As COVID-19 continues to ravage the movie theater business nationwide, the owners of the Harrisburg Mall have filed a lawsuit seeking more than $557,000 in back rent from the operator of the mall’s movie palace.
Harrisburg Investors Group claims in its Dauphin County Court suit that Great Escape Theaters of Harrisburg hasn’t been paying its rent since April, when theaters and other public venues across Pennsylvania were shut down on the order of Gov. Tom Wolf in an attempt to contain the coronavirus.
The theater’s lease called for a monthly rental fee of at least $70,164 per month for the 14-screen, 2,437-seat theater, the suit states. The mall owner says it terminated the lease in October for non-payment.
Filing of the suit came a month after word began circulating that the theater’s parent firm, Cineworld Group PLC’s Regal Entertainment Group, was considering suspending its operations indefinitely because of COVID-19. The pandemic has caused audience numbers to plummet, prompted delays in the releases of several major films and caused financially disappointing debuts for others.
The possibility that the nation’s second-largest theater chain might go dormant for a while was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. The Journal cited Cineworld’s report that its revenue dropped 70 percent in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
Cineworld made its shutdown decision official in late October when it announced it was temporarily suspending operations at its more than 500 locations in the U.S. Regal took over operation of the Harrisburg Mall’s theater in 2012.