Thursday, April 2, 2020
April 2, 2020

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It’s official: Cinetopia bought by AMC

Vintetopia, Brewtopia will become MacGuffin Bars; Mall location could reopen as soon as Friday

By , Columbian business reporter
Published:

Cinetopia has officially been acquired by AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., the largest multiplex theater operator in the world. The four Cinetopia theaters — two in Vancouver, one in Beaverton, Ore., and one in Overland Park, Kan. — will reopen as AMC theaters.

Cinetopia announced the news in a post on its Facebook page Thursday afternoon, and the company’s website redirected visitors to a page on AMC’s website with a list of the four theaters, now with AMC names.

The terms of the transaction were not announced.

An AMC representative told The Columbian on Thursday the Vancouver Mall location will reopen “as early as Friday evening,” and the other locations will reopen by next week.

Founded by Rudyard Coltman, Cinetopia debuted in 2005 with the opening of the Mill Plain location in Vancouver, updating the multiplex formula with living room-style auditoriums and restaurant-style meals served to viewers at their theater seats. The Beaverton location opened in 2011, followed by the Vancouver Mall site in 2012 and the Overland Park theater in 2014.

Despite AMC’s global reach and 1,000-theater portfolio, the Vancouver and Beaverton locations will be the multiplex giant’s first venture into the Portland area. The only existing AMC theater in Oregon is in Corvallis, and the company’s other Washington theaters are in the Puget Sound area and eastern half of the state.

“We’re thrilled to bring the unparalleled AMC experience to moviegoers in Vancouver, Beaverton and the greater Portland area,” AMC executive vice president of U.S. operations John McDonald said in a statement.

Closure, restructuring

The news comes a few days after the four Cinetopia locations shut for what company officials previously described only as a “restructuring.” Some of the theaters closed their doors altogether, while others remained open but only showed the movies “Detective Pikachu” and “John Wick 3.”

Film buyer David Saunders, who works to secure screening rights for movie theaters, speculated that the limited lineup was probably due to contractual obligations for the two movies, both of which premiered recently. Studios typically require a two- to three-week run for new release screenings.

Two former Cinetopia employees at the Mill Plain and Vancouver Mall locations told The Columbian on Wednesday that the AMC merger was in the works and had been preceded by a round of layoffs at both Vancouver sites.

The layoffs affected most of the kitchen and service staff, and Thursday’s announcement appears to confirm that AMC will be cutting back on the food service at the two Vancouver locations.

AMC operates about 40 “AMC Dine-In” theaters with in-theater meal service, but the vast majority of its multiplexes are branded as “AMC” or “AMC Classic” and only feature traditional front counter concessions serving AMC’s “Feature Fare” food menu.

The AMC webpage says the Progress Ridge 14 location in Beaverton and the Prairiefire 18 location in Overland Park, Kan. (formerly known as Overland Park 18) will reopen as Dine-In theaters, but the Vancouver Mall location will become a regular AMC theater and the Mill Plain location will become an AMC Classic.

The Cinetopia locations featured restaurants called Vinotopia or Brewtopia, and the AMC website FAQ says those restaurants will become “MacGuffins Bars,” serving alcoholic drinks that customers can drink on-site or take into the theaters, though they may take longer to reopen because AMC will need to acquire new liquor licenses.

The FAQ says Cinetopia loyalty program members will be able to redeem outstanding rewards on their accounts if they bring their loyalty card to one of the former Cinetopia locations by Aug. 22.

Cinetopia discount tickets will be redeemable at their specified theater, and Cinetopia gift card balances can be transferred to AMC gift cards by contacting giftcards@amctheaters.com or bringing the card to any of the former Cinetopia locations.

A representative at the Northeast 84th Street Costco in Vancouver previously told The Columbian the store’s service counter would offer refunds for tickets purchased at its Vancouver locations.

Legal battle and legacy

Cinetopia and AMC have been embroiled in a lawsuit for the past year, with Cinetopia accusing AMC of crippling Cinetopia’s Overland Park theater via a practice called “clearance,” in which larger theaters refuse to screen a new movie unless the studios agree to withhold the movie from smaller competing theaters during the first few weeks after its initial release.

In a May 9 joint filing, the parties reported that they were moving toward a settlement, and set Friday to notify the court of their progress.

No new documents had been filed in the case as of Thursday afternoon, but when reached for comment, Coltman said the case had been settled. He declined to comment further about the lawsuit or AMC’s clearance practices.

He did express satisfaction with the growth of Cinetopia, and attributed the chain’s success to the Vancouver community’s support and enthusiasm for movies when the original location opened its doors.

“It was ‘Field of Dreams,’ literally,” he said. “We built it and they came and they came and they came.”

Coltman also clarified his role at Cinetopia, saying he moved into an “advisory role” at the company in early 2015 and handed over operational control to a separate management structure, though he remained a shareholder.

The company also took on co-owners around that time. In a July 2014 press release, investment firm Seacoast Capital announced it had invested in Cinetopia.

Coltman said in recent years he’s turned his attention to a separate venture called Studio One, a luxury movie theater concept that he and his wife opened in 2018, which takes a similar approach to Cinetopia but with a greater emphasis on fine dining.

“I think it’s a concept that has the same magic we used to have (at Cinetopia), but even more,” he said.

So far, Studio One has one location in Southeast Portland. Coltman said he intends to grow the brand, but has no specific expansion plans.

In Vancouver, reactions to the sale of Cinetopia have been mixed, with many comments on social media lamenting the loss of food service. Local developer Elie Kassab, who operates the theater chain Prestige Theaters in Battle Ground,  Independence, Ore., and Sandy, Ore., said he viewed the situation as a David-and-Goliath type of battle.

“Cinetopia was a small independent chain, like we are, and I’m sure they were probably killed by attorney fees,” he said. “I’m sad for all the people that got fired.”

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