A South Portland movie theater that has been shuttered since the beginning of the year could reopen within a few months as demand for cinema experiences rebounds.

Josh Cannon, an entrepreneur from the Seattle area, said he is finalizing lease negotiations for the eight-screen theater in the Clarks Pond shopping center and hopes to reopen it by the end of November.

The theater, which would be reopened under the name Martin Henry Cinemas, is Cannon’s first venture into the movie business, he said in an interview. The theater received a face-lift and new deluxe seating four years ago, and Cannon plans to change very little about the location.

Even though the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging for the movie theater business, Cannon sees conditions improving. Rising vaccination rates and people’s increased comfort with resuming activities indoors – plus the decision by most studios to screen new films exclusively in theaters for 45 days before people can access them on video streaming sites – will lead moviegoers back, he added.

“The box office is definitely coming back – the biggest part is getting people coming back to theaters,” Cannon said. “I think it is a combination of things across the country, but there is a feeling movie theaters are coming back.”

The Clarks Pond theater was one of eight New England cinemas that New Hampshire company Cinemagic closed in February. The company had reopened during the summer of 2020, but had only small crowds and few new movies to screen.

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If Cannon’s plans work, all three of Cinemagic’s Maine locations will be open again. Apple Cinemas, a theater company from the Boston area, acquired closed locations in Saco and Westbrook this summer and is currently screening  “No Time to Die,” the new James Bond film, “Addams Family 2” and “Venom: Let There be Carnage.”

There is no lease in place to reopen the Clarks Pond theater, but Cannon said negotiations with the building owner have been positive and he expects to sign a final agreement within days. Steve Baumann, the property broker with Compass Commercial Brokers, did not respond to an interview request Thursday. The property is owned by Joe Soley, a Portland-area landlord.

Cannon plans to use a portion of money he inherited to get the theater up and running, but he also has pursued crowdfunding. He raised $30,000 on the Mainvest crowdfunding platform in the first week online and is nearly three-quarters of the way to a $60,000 goal by the end of November. The money will be used to pay hiring bonuses and at least a $15 hourly wage to theater employees, Cannon said.

“It is all about retention of employees – I want people to come (back) a year from now and see the same faces. I want employees to get to know our regulars,” he said.

Cannon has lived in Connecticut and plans to move to Maine. The state has a strong cinema market, especially the Cinemagic locations, he said. The theater’s gross profits could increase from about $1.4 million in the first year to almost $1.6 in the fifth, according to its Mainvest profile page.

“This location produced pretty well prior to the pandemic,” Cannon said. “It might take a little while to get back, but by early next year we should be in full swing.”


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