PC Cinemas works to stay open despite COVID, mall changes

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Business is slim and a competitor may soon be at the door but PC Cinemas remains open. 

Mark McSparin, the theater’s owner, is working to weather the challenges brought on by COVID-19 as the customers who once visited his theater in the Panama City Mall are staying home instead. 

“We were doing well before the COVID,” McSparin said. “I’m hoping our audience will return. We’ll stay open as long as we’re able to stay open.”

Right now things are grim, McSparin said.

“Things are pretty dismal right now,” he added. “We’re losing money every day right now.” 

However, this isn’t the first time McSparin’s business has faced adversity. After Hurricane Michael, the owners of the Panama City mall forced every tenant out saying the facility was too badly damaged to remain open. 

Everyone, that is, except McSparin. He managed to remain in place through a battle with his landlord that was, at times, contentious. Eventually, the two parties signed a new five-year lease agreement that allows either party to opt-out with a six-month notice. 

Now, the mall’s owners Hendon Properties, have released a new layout for the area that moves the in-door mall to a collection of outdoor shops, office space, and even some residential buildings. The plan does not appear to call for a theater on its grounds. 

McSparin said he assumes when the new construction begins Hendon will give him notice that it’s time to go. 

“I would guess that development is still maybe a year from breaking ground,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen quickly.”

If he is asked to leave McSparin said he will once again search for a new location in the area. He examined several locations when PC Cinemas and the Mall were having issues. However, at that time, a deal for a new location could not be worked out. 

However, McSparin seemed more concerned about plans for a new Regal Theatre which will replace the 23rd Street building that was demolished after Hurricane Michael. He added that he suspects the new, fancy theater will have to charge quite a bit more than PC Cinemas. 

“It’s going to be a shock to the pocket book when that thing opens,” McSparin said. 

However, if it’s enough of a draw that could mean changes. 

“A value oriented theater may no longer exist in the Bay County area,” McSparin said. 

Meanwhile, PC Cinemas is showing classic movies for $2 and offering a free small popcorn with every admission. McSparin said Hollywood may start releasing new movies by the end of the month and he’s holding on in hopes that both new movies, and his customers, will return.

“There is positively a place in that market for a theater like mine,” he said.

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