low attendance and needed repairs.)

Over the past month or so the availability of opening-night films at the North Adams cinemas had faltered. None of the eight films on the marquee were released within the past two weeks.

It may be some time before Ellis is able to get the multiplex up and running because of the bankruptcy proceedings, said Barrett. "As soon as the court lets them, they'll be back in the door operating it. Neil Ellis is very committed to it."

The company was established in 1983 by Gerald L. Couture Jr. of Rutland. Couture died in 2005. The principals of Cinema North Construction Inc. are listed as James Mullin (Kipp Mullin) and Gerald L. Couture III.

This article was updated at 4:51 p.m. with new information, including quotes from Mayor Barrett and the plans of Neil Ellis.
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