Regal to close Gallery Place movie theater, two others in Maryland Similar Regal theaters in Montgomery and Prince George's counties will also be closed.
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Regal to close Gallery Place movie theater, two others in Maryland

Regal's parent company is shuttering 39 movie theaters across the U.S. as part of ongoing bankruptcy proceedings prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. erin m/Flickr hide caption

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The corporate parent of movie theater chain Regal says it will close the Gallery Place Stadium 14 theater in downtown D.C. next month as part of a broader wave of theater closures that are taking place as part of bankruptcy proceedings.

Word of the closure of 39 Regal theaters across the country — which also include local theaters Bowie Stadium 14 and Rockville Center 13 — was first reported Thursday by Business Insider, and confirmed by DCist/WAMU. A filing on Tuesday in a Texas bankruptcy court listed the 39 theaters; all leases for the theaters will be abandoned on Feb. 15.

Cineworld, the British chain that owns Regal and other brands, had already closed 12 other theaters since filing for bankruptcy last September. The filing cites the COVID-19 pandemic as a reason the company is facing financial challenges, and says that closing the 39 theaters will help it save $22 million a year.

"Over the past two and a half years, the Debtors, through extensive good-faith and arm's-length negotiations with their landlords, reached agreement on various lease restructurings that provided for, among other things, the deferral of rent. While such actions have provided breathing room for the Debtors as the cinema industry rebounds from the pandemic, they have not delivered a comprehensive long-term solution. The Debtors' U.S. theater portfolio is a significant contributing factor to their current financial challenges," reads Cineworld's bankruptcy filing.

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The D.C. theater's closure is likely to be a symbolic hit both for movie-goers and for the Chinatown/Gallery Place area itself.

When it opened in the mid-2000s, the Regal was one of only a few first-run movie theaters in the city. (AMC Georgetown 14 is another first-run theater.) Movie-going options have since grown and gotten more niche, though. Landmark operates the E Street Cinema and Atlantic Plumbing, the Alamo Drafthouse is now open along Rhode Island Avenue NE, Union Market plays host to the Angelika Pop-Up, Suns Cinema operates in Mt. Pleasant, and The Avalon remains in Chevy Chase.

The theater also served as an anchor tenant for the large development adjoining the Capital One Arena, and a draw for what was once a vibrant nightlife destination. The pandemic put a significant dent in that, and more recently the owners of the Capital One Arena opted not to renew the lease of a McDonald's located there.

But reviews of the quality of the movie-going experience at Gallery Place have been decidedly mixed over the years, some of which was reflected on social media in the wake of the news of the theater's closing. While some criticized the theater's outdated projection quality and amenities, other moviegoers who left reviews on Yelp said they appreciated that the theater was centrally located and Metro-accessible, and often included active audience participation when the movies started. (On that point it certainly didn't compare to the old Union Station theater that closed in 2009, but little could.)

And if there is any silver-lining in the theater's closure, Cineworld says it's that it might save other theaters across the country from the same fate.

"The Debtors are hopeful that these negotiations will lead to lease concessions and modifications that will obviate the need for rejection and enable additional theater sites to remain open," it said in its recent filing.

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