A long-awaited movie theater project for Greenville will have to wait a little bit longer — possibly as long as another year.
Cinemark, a national chain of movie theaters, had been expected to break ground on a new Greenville theater next month, but in a letter to the developer of the project the company said the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has forced it to reconsider its projects.
"We wish we had a crystal ball, but clearly, we will have a better idea of the timing and/or future of our project as we watch events unfold," wrote Jay Jostrand, Cinemark's executive vice president of real estate.
That puts the city of Greenville in a position to have to extend an agreement with the Stainback Organization to pay for improving roads and other utility projects worth about $4.3 million in city funds. Kent Stainback, who is leading the project, asked the City Council to extend the agreement for at least a year until Cinemark has a better idea how the pandemic will affect the movie industry.
The City Council will consider granting the extension during its meeting at 6 p.m. tonight at Fletcher Warren Civic Center, 5501 Business Highway 69 South. It's a relatively light agenda for the council in its final two meetings before the May election.
However, the economic issues discussed will be significant, including a discussion about an Atmos Energy rate increase for natural gas customers during the council's 4:30 p.m. work-study session.
The City Council will also discuss a $2.2 million project to fund an expansion of the taxi runway and apron at Majors Airport. The first part of this spending will be a $115,000 contract to have H.W. Lochner design the project.
The City Council will also discuss purchasing another K-9 dog for the Greenville Police Department.
When it comes to the theater project there is plenty of admission from Cinemark that the state of the movie theater business remains unclear due to COVID-19, which has devastated theaters nationwide. Cinemark's business has been gutted by the pandemic. In 2019, the company generated more than $3 billion in revenue, but at the close of 2020, that had fallen to just $686 million. In the first days of 2020, the company's stock was trading at more than $30 per share, but by October it had fallen to $7.
While Cinemark has survived, other companies have been forced into bankruptcy, including Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse.
The plan for Greenville was to build a theater of more than 35,000-square feet and that would anchor a mixed-use development along Sayle Street across from the Stainback's other major development, which includes Lowe's, Academy Sports and Hobby Lobby. Stainback sent a letter to City Manager Summer Spurlock on March 21 asking for the extension.