August 29, 2012IMLAY CITY — All has gone dark at the Cinema III, and not in anticipation of the showing of the theater's next feature film.
Business owner Remo Querciagrossa said a changing industry and escalating economic challenges have forced him to close the doors at the Cedar Street (M-53) location.
Referring to the theater's demise as a "perfect storm" of unfortunate circumstances, Querciagrossa said the tipping point came when he realized he could no longer rationalize the cost of doing business.
Indeed, that cost will rise dramatically with the coming industrywide transition from 35 millimeter to digital technology.
"All the (film rental) companies I deal with are requiring that we go to digital," said Querciagrossa. "The contracts have to be signed by next month, with installation required by April 1, 2013." Querciagrossa estimated he would need to spend about $250,000 to purchase and install the new equipment in his three theaters in Imlay City.
"I've exhausted my financial options," he said. "With no guaranteed return on the investment, it just no longer makes financial sense to continue."
While financial realities play large in his decision to close the theater, Querciagrossa lays some of the blame on the film industry's inability to make movies that attract large, broad-based audiences.
"Other than the superhero and comic book films, the originality of the product coming out of Hollywood has suffered in recent years," he said. "All they're doing is remakes. The quality of films has diminished and attendance at movie theaters has followed suit."
Querciagrossa purchased the theater and building in late 2008, and opened for business in January 2009.
His initial plan was to re-create the flavor of a small-town movie house, featuring first-run and classic movies at affordable prices to customers.
He followed through on that premise by participating in the Downtown Development Authority's 'Winter Film Series,' which offered free admission to classic and family-friendly movies on given nights during the winter months.
Though moderately successful with the program, it and other promotions did not translate to consistently large crowds at the theater.
Querciagrossa nevertheless expressed his appreciation for the support he and Cinema III received from its loyal core of regular patrons.
"We had some good community support," said Querciagrossa. "We want to thank all those regular customers for their loyalty and patronage.
"I just wish that more people had taken advantage of the theater being here," he continued. "That might have justified our digital conversion cost."
The past aside, Querciagrossa is hopeful that someone with deeper pockets and a similar passion for movies, will purchase the building and reopen the theater.
"My first choice is to sell to a larger theater operator," he said, "someone who is in the position to make the transition to digital and be successful here in Imlay City."
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.