Downtown Regal Becoming Arthouse Theater

The Downtown Regal is being seriously overhauled, Graelyn Brashear writes in C-Ville Weekly. It will no longer be a Regal, and its owner and her new business partner are going to add a restaurant and cocktails. The owner of Violet Crown Cinema in Austin (it gets 4 stars on Yelp) wants to make this the second location in what he hopes will become a nationwide chain of such places. Regal’s 15-year lease recently ran out, not long after they managed to drive Vinegar Hill out of business by moving to showing mostly independent films. The new facility is slated to open by November.

8 thoughts on “Downtown Regal Becoming Arthouse Theater”

  1. Vinegar Hill drove itself out of business by becoming irrelevant. It was once a great theater, but that was nearly 20 years ago. What it became wasn’t really worth saving. I hope this new venture finds a way to keep afloat by appealing to the masses while managing to show good movies too. Not managing to do either was what doomed VHT.

  2. BCM – it might make you feel good to take the smug, supirior attitude that Vinegar Hill closed because their business model was too old-fashioned, but that simply doesn’t fit the facts of what actually happened. I was the Manager at Vinegar Hill for the past 5 years, and the truth is that the Regal was very strategically, deliberately blocking us from being able to show any films. They had more clout with the distributors than we did, and made sure that every film with any hint of becoming a success showed on their screens and not ours.

    Many have suggested that we should have become a reparatory theatre and showed more older films, but the few attempts we made at doing that barely broke even; in a town as small and provincial as Charlottesville, there just aren’t enough people interested in watching older films on a big screen in the age of Netflix et al. if the Paramount can barely bring out a few dozen people for the really obvious, universally-adored classics, we had very little hope of making a profit showing older films even if they were widely-adored canonical ones like Godard, Hitchcock, Kurosawa, etc.

    Many suggested we sell booze and try the “dinner and movie” model like Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse or Chicago’s Brew & View, but that simply wasn’t possible in the very small space we had in our building. Another factor was our lease; the landlord wouldn’t ever agree to lease of more than a year at a time, and the owner didn’t want to put his own money into much-needed renovations if he had no guarantee he’d be able to stay there. Ultimately, when the marquee fell off the building during a heavy windstorm last Feb, the landlord decided to sell. Last I heard the place is still for sale, but it’s obvious the Theatre had less of an incentive to continue renting the building from her, month-to-month.

    Anyway, there were any number of factors that led to Vinegar Hill closing, but it wasn’t mere failure to keep up with the times that did us in; the final blow came from the fact that the Regal very clearly, very actively wanted us gone, and had the power to make it happen.

    It’s been obvious for years that they don’t much care about maintaining their downtown location, so I’m glad to hear it will be in good hands. With six screens, good taste, and resources at their disposal, the new folks at the downtown location might very well be able to do well. It will certainly be preferable to having the Regal own 100% of the screens in town.

  3. The old “provincial C’ville” excuse. Well worn, but still a classic.

    There is a big difference between it won’t work and you can’t figure out how to make it work.

    Just sayin’.

  4. @best. It is always easy to stand back and pontificate. What should they have done that would have been successful?

  5. @best. That what I thought. Talk is cheap. Finding problems is easy. Finding solutions is much tougher in the real world.

    Thanks for playing.

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