Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, movie theaters in greater Portland have struggled to stay in business. Some closed, some went on hiatus, and most are now back in a very changed business environment.
One theater, which is expected to reopen under new ownership this month, hopes to lure moviegoers back to the cinema with a subscription model not widely utilized in Maine.
Martin Henry Cinemas, which took over the former Cinemagic Grand at Clarks Pond after the Cinemagic chain went out of business in February, will offer patrons unlimited movies for $25 a month.
Subscription services are not uncommon among national movie theater chains. But AMC Regal Cinemas, which has locations in Brunswick and Augusta and offers an “unlimited” film package for $23.50 a month, is the only one doing so in Maine.
Membership at the South Portland theater will also include free and discounted concessions.
Two of the other former Cinemagic multiplexes, in Westbrook and Saco, were acquired by a Massachusetts-based company called Apple Cinemas. The Westbrook location has 16 screens, while the Saco theater has 13, including an IMAX theater.
In Falmouth, Flagship Cinemas has continued to operate through much of the pandemic.
And in downtown Portland, the Nickelodeon Cinemas on Temple Street has been back in business since late May after closing at the height of the pandemic.
The Clarks Pond theater off Gorham Road was originally a higher-end operation, with food not usually found in traditional concessions, a bar, reclining seats, and even a baby grand piano in the lobby. The new cinema promises it will continue to have leather reclining seats, and expanded food and beverage options.
In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Joshua Cannon, the entrepreneur behind the theater, said the goal is to create a “homey” movie-going experience for patrons, similar to going to a friend’s house for a movie night.
The filing states the theater grossed more than $2 million annually from 2017-2019, and the expectation is Martin Henry Cinemas could have an attendance of more than 120,000 patrons a year, also producing revenue of more than $2 million annually.
The business is “primed to take advantage of the new 45-day exclusive theatrical release window” being adopted by Hollywood, where newly released movies would have a run of at least 45 days only in theaters before being released to streaming and on-demand services for at-home viewing.
There are still steps to go, however, before the South Portland theater reopens: The company is continuing to look for local investors to help offset costs such as payroll and hiring bonuses.
“We can join the return to movies and experience a potential to reap all the benefits of someone else’s millions,” the SEC filing said. “With these fully built out theaters, we walk into millions of dollars in upgraded seating, lighting, sound and projections with state-of-the-art lobby and concessions equipment, digital presentation and sound.”
For non-subscription patrons, Martin Henry tickets will range from $6 for a matinee to $11 for evening shows. Like many other theaters, it will also offer reduced-price matinees on Tuesdays.