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Eastland Mall theater closes

By Nichole Monroe Bell
nbell@charlotteobserver.com

One year after opening, Eastland Mall's latest movie theater has closed.

Utah-based Red Carpet Cinemas spent several weeks last year upgrading the existing theater, which had closed in 2006.

The new venue opened in March 2007 with more comfortable seats, digital sound and – for the first time in years – mainstream films such as “Happy Feet” and “Dreamgirls.”

Previously, the theater had unsuccessfully featured movies geared toward Spanish-speakers or children.

Company officials could not be reached last week to comment on when or why the theater closed. Red Carpet Cinemas president Jim Ferguson could not be reached, and Eastland no longer has a general manager. Mall owners also could not be reached.

Some store owners and shoppers, however, said they weren't surprised the theater faltered. Several said the theater was difficult to find and that there weren't enough signs inside or outside the mall advertising that it was open.

“They could have done a better job letting people know it was there,” said resident Joy Parker, 37. “You had to really work to find it.”

The closure comes at a time when Eastland, a longtime community anchor at Central Avenue and Albemarle Road, has been losing money and large national and regional anchors have left. Belk and Dillard's have closed, in addition to several national retailers such as Bath & Body Works , Victoria's Secret and New York & Co.

Over the years, such retailers have struggled to earn a profit at Eastland as other malls such as SouthPark and Northlake have gained dominance.

In the past, a spate of shootings at and near the mall scared some shoppers away.

Despite the store departures, the mall remains popular among small business owners who thrive in an urban market niche. Anchors Burlington Coat Factory and Sears are also still operating.

After three years of trying to sell the mall, Eastland owner Glimcher Realty Trust said in July it was walking away from its lease, and the company asked the court to appoint a third party to run the mall or sell it.

Then in August, the mall cut its operating hours, including closing entirely on Mondays, to save money.

“I'll keep going there as long as they're open,” resident Carrie Mayes said. “I'm just not sure how long that's going to be.”

Nichole Monroe Bell: 704-358-5103.

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