Interest in movies may be dimming

Parent company for Regal Cinemas files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to COVID shutdowns in 2020 and the slow return of post-pandemic film production

TULARE COUNTY – Plans to re-envision Sequoia Mall with a new, state-of-the-art Regal Cinema as its marquee attraction might have been curtained this week after its parent company filed for bankruptcy.

On Sept. 7, Cineworld, the British company which owns Regal Cinema, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy still reeling from the pandemic imposed shutdowns of theaters in 2020 and the slow return of film production in 2021. 

“The pandemic was an incredibly difficult time for our business, with the enforced closure of cinemas and huge disruption to film schedules that has led us to this point,” Cineworld CEO Mooky Griedinger said in a released statement. “This will allow us to continue to execute our strategy to reimagine the most immersive cinema experiences for our guests through the latest and most cutting-edge screen formats and enhancements to our flagship theatres.”

The filing came after the company released its year-end numbers for 2021 in March. The numbers were an improvement for Cineworld, which owns 747  theaters in 10 countries across the globe, but not enough to significantly reduce the company’s debt. Cineworld lost $565.8 million in 2021 while it was still trying to recover from a $2.6 billion loss in 2020. 

The company’s revenue fell from $4.4 billion in 2019 to $852 million in 2020. While there was hope for 2021, a full slate of summer blockbusters didn’t return until this year, although Cineworld made a small recovery to bring $1.8 billion in total revenue last year. The top performing films at Cineworld theaters in the U.S. during 2021 were “Spider-Man: No Way Home”, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Venom: Let there Be Carnage,” all of which grossed a collective $988.6 million.

Only Cineworld theater chains in the U.S., U.K., Ireland and Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, will be a part of the bankruptcy filing. The company claims the filing is an opportunity for Cineworld to restructure its business model, especially its leases with landlords in the U.S. Regal brand cinemas represent all of the U.S. market for Cineworld and its largest brand, making up more than two-thirds of its locations across the globe. When the company purchased Regal in 2018 it became the second largest movie theater company in the world boasting more than 9,000 screens. Regal operates both movie theaters in Visalia and four in Fresno. 

“We look forward to continuing to provide guests and members with the best cinematic experiences for years to come,” Greidinger said. “The outstanding success of recent blockbusters such as Spider-Man: No Way Home; No Time to Die; Top Gun: Maverick; Dune; Minions: The Rise of Gru; Thor: Love and Thunder and others proves clearly that people love to go to the movies and that, once supply of product returns, our business will reap the benefits.”

During the restructuring process, Cineworld said it expects to “operate its global business and cinemas as usual without interruption.” Cineworld anticipates it will emerge from Chapter 11 during the first quarter of 2023. In addition to Regal, Cineworld owns and operates theater chains Cinema City, yes.Planet, Picture house, and its own brand. The company said it will continue to pay all vendors and suppliers in full, that employees will continue to receive normal wages and customer rewards will still be honored during the reorganization of the Chapter 11 process.

That’s good news for the Valley, as Regal Sequoia Mall was ready to release plans to revamp its location just months before the pandemic began. Property owner and developer Dave Paynter had already filed phase one of his long-awaited plan to redevelop the aging and mostly vacant mall. The plan included a new, 50,686-square foot movie complex with “the latest technology that Regal has to offer.” Cineworld closed 25 underperforming sites in 2021 but opened 10 new sites and refurbished seven cinemas. Cineworld noted in its year-end report that most of its refurbish projects were under construction prior to the onset of COVID-19 with an eye on enhanced experiences using special formats like IMAX, 4DX, Screen-X, SuperScreen and RPX. 

“While our development plans slowed somewhat, we believe that we will be able to progress again soon and when appropriate to do so,” the company stated in its year-end report.

Downtown arrivals

Just down the street from Regal Stadium 10, two new eateries will open in downtown Visalia. A wine tasting room, Wine Buff is preparing to open at 114 S. Locust St. Husband and wife duo Diriki and Eryn Jordan have owned several businesses in town but have wanted to open a wine shop since they started their crush with crushed grapes in 2006. After traveling extensively through California’s plethora of wine trails and tasting wine from other regions in their cross-country treks, the Jordans want to share their wine experiences with their neighbors at home in Visalia. The 1,450 square foot tasting room plans on having sample flights of wine, a Wine of the Month, and live music. 

Nearby, at 116 S Locust, Que Concha will open an eatery. The Delano-based ice cream company has had a food truck in the area. Leases were completed by Patrick Montreal of Mark Saito Company. The food truck turned stationary restaurant offers waffle cones, sundaes, teas, horchata, pastries and churros.

Tractor Supply, Rally’s coming to Visalia

Visalia is also getting its first Rally’s. Developers Mike Hamzy and Javier Gomez plan to construct a 1,088 square foot Rally’s with a double drive-thru lane at Dinuba Boulevard and Riggin Avenue. The Riverbend Village Shopping Center site is a first for the fast food chain in town. 

Also on Dinuba Boulevard will be the city’s first Tractor Supply store at the corner of Sedona Street. The hardware retailer has filed for their building permit to construct a 21,645 square foot store with a greenhouse attached in the Donahue Schriber-owned commercial center currently anchored by In-N-Out.

PG&E burying fire hazard in forest lands

While most residential customers are serviced by Southern California Edison, PG&E provides electricity to several kay places in Tulare County, such as the Whitaker’s Forest Research Station within Whitaker’s Forest. The 350-acre forest plot is owned and managed by the University of California, Berkeley in Tulare County. 

That’s where the northern power provider plans to install a new remote solar micro-grid. The project consists of a 12-panel solar array mounted on the roof of a new shipping container. Supporting infrastructure includes battery storage, a new driveway, and a new underground conduit between the solar array and the residential structures. 

Once installed, the project would provide existing residential structures on-site with a consistent and reliable source of electricity that would replace the need for the existing overhead electric distribution lines. PG&E will be responsible for installation, and for operation and maintenance, of the facility. The Project is part of PG&E’s Remote Grids Pilot Program, a program within PG&E’s Community Wildfire Safety Program.

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