Huntington Drive-In gets a fresh start
Huntington Twin Drive-in
Landmark purchased out of bankruptcy
August 12, 2020
When the Goodrich Quality Theatre chain declared bankruptcy in February, it wasn’t just Huntington residents who were upset.
Goodrich’s Huntington Twin Drive-In drew patrons from miles around.
This bankruptcy happened before a pandemic decimated the movie exhibition business. Yet during that same pandemic, someone did something risky: They purchased the Goodrich Quality Theatre chain.
The buyers were Mason Asset Management, Namdar Realty Group, and V.I.P. Cinemas of Great Neck, NY.
Asked why this consortium of companies thought it was a good idea to make this investment during these perilous times, Goodrich Quality Theaters’ Vice President of Administration and Finances Matt McSparin had this to say: “That’s a great question. It’s one of the best questions that could be asked. We ask ourselves that daily. What’s been going on in the world has been very daunting.”
The Price was right
One reason it made sense is that they were presented with a “favorable purchase opportunity,” McSparin said.
Which is to say, they bought the chain out of bankruptcy at a fire sale price.
“The value equation was there for us,” McSparin said.
Elliot Nassim of Mason Asset Management said they made the investment because they not only believe in the viability of movie theaters in the Netflix age, they believe in their viability in the COVID-19 age.
“We believe in the future of brick and mortar,” Nassim said, “and we felt that the GQT theater chain would make a natural fit for our portfolio.”
The $12 million deal includes seven theaters in Indiana, 12 in Michigan, two in Missouri, and one in Illinois.
The good news for local cineastes is that the Huntington Twin Drive-In has already reopened, and the Huntington 7 multiplex will soon reopen.
a little Good news
One of the few positive things to come out of this pandemic is the resurgence of the drive-in theater.
These dinosaurs of the movie exhibition business gained new relevance in the era of social distancing. The pandemic forced the studios to delay their summer blockbusters and the major exhibition chains responded by saying they would stay closed until they had major new films to show.
But drive-ins have thrived by showing a mixture of Hollywood classics, independent horror films, and recorded and simulcast concerts. And some, like the 13-24 Drive-In down the road in Wabash, have transformed themselves into live music venues by hosting what few national acts have remained on the road.
Any national concerts that become available for broadcast or rebroadcast throughout the remainder of the season may very well end up on screens at the Huntington Twin Drive-In, McSparin said.
“We will continue to look at those products as they’re released,” he said.
Some of the less gargantuan chains have begun reopening their multiplexes with social distancing strictures and other safeguards in place.
Owosso, Mich.’s Neighborhood Cinema Group, aka NCG Cinemas, reopened its Auburn multiplex in early August.
McSparin said he is working to get the Huntington 7 multiplex open.
“I think we’re taking our time with that,” he said. “We wanted to focus on getting the drive-in open.”
Waiting for some new movies
Of course, movies theaters can’t exist on classic films forever. They need new product to show.
But pandemic uncertainty has led to movie scheduling uncertainty.
Director Christopher Nolan wanted his much-anticipated science fiction film Tenet to be the first movie to open in multiplexes in the United States this summer.
But he and Warner Brothers studio eventually decided to open overseas first on August 26.
Tenet will open “in select cities” in the U.S. on Sept. 3, but no one seems to know what cities those are or how the theaters in those cities will be chosen.
The lack of first-run product is a “hot button issue right now” in the exhibition business, McSparin said.
“There’s actually a campaign by theater operators to enlist the help of moviegoers to yell out loud, ‘We need movies.’” McSparin said. “Hollywood’s position is, ‘We really don’t want to release films into a distressed market.’”
McSparin said he understands the tough position Hollywood is in. But the longer that theaters are denied first-run movies, the fewer places there will be in the future for Hollywood to earn money.
The CMX theater chain in Florida filed for bankruptcy in April and AMC Theatres has been on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, according to many analysts.
Theater owners are pinning some hope on Unhinged, a Russell Crowe movie scheduled to open on August 21, he said.
Despite these dire portends, McSparin said he and his associates at the new Goodrich Quality Theatres are hopeful.
“We remain optimistic and excited,” he said. “We opened a theater in Peoria and people were excited about being back. It was so cool to see them coming in.
“If we could at least keep (Hollywood) giving us some product, that could be a real catalyst,” McSparin said.