LR theater to be razed after property’s sale

The Village Shopping Center at Asher and University avenues changed hands last month and with it came the decision to raze the old Cinema 150, one-half of the first dinner-and-a-movie date place in Little Rock.

The shopping center was owned for at least 20 years by an out-of-state investment group,Flake & Kelley Commercial brokered a deal in which Greater Missouri sold the property for $3 million to a longtime client, North MacArthur Investments LLC. Flake & Kelley will handle leasing and property management for the Village Shopping Center, which is to undergo major improvements starting with the removal of the movie theater.

“More than anything, it’s a cleanup of a property that has been a problem” safetywise, said Hank Kelley, chief executive officer of the Little Rock-based commercial real estate firm.

Tearing down the domeshaped theater will make the 153,400-square-foot shopping center more visible and provide an opportunity for North MacArthur Investments to lease the land where the theater now stands or replace it with a new building for a restaurant, retail or some other use, Kelley said.

The theater building was erected in the late 1960s but has been vacant for several years. It’s functionally obsolete, Kelley said.

Another of the center’s mainstays, Casa Bonita, is not being torn down but is also dormant and has been vacant for some time. In the ’60s and ’70s, the two went hand in hand.

“You’d go to the theater at the Cinema 150 and go to Casa Bonita, which was [among] the first generation of Mexican restaurants in the state,” Kelley said.

“The Cinema 150 is definitely one of those things remembered for first dates and great movies seen, but literally there’s not a theater operator that has any interest in trying to make a single theater work, and that building has lived past its economic life.”

Danny-Joe Crofford, director of marketing for War Memorial Stadium but formerly with United Artists, said the theater was named the Cinema 150 because its screen curved at a 150-degree angle, unlike the regular flat screen.

It opened with The Odd Couple in 1968, only because the science-fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey was delayed in getting to Little Rock.

The longest-running films over the theater’s career, he said, were: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 13 months; Titanic, 10 months; and Top Gun, nine months.

After it closed as a theater in 2003 – the last movie was X2: X-Men United – it was reincarnated as a music venue, but even that didn’t last very long, said Matt Smith, owner of the Riverdale 10 Cinema in Little Rock, the Searcy Cinema 8, the Cabot Cinema 8 and the Hot Springs Mall Cinema.

It’s not that theaters are going away, it’s just that smaller cinemas are being replaced with bigger venues with more screens, he said.
For example, when the 18-screen Rave Motion Pictures theater opened, the same number of screens went away, one of them being the Cinema 150.

“What happens in movie exhibition – new theaters come in, old theaters fold, but the screen count pretty much stays the same,” Smith said. “New theaters typically cannibalize the business of ol! d theaters.”

When the sale to North MacArthur Investments closed on Dec. 18, the shopping center was about onehalf leased.

Notable tenants include Family Dollar; City Trends, a national urban fashion store; Aaron’s Rent-to-Own; and Sherwin-Williams Paints.

In addition, a furniture store has committed to lease 15,600 square feet, and Flake & Kelley is negotiating with a small grocer to take another 16,800 square feet.

Traffic counts in the area are high for in-town shopping centers, Kelley said: 40,000 cars a day traveling north and south on University Avenue and 29,000 cars a day traveling east and west on Asher Avenue, which becomes Colonel Glenn Road.

Kelley said those businesses are expected to be open for business within the next six months.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/RICK McFARLAND
The boarded-up Cinema 150 at the Village Shopping Center in Little Rock has been vacant for several years and is described as functionally obsolete.
Copyright 2015, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette