WESTMINSTER — Hoyts Cinemas has decided not to expand its six-screen Cranberry Mall facility, but an area businessman plans to develop an eight-screen theater several miles away.
Hoyts said a five-year history of "fair" business at its Cranberry Mall location was the reason the Boston-based company will not add three more screens as planned.
Harold Blank, assistant vice president of real estate and advertising, said Hoyts Cinemas' change of heart was "purely a basic business decision."
He said the sluggish economy was not a factor, adding: "We felt that the investment to add the theaters was not a good decision.
"The thought at one time was to expand, but we reversed that decision based on the grosses of the six theaters already in place."
In spring 1987, Hoyts opened six cinemas in Westminster's new Cranberry Mall.
In 1990, company officials said they planned to add three screens to the complex.
"We just changed our minds in 1991,"Blank said. "We felt that there were already too many theaters in the marketplace."
Hoyts' six cinemas at the Cranberry Mall and the six screens known as Carrolltowne Movies in Eldersburg are now the only movie theaters in the county.
R. C. Theatres Inc. in Reisterstown owns the Carrolltowne Movies.
"If I were located in the Cranberry Mall, I would expand because I think the cinemas there have done well," said Scott Cohen, president of film for R. C. Theatres. "The basic hub of Carroll County is Westminster, and expanding in Cranberry Mall would have locked up the marketplace."
The Carrolltowne Moviesopened in the mid-1970s with a twin theater, expanding to six screens in 1987.
"It was the way to go for us," Cohen said. "The twin theaters were doing so well in that area. And based on their success, we felt it was the thing to do."
Although Hoyts Cinemas may feel the market won't support additional movie screens in Carroll, Bob Weinholt doesn't think that premise is true.
Weinholt, owner of GreaterBaltimore Cinema, plans to open eight screens in the old Safeway store in Westminster's Crossroad Square Shopping Center in July.
Plans for the complex will include four first-run screens for feature film viewing and four sub-run screens, which will show films two to six months old.
Weinholt expects to turn 22,000 square feet of the 35,000-square-foot building into eight cinemas. Two theaters will seat 200 to 250 people each, while the other six theaters will accommodate 100 to 150 people each.
The Baltimore County resident, who owned the old 140 Village Movies from 1982 to 1987, said, "Even if Hoyts expanded at Cranberry, it wouldn't keep me from bringing these theaters to Westminster. We will go in and we will be able to compete. I wouldn't do it if I thought there wasn't a market."
Weinholt closed thedoors of his twin screens at 140 Village in 1987 because of the opening of the cinemas at Cranberry Mall and a crippling film writers strike.
"It was the double whammy," he recalled. "There were the new theaters and then the writer/director strike was taking place. There were no movie products going to the screens. It was also hard for a twin theater to compete with a complex."
Weinholt said he feels Hoyts has done well. Its theater grosses are "good," he said, despite high ticket prices.
"They have priced themselves out of the market,"he said.
Hoyts at Cranberry Mall charges adults $6.75 and children under 12 and senior citizens $4.25 to see a feature film.
Weinholt said he will charge adults $5 and children under 12 $3 to see feature films. All ticket prices will cost $1.50 for discounted films.
Weinholt said: "I know we will be successful. I know I can do it better and cheaper."