The recent acquisition of the four-theater Carolina Cinemas chain by industry giant Cinemark has some moviegoers worried about the future of independent film screenings in the Triangle.
The recent closings of the Galaxy and Colony theaters saw the area lose eight screens that showed foreign and independent films. Some of that slack was taken up by the Carolina Cinemas’ 16-screen Raleigh Grande off Lynn Road, which in addition to showing a variety of films recently underwent a $3.7 million renovation that included new seating and an expanded food and drink menu.
But the Grande’s purchase by Cinemark, the third-largest theater chain in the nation, with 337 theaters and 4,518 screens in 41 states, has some locals wondering if diverse programming will be a thing of the past.
“I hope you don’t lose all that makes you special,” says one post on the Grande’s Facebook page. “I’ve seen it happen too many times with cool businesses that are acquired by giants.”
“Very disappointing,” says another post. “I just hope the selection of films remains similar to what they are now.”
These folks may have reason for concern. The Grande’s current lineup includes only two films that could be considered indie, and both were booked before Cinemark took control: “Hello, My Name is Doris,” a comedy starring Sally Field about a sixty-something woman with a crush on a much younger man, and “City of Gold,” a documentary about L.A. food critic Jonathan Gold. The theater’s ‘coming soon’ website page lists only one feature that is not traditional mainstream fare: “Sing Street,” about an Irish teenager who forms a rock band.
If, in fact, the Grande will no longer be a regular player in the indie marketplace, Raleigh residents will most likely have to go to Durham (The Carolina Theatre) or Chapel Hill (The Chelsea) for their dose of non-traditional fare, since the only theater in town regularly showing indie films is the single screen Rialto in Five Points.
The Cary Theater shows indie and foreign films, but they are all second run.
Carolina Cinemas, which also operated theaters in Asheville and Charlotte, was purchased by Cinemark in late March. Cinemark did not return several calls and emails sent to its headquarters in Plano, Texas, asking for comment.