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updated: 7/11/2012 11:53 AM

Arlington Hts. still wants movies downtown

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  • The Arlington Theatres have been a catalyst in a busy downtown shopping district.

       The Arlington Theatres have been a catalyst in a busy downtown shopping district.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Arlington Heights officials are eager to get movies showing again downtown.

       Arlington Heights officials are eager to get movies showing again downtown.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 

Arlington Heights village officials refuse to give up on having a movie theater in the space where The Arlington Theaters operated for 12 years before closing Sunday, but it could be an uphill battle.

Charles Witherington-Perkins, director of planning and community development, would not speculate Tuesday what other types of businesses could use the space.

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"We're not thinking like that right now," he said. "We've informed the landlord we would like to see a theater there. We believe it is viable, but it's definitely a competitive environment."

Village officials have talked with the landlord several times in the last day and a half about the village's desire that the company aggressively pursues a replacement tenant. In fact, village officials tried to help during the last four to six months while negotiations were going on between the theater operator and the landlord.

Along with concerned residents, a few potential tenants have contacted the village, and that information was passed to the landlord, said Witherington-Perkins. Officials of the company are very aware that other tenants of Arlington Town Square feel they are dependent on traffic drawn by the theater, he said.

It's difficult for the six-screen theater to compete with others in the area that have 30 screens, said Jon Ridler, executive director of the Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce, and he doesn't know whether the downtown can sustain a theater.

Downtown needs an anchor business that brings foot traffic in that space, said Ridler, but he could not suggest what other type of business might fill that role or how the building could be retrofitted.

"I hope the owner has some ideas in mind," he said.

Oak Brook-based Edgemark Asset Management LLC did not return a request for comment. The company handles Arlington Town Square, the shopping center that houses the theater, for LNR Partners of Miami Beach, Fla., a real estate firm and special servicer for the holder of the mortgage on the property. A subsidiary filed a foreclosure case in 2010.

John Scaletta, director of operations for the theater, said he would not expand on his Tuesday statement when he said negotiations broke down after a year of talks to renew the lease and install digital technology. Hollywood plans to go completely digital by the end of 2013, and experts say theaters nationwide must decide whether to make the expensive investments.

Scaletta, who is on the Arlington Heights Village Board, said he will continue to live in Arlington Heights with his family. "I moved to this community when we built the theater, and I have fallen in love with it," he said.

He said he is still employed with F&F Management, Inc., of Buffalo Grove, which provides management and consulting to independent theater owners in the Midwest. He would not comment on whether clients have similar problems with digitization.

Ridler said he has no inside information on the relationship between Arlington Theaters and the landlord, but when a business owner needs to make an expensive upgrade, he must be sure that overhead costs including rent make it worthwhile and to negotiate a long-term lease.

Village President Arlene Mulder said the theater's closing is very sad, but she thinks a theater is sustainable in the spot. However, she said village government has no power to make a theater appear.

"We like things we can walk to and get home at a reasonable hour and not get caught in traffic," she said. "People feel ownership. It's our theater. Right now it's hard to judge something like whether it's sustainable because the economy is bad. We don't give up easily."

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