Mitchell Chapman: The Tale of Two Berkshire Cinemas | Columnists
A week after Regal Cinemas closed its 10-screen complex in the Berkshire Shopping Center in Lanesborough, the company that owns The Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield reports that the six-screen complex ended 2021 with its fourth most profitable quarter since 2017.
Last year saw the histories of two very different Berkshire cinemas, as The Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield had its best fourth quarter last year since Phoenix Theaters bought it, while the Regal Theater in the Berkshire Mall recently closed permanently.
It’s important to note that we don’t know definitively why Regal closed – unlike The Beacon, it was owned by the large Cineworld conglomerate, so it’s possible the closure was the result of larger financial struggles with the company, and not necessarily linked to the representation of the Lanesborough theatre. Phoenix Theaters has chosen to release information about how The Beacon did in 2021, but private movie companies are not required to release these numbers, and until Cineworld releases further information about its theater of Lanesborough, we have only speculation and anecdotal evidence to go on, although there were several factors against this; most notable was its location.
National cinema chain Regal Cinemas has permanently closed its 10-screen cinema complex at the Berkshire Mall, according to a sign left on the theater’s front door.
Unlike The Beacon, which is located in downtown Pittsfield, Regal was adjacent to the enclosed Berkshire Mall. When the mall was open, it served the theater well because it was a high-traffic area, and the layout of the mall encouraged casual browsing. A theater was a natural commodity, especially for those who wanted to shop or dine before or after showing their feature film. The best way to describe Regal’s appeal when the mall was open is that it was convenient, which precisely wasn’t the case when the mall closed because after the mall closed it became a place where you had to exit the mall. way to go to the movies specifically, unless you’re looking to see a movie before or after a Target trip. If you had a cinema closer to your home town – like The Beacon in Pittsfield, the Triplex Cinema in Great Barrington or the Movieplex in North Adams – it made no sense to go to Regal unless it was showing a movie that other theaters weren’t. t.
Such was my relationship with Regal after the mall closed, though I still enjoyed my time there, and the Berkshires are worse off because of their absence. The Berkshires’ movie theater industry is particularly fragile. The handful of theaters in the county are generally the only ones in their respective cities, which is all the more reason why we need to protect them, because without them many will lose access to the theater experience. Regal’s demise seems like a cautionary tale that theaters cannot survive in an isolated environment; they should be located in bustling population centers where casual, impulsive viewership is more likely to occur, especially in years when big movies like “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “No Time to Die” are in short supply and spaced out.
A spokeswoman for the Berkshire mall owner said an Ohio company hired by the mall owner had lined up several tenants willing to give the beleaguered retail space another try.
If the mall’s current owners manage to bring it back to life as planned, it could attract another movie company to occupy the former Regal lot. But after several false starts and setbacks to the project, it’s hard for me to pin any hope on it, and I’m sure many feel that way, given its troubled recent history. If the mall owners are to earn the public’s trust, they will need to produce concrete results that the space is indeed coming back online. Until it does, Target will stand alone as the last bastion of what was once the largest mall in the Berkshires – the last reminder of a time before the dominance of online shopping, when malls were a gathering place.
I hope movie theaters don’t disappear like malls nationwide. But to be successful, they need the continued support of their local communities, especially at a time when the film industry is unstable. Regal will be missed, and his lot and the Berkshire Mall lot as a whole deserve to be occupied by businesses that will once again make him a driving economic force in the Berkshires.
Three other arts and entertainment organizations in Berkshire County have reaped the rewards of federal pandemic relief assistance.
Although Cineworld is not required to be as open about its Lanesborough theater as Phoenix Theaters has been with The Beacon, the county and future owners and/or tenants of its former land can greatly benefit from its transparency, as it would paint a picture of exactly what went wrong and potentially reveal what future theaters in the region can do differently to survive. Of note, The Eagle reported that last year The Beacon, Images Cinema and Triplex Cinema received significant pandemic relief funding from the US Small Business Administration, which major chains excluded like Regal and AMC.
Mitchell Chapman is an Eagle Page designer/editor and columnist.