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Archive for Thursday, August 13, 1998

HILLCREST THEATERS DRAWING CURTAINS

August 13, 1998

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Owners of the building say their first move will be to seek a replacement movie company to occupy the five-screen complex.

The Hillcrest 5 Theatres will close at the end of next month, dropping the curtain on about 25 years of Lawrence moviehouse history.

Hollywood Theaters, the Dallas-based company that has operated the theater at 925 Iowa St. for the past few years, will cease operations there Sept. 27, said Ben Moore, Hollywood's district manager.

Hillcrest's 15 employees will be offered jobs at Hollywood's two other Lawrence theaters, Moore said Wednesday. The company operates the 12-screen Southwind 12 at 3433 Iowa St., and the six-screen Plaza 6 at 2339 Iowa St.

For the past year, Hillcrest has operated as a bargain theater, selling admission for $1.

Moore said business ``has been great, it's been real good.''

He declined to say why the company was not renewing the lease, but said Hollywood was considering adding more screens to the Southwind complex.

Richard Raney, whose family partnership owns the building that houses the Hillcrest, guessed the company's plan was to divert ticket sales to the other two theaters.

``I think they have a monopoly, substantially, and this is a move that supports that,'' he said.

Raney said he learned Wednesday that the lease wasn't being renewed, so it was too early to say what would happen with the 19,000-square-foot building.

``My first thought would be to introduce some competition into the community'' by leasing the building to another theater operator, he said. ``That's going to be our initial effort.''

Failing that, he said the building could be converted to any number of commercial uses. Raney Properties LP owns about 65,000-square-feet of commercial space in the area, housing shops, restaurants and taverns.

The Hillcrest opened about 25 years ago as a three-screen theater operated by Commonwealth Theaters. It was converted to a five-plex about 15 years ago, Raney said.

``It's been a pawn in numerous big theater company's operations,'' Raney said of the stream of owners it has had.

Since it opened, Hillcrest has been owned by Canon Pictures, United Artist Theaters, Crown Cinema and finally Hollywood.

Hollywood, a three-year-old private company, has about 80 theaters in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Idaho, Ohio and Kansas. It's building its first theater in Alabama now, Moore said.

The company started out acquiring theaters -- like the Dickinson Plaza 6 in Lawrence -- but its strategy now is building.

-- Richard Brack's phone message number is 832-7194. His e-mail address is brack@ljworld.com.

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