Regal Kress Cinemas pau

Discount movie theaters nationwide are closing their doors, and the Regal Kress Cinemas 4 in downtown Hilo appears to be a casualty of the changing business landscape for so-called second-run movie houses.

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Discount movie theaters nationwide are closing their doors, and the Regal Kress Cinemas 4 in downtown Hilo appears to be a casualty of the changing business landscape for so-called second-run movie houses.

The theater closed Friday, and its space in the Kress Building at the corner of Kamehameha Avenue and Kalakaua Street will be occupied by Sure Foundation Hilo church.

The congregation will have its final services in Prince Kuhio Plaza on Sunday and will gather in its new Kress location Sunday, Oct. 5, with services at 7:15 a.m., 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m., according to the church’s website and Facebook page.

“It’s my understanding that discount theaters are closing around the nation because they show everything in 35-millimeter film,” said Evan Carmichael, who co-pastors Sure Foundation with his wife, Shinobu. “Now, a lot of the studios release everything (digitally). … It would probably have been a couple of months, if we hadn’t stepped in now, that it would have just gone dark.”

Ululani Dunaway, general manager of Kress Cinemas, confirmed Friday the theater’s final screenings were Thursday night, but declined further comment, directing the Tribune-Herald to parent company Regal Entertainment Group’s corporate office in Knoxville, Tenn.

The Tribune-Herald was unable to reach Rich Given, Regal’s vice president for marketing, on Friday because of the six-hour time difference.

According to a Feb. 23, 2012, Indiewire.com article, John Fithian, CEO and president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, said movie theaters had to “convert (to digital) or die.” The article stated a low-end retrofit from 35-mm to digital projection for one screen cost about $65,000.

The article said about 10,000 screens, representing 20 percent of the movie screens in America, would probably go dark because owners couldn’t afford the digital conversion or compete as a first-run operation if they were to convert.

The first-run Prince Kuhio Plaza Stadium Cinemas, also operated on a franchise basis by Regal, made the digital conversion and remains in business.

The Tribune-Herald reported Aug. 21 Sure Foundation is losing its space in Prince Kuhio Plaza across from International House of Pancakes to make room for Pier 1 Imports.

“The timing was right,” said Carmichael, who added the downtown theater had 20 months remaining on its lease, which the church will assume.

Carmichael said the theater space “for the most part works out great” for the church.

“We’re going to add lighting, but the seats and everything, it’s already made for assembly of people,” he said. “We’re having a downsize from where we were, but we’re just going to make do until we get our church property built, which is what we’re working for.”

Carmichael said he’ll use one of the theaters at the Kress Building “as an overflow, eventually,” and show live video from the main theater on the screen.

He described the church’s move from the mall to its new downtown digs as “bittersweet.”

“We have three young kids, and we do love the Kress theater,” he said. “We used to go watch movies there all the time. But again, (the closure) would have happened eventually, so it was great timing for us, being that we had just … lost our space.”

Carmichael said he hopes the public doesn’t view the change in a negative light, or assume the church “kicked the theaters out of the Kress Building.”

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“I would hope the people would know that a church couldn’t just kick a theater out if the theater was doing well with its business,” he said.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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