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Cleveland Cinemas to bow out at Shaker Square; Atlas Cinemas will step in

January 10, 2019

Cleveland Cinemas to bow out at Shaker Square; Atlas Cinemas will step in

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The curtain will fall at the end of this month on Cleveland Cinemas’ 18-year run as operator of the historic movie house on Shaker Square.

But there’s a coming attraction: Another independent theater operator plans to step in. Atlas Cinemas has signed a lease to take over the six-screen complex, which it plans to reopen in mid-February after repainting and cleaning the interior, overhauling the concession stand and refreshing the marquee.

Later this year, Atlas also hopes to renovate the bathrooms, update the sound systems and upgrade the seats – to overstuffed chairs, at least. Recliners are a possibility, said Gabriel Saluan, the company’s local owner and vice president, but they might take up too much space – and, in turn, require too large a reduction in the total number of seats – in the modestly sized venue.

Peter Rubin, president of Shaker Square owner Coral Co., said Cleveland Cinemas was approaching the end of its lease. He characterized the parting as “a mutual thing” and said that Atlas, which runs theaters in Elyria, Euclid, Mayfield Heights and Mentor, was a logical new operator because of the company’s experience in inner-ring suburban and urban markets.

Saluan’s brother actually operated the Shaker Square theaters during the 1990s, when the complex was still called the Colony Theater. Cleveland Cinemas took over in 2000, during a broader redevelopment of the square, and gutted and restored the space before reopening the property as Shaker Square Cinemas. The company remained a steady presence on the square’s southwest quadrant even as landlords and other major tenants, including Wild Oats and Joseph-Beth Booksellers, came and went.

Cleveland Cinemas President Jonathan Forman said the company and Coral ultimately couldn’t agree on lease-extension terms. “We’re very proud of what we accomplished there, and we wish Atlas well,” he said.

Forman acknowledged challenges in the movie-theater business, from the arrival of high-end, boutique theaters in Northeast Ohio to competition from video-streaming services and other home entertainment options. But, he said, Cleveland Cinemas has no additional plans to pare its operations, which span the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland Heights, Tower City Cinemas and the Capitol Theatre in Cleveland, Chagrin Cinemas in Chagrin Falls, Oberlin’s Apollo Theatre and the Southside Works Cinema in Pittsburgh.

And he still believes the Shaker Square complex has great potential. “We’ve done very well there, and I think it’s a great location for a theater to prosper,” he said.

Atlas bills itself as the largest independent theater operator in Greater Cleveland, with 57 screens across five properties – before adding Shaker Square to its portfolio.

Saluan said that ticket prices at Shaker Square will go down slightly. Pricing varies across Atlas properties, starting around $9 for adults and $6 for a child for an evening showing.

Atlas will continue to offer discounts on Mondays at Shaker Square, with $5 tickets and deals on concessions. But the new food-and-drink lineup won’t include beer, wine or cocktails, which Cleveland Cinemas offers.

“We concentrate and focus on the family experience, where they can go in for a decent price ticket, with decent price concession items and see a movie with good sound,” Saluan said.

He expects to host special events; show local and independent films in addition to first-run, mainstream movies; and to work with restaurateurs on the square to come up with cross-promotional dinner-and-a-movie packages.

“We’re looking to grow. We’re very aggressive in the market,” he said. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to get involved with the theater at Shaker Square, as well as the community and the local merchants. I think we can do a lot.”

The Colony Theater opened in 1937 and has alternately prospered and struggled in the face of technological changes and shifts in consumer preferences. It remains a key anchor for Shaker Square, a historic shopping center at Moreland and Shaker boulevards on the city’s East Side.

A planning process, shepherded by local nonprofits, is under way to reimagine outdoor portions of the 5.5-acre square and to look at everything from safety and landscaping to nearby development sites and connections with surrounding neighborhoods.

Rubin said keeping major tenants, from the theaters to the Dave’s Markets grocery store, which recently renewed its lease, is essential to the district’s long-term survival.

“Shaker Square is the only cinema on the East Side of the city of Cleveland,” he said. “It serves a huge part of the city. Not to mention that it’s a critical element of our program to keep Shaker Square alive and well and sustainable.”

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