SOUTHINGTON — The 12-screen movie theater at 1821 Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike was sold last week to Starplex Cinemas, a Dallas-based chain that wants to improve the theater and divide the remaining land into two separate pad sites, according to town and company representatives.
“The new movie owner wanted to retain a movie theater and are preparing changes to enhance the viewer experience,” said Louis Perillo III, the town’s economic development director.
The 16.4-acre parcel will be subdivided into three parcels to allow for a restaurant or other development in the grassy area in front of the theater. Perillo would not elaborate on the terms of the deal except that it closed last week, and the sale is a win for the area.
“This is very good news for our town,” Perillo said.
Starplex spokeswoman Traci Hoey confirmed the deal and said more information will be released Thursday after the theater goes 100 percent digital.
Representatives of the former owner, Rave Southington LLC, could not be reached for comment.
The Southington theater was one of five Rave Cinemas locations in Connecticut purchased in a $240 million cash deal with Cinemark Connecticut in May 2013 that added 32 theaters to Cinemark’s portfolio. Cinemark maintained the Rave brand before selling the Southington and Berlin theaters to Starplex.
The Southington theater was built in 1993 by National Amusements, according to town land records. It operated as Showcase Cinemas until being sold to Rave in 2009.
Talk has swirled in town for years about the future of the cinema, given the difficulty in the industry and nearby competition in Waterbury, Berlin, Plainville and Wallingford.
In March, Chris Gagnon, a civil engineer with BL Cos. in Meriden, won Planning and Zoning Commission approval to develop 1.2-acre and 1-acre parcels in front of the theater.
Commission members said at the time that a potential new theater owner wanted to develop the two areas and they anticipated interest in one parcel for a restaurant.
The name of the theater has been removed from the Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike road sign and the building. A sign inside the theater lobby reads Starplex Cinemas, but an employee who identified herself as a manager said she did not have permission to speak to the media.
According to www.starplexcinemas.com, the discount pricing at the Southington theater will remain. The theater offers $5 matinees, $7 evening tickets and deals for senior citizens. Patrons can buy a hot dog for $1, but it wasn’t clear if the expanded concession menu at Berlin Starplex will be offered in Southington.
The theater also offers 3-D and Surround Sound projection, and will be 100 percent digital soon, according to the website.
Starplex operates 32 theaters and 324 screens in Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Washington, Indiana, Ohio, California, Arkansas, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Connecticut. It also operates several Imax theaters.