Shelby cinema now part of Regal

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National chain buys Great Escape Theatres

By Steve Doyle

When next you see a movie at the cinema on Breighton Circle in Shelbyville, you no longer will be making a great escape from reality.

That’s because Regal Entertainment Group of Knoxville, Tenn., one of the nation’s largest theater chains, has acquired Great Escape Theatres, including the facility in Shelbyville, in a deal announced late last year.

According to a release from the company, Regal acquired a total of 25 theaters representing 301 screens for an aggregate purchase price of $91 million in cash. The acquisition expands Regal’s presence in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Around the area, Regal also owns an 8-screen theater in La Grange and larger theaters in Clarksville, Ind., and New Albany, Ind.

Although calls to the published number for the theater in Shelbyville continued to be answered by a recording device that referred to the theater as Great Escape, Regal’s Web site now labels the complex as Regal Shelbyville Stadium 8.

Patrons at the complex in Shelbyville started to see Regal’s branding around Christmas.

Tamzin Bennett, an assistant manager at the theater in Shelbyville, said Wednesday she was not permitted to discuss the sale and referred questions to Nikki Dakis, the theater’s manager.

By press time, Dakis had not responded to telephone messages left by The Sentinel-News.

Bennett did say that Dakis had continued to serve as manager after the sale.

“The acquisition of Great Escape Theatres and the special dividend of $1.00 per share clearly demonstrate Regal’s commitment to delivering shareholder value,” Amy Miles, CEO of Regal Entertainment Group, said in the release. “We are extremely pleased with the addition of over 300 high quality screens to our industry-leading portfolio and expect the transaction to be immediately accretive to both earnings and cash flow.”

Before the acquisition, Regal, which trades publicly on the New York Stock Exchange, was operating 6,607 screens in 521 locations in 37 states and the District of Columbia, including a presence in 43 of the top 50 markets, according to the release.

Great Escape, which was based in New Albany and had served smaller communities, opened in Shelbyville in 2003, ending a nearly-4-decade absence of cinema in the county since the Shelby Theater had closed on Main Street in the late 1960s.

The construction of Great Escape cost $4 million for developers and investors H. Barry Smith, Mike Meinze, Richard Head and Randall Stivers.

But its construction included controversy because the developers wanted the cinemas and Breighton's other 70 acres to be annexed into Shelbyville. Some Shelby County Fiscal Court magistrates, however, said at the time they didn't want to give up the valuable commercial property and feared an annexation wave of county land would begin.

The annexation, which came early in 2003 in a split vote of fiscal court, led to the eventual construction of Cattleman’s Restaurant and the Ramada Inn.