Movie theaters closing at 2 malls

Owners plan to close this North Charleston theater and one at Citadel Mall.

Like butter and popcorn, malls and movies are an appealing double feature that seem to go well together.

But the credits are set to roll for the final time at the theaters that have operated for years at Charleston's two biggest enclosed shopping venues.

AMC Entertainment Inc. said Tuesday that it will shutter its eight- and six-screen venues at Northwoods Mall and Citadel Mall after the last showings Sunday.

The company, one of the largest film exhibitors in the nation, did not give specific reasons for the closings. Spokeswoman Melanie Bell said the standalone theaters were identified during a normal business review of AMC properties as two "that needed to be closed."

Kansas City-based AMC owns 5,138 screens in six countries.

"We continuously upgrade our theater circuit through the closing of underperforming theaters," Bell said Tuesday.

The Northwoods 8 in North Charleston will be demolished to make way for a 50,000-square-foot store to be opened next spring by outdoor-outfitting chain Sportsman's Warehouse.

AMC referred questions about the future of its Citadel Mall 6 building to the shopping center's owner. A local representative could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

By industry standards, the two aging mall theaters are considered dinosaurs. They were built before the "megaplex" trend took hold in the mid- to late 1990s, which made it increasingly difficult for older movie houses to compete for box-office revenue.

Citadel Mall 6 was opened around the same time as the West Ashley shopping center in 1981. Northwoods 8 was completed in the early 1990s. Neither had recently been substantially renovated.

By contrast, modern megaplexes have come online in North Charleston, Summerville and Mount Pleasant, offering moviegoers state-of-the-art theaters with more screens, better seating and other amenities.

A decade ago, plans were announced to replace Citadel 6 with a 16-screen megaplex. But the then-owner, GC Cos. Inc., ran into financial difficulties before the project could get started. It filed for bankruptcy protection, and AMC Entertainment bought its assets, including the two mall theaters, in 2002.

This weekend's closings will reduce the number of first-run movie screens in the three-county region by roughly 16 percent to about 70. The area's only three megaplexes are owned by Regal Entertainment Group.

Knoxville, Tenn.-based Regal recently closed its 12-screen Mount Pleasant theater on Houston Northcutt Boulevard after announcing it is buying the larger Palmetto Grande across town. The company and a business partner are converting the shuttered property into a Cinebarre "movie and a meal" concept that will offer customers 10 screens, alcoholic drinks and an expansive food menu.