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LJWorld.com weblogs Town Talk

Regal chain buys Lawrence's Hollywood Theaters; speculation begins on whether upgrade is in the future

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If I were at the movie theater pulling contraband Walgreens candy out of my coat pocket and eating $7 popcorn (I haven’t yet perfected the process for sneaking a popcorn popper into the theater), this may be the point in the movie where the heroic-type of music starts to build.

There’s growing speculation — but no confirmation yet — that a knight on a white horse is going to come dashing onto the scene and make some improvements at Lawrence’s Hollywood Theaters on South Iowa Street.

Regal Entertainment Group, the country’s largest theater chain, has purchased the Hollywood Theaters chain. The deal closed on April 1.

The acquisition has launched speculation that Lawrence’s Hollywood Theater location is going to get an upgrade at the very least. The Hollywood Theater at 34th and Iowa streets continues to be the only chain-operated theater in the city. Liberty Hall in downtown is an independent theater that shows a lot of the independent productions. If I wanted to be a snob, I would say it shows films, not movies. (I would explain the difference, but I was trying to figure out how to sneak a popcorn popper into my History of Film class when that subject came up.)

Local officials at the Hollywood Theaters location weren’t saying much about their plans. I’ve got a call into Regal’s corporate office, and I will let you know if I hear anything interesting.

But I can tell you it is a location several members of the development community are keeping an eye on. They have seen indications that a project may be on the horizon.

It would make sense because it certainly appears that the Lawrence theater is facing stiffer competition from several upscale theaters in Kansas City, particularly the multi-screen theater at The Legends in nearby Wyandotte County.

Hollywood built its Lawrence theater in 1997, and recently people have been asking why the company hasn’t made improvements as the area competition has stiffened. Well, the recent acquisition by Regal may have provided some clues. Simply put, Hollywood — based in Portland, Ore. — was a pretty small player in the movie theater business. It had 43 theaters with a total of 513 screens. Regal has 537 theaters with about 6,800 screens.

The acquisition also made it clear that Hollywood was pretty heavily leveraged. Regal paid $191 million in cash for the Hollywood chain, and of that, $167 million went to pay off Hollywood’s debt.

Regal, on the other hand, posted a strong financial year in 2012. Due to debt management and some acquisitions, the company posted earnings of about $145 million, up more than 250 percent from a year earlier. One of Regal’s chief competitors in the theater industry is Kansas City metro-based AMC Theaters. So, maybe Lawrence can benefit from a rivalry. Plus, you have to figure that at least one person with Regal connections knows Lawrence. For years, Philip Anschutz, one of KU’s most successful alumni, has been the largest shareholder of Regal.

It is too early to say what Regal may do in Lawrence. But it sure appears this may be Lawrence’s best chance in awhile to see an upgrade in its largest movie theater. Personally, I hope they at least add more electric outlets near the seating area. Sneaking a popcorn machine in there is one thing. Sneaking an extension cord in is another.

UPDATE: I spoke briefly Thursday afternoon with Regal spokesman Russ Nunley. He said the company doesn't currently have any capital improvement plans to announce for the location. He said company officials had been on site at the Lawrence property, and found it to be a high quality facility that was well located.

"We are impressed with Southwind," Nunley said. "We think Southwind is an exceptional theater."

Nunley said the company has kept the same staff in place as it transitions to Regal ownership. Nunley said the company's current plans are to keep the Hollywood Southwind name in place for the theater.

Comments

none2 1 year ago

Lawrence is never going to be able to have a state of the art theatre. Our market simply isn't that large. For instance if you wanted to have the ultimate fomat viewing for the Hobbit you go to Olathe. People want HFR 3D, IMAX 3D, IMAX, Dolby Atmos, etc. I doubt any theatre owner could justify that expense for our small market. That is what gets me out of the house -- not just comfortable chairs and cheap popcorn. Think of that with the upcoming Oblivion & Star Trek movies coming out. I know I'll want to go to Olathe.

