Films in the future? Officials say some interest expressed in shuttered Batavia movie theater

  • The Randall 15 IMAX theater in Batavia is closed, but officials say another theater operator may be considering the property.

    The Randall 15 IMAX theater in Batavia is closed, but officials say another theater operator may be considering the property. Daily Herald file Photo, 2019

 
 
Updated 7/9/2021 7:12 AM

Because it was a double whammy of the Goodrich Quality Theaters filing for bankruptcy just before the COVID-19 outbreak, it figured to be a long haul for the Randall 15 movie theater complex in Batavia to show movies again.

And it has.

 

While other theater operations are slowly bringing some sense of normalcy back to our lives with movie nights, the main theater complex in the Tri-Cities area is still dark.

But there is hope for the future. Considering the ideal parking and access this location has along Mill Street off Randall Road; you'd think there has to be.

"We have heard that a theater operator is pursuing the property, but it is preliminary at this point, so we haven't had anything filed," said Shannon Malik Jarmusz, Batavia's economic development manager. "We don't have any solid information about them just yet."

Jarmusz, about five weeks into her job at the city, was hoping to hear a status update soon.

"So, I'm hopeful we'll see some forward movement," she said. "But now, it's just that there is some interest in the site at this point."

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That's better than thinking that somehow this important local entertainment venue will simply sit empty until a wrecking ball clears it out years from now. That's happened to more than a few movie theaters over the years. Foxfield Theater in St. Charles comes to mind as a local example.

One of the pressing issues could be the major theater chains weren't part of the Save Our Stages Act, pushed through Congress as part of the $900 billion pandemic recovery bill. With bipartisan support, the Stages Act earmarked about $15 billion to assist independent music venues, movie theaters and other cultural institutions.

The thought process was that because larger chains have access to capital and lines of credit that smaller operations do not have, they did not need this assistance. We would hope that is the case if indeed another large chain like AMC or Regal comes along to snap up Randall 15.

It's not like we can't possibly see a movie around here. Let's not forget that Classic Cinemas at the Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles did a major upgrade with new seats and other improvements before the pandemic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In late 2019, Classic Cinemas CEO Chris Johnson told me how every seat in the 18 theaters at the complex had the new motorized recliners with headrests. The complex also had remodeled hallways and added 28 large portraits of the Tri-Cities area.

It didn't take me long to go try out the new seats and take in the Tom Hanks movie "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood."

It likely won't take me long to get back to Randall 15 either, once someone comes forward with a solid proposal and business plan to address the reality that people are anxious to get back to the theaters.

Offering some meals

As the general manager of food service for the Geneva School District, Rick Herwaldt knows a valuable program when he sees one. He just wants more people to be aware of it.

The Free Meal Service is offered from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays at Geneva High School, providing pickup service for meals for any family in the school district area with children 18 and younger.

"I know there are families in the Geneva community that could use this service," Herwaldt said. "I would love it if we had more families using the service."

The pickup service offers free breakfast and lunch meals that include an entree, fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as half-gallons of milk.

Families can come into Geneva High School through Door 22W, located on McKinley Avenue, and pick out the meals their children would eat. A person could pick up seven breakfast and seven lunch meals per child for the week.

The program offers daytime pickup at the high school if the Tuesday time does not work for a family.

"They do not have to alert us that they are coming," Herwaldt said. "Having this service inside near the school kitchen can keep food supplied as we need it."

Herwaldt plans on providing the service at least through Tuesday, Aug. 17. Information is available by calling Herwaldt at (630) 463-3827.

It's a Shack comeback?

A news spoof on YouTube shows a TV news reporter probing around the building at the southeast corner of Randall Road and Main Street to speculate about whether the Italian beef restaurant Beef Shack could relocate and eventually reopen there.

The parking lot at the site has had a vehicle parked there for some time with Beef Shack advertisements on it.

It's a good location in terms of catching drive-by traffic. Those of us who have been here a long time likely still think of it as the former Way's Standard gas station. More recently, it was a TitleMax loans location.

For Beef Shack, it would represent a move just a few lots west of where it operated for several years before closing in February 2020.

Considering the coronavirus set in shortly after that, it was probably a good thing that Beef Shack franchise President Dan Perillo closed the doors at the original location and indicated he planned to reopen in a bigger location in St. Charles at some point.

He's probably used this past year to regroup and zero in on a new location. As it turns out, he may not have needed to hunt around in all corners of the city.

This building was right in front of his nose.

Another breakfast choice

Development of the former Tin Cup Pass retail strip, now known as Stone Creek, on the east side of St. Charles has understandably moved along slowly during the pandemic year.

As if the pandemic wasn't bad enough, now the problem is getting people to apply for the numerous open jobs. But things appear to be coming around.

A major signal for that strip is The Southern Café, promoting its Nasty Biscuit, has been operating under its soft opening and welcoming diners from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily for breakfast and lunch.

For those keeping score on this sort of thing, the Nasty Biscuit is a fluffy biscuit stuffed with fried chicken and topped with cheesy scrambled eggs.

It certainly helps fill this 1590 E. Main St. site with the smells of breakfast and lunch, after years of a pizza aroma being the scent of the day at a Gino's East.

No retail struggle

Maybe all it takes to ensure that a smaller retail strip will do well is to plop down a Trader Joe's grocery store.

But a lot more is clicking than just Trader Joe's at the Fabyan Randall Plaza at the southeast corner of Fabyan Parkway and Randall Road in Batavia.

Walgreens, Lumes restaurant, The Dollar Store, Sierra Trading Post, and Doc Watson's BBQ, among others, have the parking lot in this plaza quite full fairly regularly.

Caton Commercial Real Estate Group has a couple of openings posted on occasion, but this retail area is generally humming along quite well.

Another strip that always seems to be doing well is the home to two popular restaurants -- The Tap House and Charlie Fox's pizza -- on the southeast corner of Peck Road and Route 64 in St. Charles.

There's also a Walgreens in that strip, along with various medical and business offices, though not a lot more retail. In that regard, it's the restaurants pulling much of the traffic into that particular spot.

Sofie's not forgotten

Nobel House restaurant owners are still planning to add Sofie's Market to the mix in a location next to the 305 W. State St. restaurant in Geneva.

I wrote about this in late November of 2019. I hadn't thought about it much since, other than to realize that conversion never took place during the COVID-filled 2020 -- and Nobel House just expanded into a larger dining area next to its original location.

But plans still call for Sofie's Market to operate out of the original Nobel House location, but it's not likely to be something unfolding soon. It's still a long-term plan.

dheun@sbcglobal.net

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