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Rae Hudspeth 1 year ago

They may have said that they kept the staff but that's not true. Unnatural colored hairstyles, visible tattoos and/or piercings got several of them let go. In Lawrence. Now that's a rotten shame.

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Zype 1 year ago

Why would you need an outlet next to you? To play on the phone that is supposed to be off? To power your video camera?

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oneeye_wilbur 1 year ago

Mercado gets new theater. Remember Wilbur told you.

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Liberal 1 year ago

Exceptional... I suppose right after that delicious five course meal at McDonald's it is exceptional. Nothing like a Big Mac, Fries, Shake Apple Dippers and Cookies to start off an exceptional evening at the theatre.

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Ricky_Vaughn 1 year ago

Cinemark 20 in Merriam...$6 adult/$4 matinee. Best deal in the metro area IMO.

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Ichegoya 1 year ago

Lawrence KS has one theater. One sad, old, uncomfortable, dirty theater. I went to see Jurassic Park 3D there last night, and several things jumped out at me. The façade of the building reflects the overall feeling of Hollywood Theater 21 – run down, poorly maintained, and bizarrely mismanaged. Going to see a movie is a challenge. You never know what door you can enter, because they seem to randomly lock them, making getting inside a sad game of musical doors. Once you get your ticket, either from the 90’s era self-ticket kiosk or the subway conductor behind the glass, you enter the lobby. Usually dirty, and staffed by unpleasant teenagers, you notice there is no advanced soda fountain where you have tons of drinks to choose from; no, you have to wait in lines. I mean, wait. In. lines. Once you get to the theater, you better be under 6 feet tall, or you’ll be cramped.

Lawrence needs a new, nicer theater. The Hollywood 21 is for saps, I tell you.

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foxli 1 year ago

Regal is missing a great opportunity to bring business back to the theater if they don't refurbish it at the very least. Everyone I know prefers the trek to AMC 30; I know I haven't been to Southwind in at least a couple of years. Bigger screens with higher quality projection, more comfortable seats, and improved concessions would be a great start. I'd be thrilled if they reserved one screen for 21-and-overs and served cocktails, beers, and dinner.

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madcow 1 year ago

I see a lot of movies but I have only been to southwind 3 times in the last 6-7 years. I would much rather drive to Olathe. Larger seats, cleaner, bigger screens, and the option to drink a beer if I want to.

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saraj 1 year ago

We would love to see some of the movies offered by Liberty Hall but the sound system is so poor we've given up. Too bad some of that renovation money was not used to make it 'hearing friendly'.

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Richard Heckler 1 year ago

Sam Brownback gave AMC $47 million tax $$$$$ last year off the back of workers income tax money. No new jobs were created they merely relocated from the Missouri side to the Kansas side. Following that gross waste of tax $$$$$ spending a Chinese investment group acquired AMC while former AMC owners walked away with $47 million Kansas tax $$$$$.

Who is Regal Theatres? Don't expect too much. This is an investment to stockholders nothing more .....

For all we know Regal is a slumlord.

My favorite theatre for movie and sound quality is the Theatre on the plaza. Then again it's a bit more than across town. So much for that.

Liberty Hall is quite the place for movies = the absolute preference!

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Steve Jacob 1 year ago

AMC 30 is awesome. Love the $5 shows before noon. Exactly a 30 minute drive from Harper and 23ed.

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PhilChiles 1 year ago

I don't go out to see movies too often, but I really can't find much to complain about with Southwind. The seating is pretty comfortable, sound/picture are all good...seems like people on this site really love any reason to rip into anything that isn't perfect.

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JJLawTop 1 year ago

Chad, you should do an LJWorld website poll on this issue to see how many people that live in Lawrence would rather drive 20-30 minutes to a KC area theater versus going to Southwind 12.

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kernal 1 year ago

It takes as much time for me to get to Olathe as Southwind. Not changing my preference until Regal learns what the word exceptional means.

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Patricia Davis 1 year ago

I gave up years ago when you stuck to the soda sugar floor and got god's knows what on your hands from the seats.

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mseve 1 year ago

KRichards you mention the seating is cramped if you are over 5'10" it is if you are 5'8".

We go to KC to see movies or wait for them to hit Netflix

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Kookamooka 1 year ago

Basically the Regal guy is saying...we don't have any competition in Lawrence, so why upgrade? It is a well run facility. Don't hold your breath on those upgrades.

If LightLyre film house was smart...it would purchase a space and convert it into a dollar house. OR....how about a 2.00 drive in? Wireless sound?

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gccs14r 1 year ago

One of the screens had a beverage thrown at it about ten years ago and as far as I know the stain is still there. And yes, the whole complex is dirty and smells terrible, so I go there only if someone gives me a free pass, and then I sometimes still don't go. (Yes, I've let free movie tickets expire rather than go to the Southwind 12.)

AMC is now Chinese-owned, so I'm not thrilled to go there, either.

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Keith Richards 1 year ago

"We think Southwind is an exceptional theater."

Except:

The parking lot is in horrible shape

The seating is cramped and too close together for anyone over 5'10"

The seating smells, is oily, and dirty

The screen and sound quality is below average and

Everyone I know would rather drive 25 minutes to see a movie than go there.

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Eddie Muñoz 1 year ago

"Exceptional theater"? Really? REALLY? Makes me wonder what condition their other theaters are in these days.

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JJLawTop 1 year ago

"exceptional theater"? Seriously? I'm 6'5" and literally can't sit in the seats due to the lack of leg room between each row. I haven't been to Southwind in years because of that and how dirty it always was. Instead, I gladly spend the extra 40 minute round trip to Legends for a much better experience.

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Chuck Woodling 1 year ago

If Southwind is "an exceptional theater," then the downtown Masonic Temple is the Taj Mahal.

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sunny 1 year ago

Olathe AMC is the best!

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John Sheppard 1 year ago

MY WIFE AND I GO TO LEAWOOD FOR MOVIES. CAN ORDER TICKETS ON LINE, MUCH MORE ROOM AND SHORT LINES AT CONCESSIONS. QUIT GOING TO HOLLYWOOD YEARS AGO. I WOULD EXPECT SOMETHING ON THE N.W. SIDE OF TOWN SOON.

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waitjustaminute 1 year ago

Quit going there sometime ago after a friend who went had a mouse crawl up his leg, ran across his arm and launched onto the chair next to him. I'd been outa there seconds after that demanding my money back.

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Ira Rott 1 year ago

That's good, I recently went to an Imax showing of Skyfall in Olathe and it was CRAZY how much better everything was at their theater, such comfortable chairs, better concessions, etc.

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Ricky_Vaughn 1 year ago

Lawrence used to have like 6 movie theaters. Why only 2 these days?

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Karl_Hungus 1 year ago

That crap they call "butter" made me more sick than watching Dumb and Dumberer (was not my movie choice either) there

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g_rock 1 year ago

Oh and back in the day when we had the dollar movie theater, I may or may not have once snuck in a box of Little Debbie snack cakes and a 6 pack of Miller Light. Good times. Good times.

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Nonsense 1 year ago

We haven't gone there in years. There is no reason to go there when you can hop in the car and be at the Legends in 15 minutes. Much better screens, seating, and food. If they upgrade the screens and projection and get the recliner seating, we will at least try it again.

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booklover2 1 year ago

That theater really needs an upgrade. The seats are uncomfortable and so close together. By the time the movie is over, your legs have gone to sleep and you have to stay through all of the credits at the end in order for the circulation to come back so you can stand up and walk out of there.

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g_rock 1 year ago

ooooOOOoooohhh. this is v.v.v.v.exciting! please upgrade! LOTS!

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