Moviegoers make their way on Thursday to Brunswick’s Regal Cinema, which may close soon. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

The Regal movie theater in Brunswick is slated to close, according to a document filed this week with a federal bankruptcy court in Texas.

The filing lists 39 Regal theaters across the country that may close as a result of the bankruptcy application of Cineworld Group, Regal Cinemas’ parent company. Cineworld is the world’s second-largest cinema chain, with more than 9,500 screens at nearly 800 sites in 10 countries.

The U.K.-based company, beset by losses from plummeting ticket sales during the pandemic and with debt of nearly $5 billion, petitioned for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September. The filing does not indicate when the theaters might close and there is a slight chance that the 10-screen Cooks Corner location could remain open. Technically, Cineworld is rejecting the leases for individual theater spaces, meaning terms could be renegotiated and some theaters might continue operating.

News of Regal’s closing comes at a time when southern Maine’s movie theater landscape is still unsettled following the onset of COVID-19, which closed all movie theaters beginning in March 2020. Though many Maine theaters reopened more than a year ago, operators are still trying to predict when and if the movie showing business will become as profitable as it once was.

Movie ticket sales for last summer – usually the busiest time of year for theaters – totaled $3.34 billion nationally, about 21% less than in the summer of 2019, CNBC reported. About 50% fewer films were released to theaters last summer, compared to the pre-pandemic season.

At least five southern Maine cinemas closed permanently in the first year after the COVID-19 outbreak. New Hampshire-based Cinemagic went out of business in February 2021, shuttering its Maine locations in Westbrook, Saco and at the Clark’s Pond complex in South Portland. Also during the pandemic the dine-in Smitty’s Cinema closed its Biddeford location permanently and Flagship Cinemas closed its Oxford complex for good.


The Westbrook and Saco theaters have reopened under new operators, while the Clark’s Pond theater remains vacant. There, new operators are interested in showing movies again, a representative of the property owner said Thursday.

In downtown Freeport, it’s still not clear if the Nordica Theatre will reopen three years after the pandemic shutdown. The theater is part of the Freeport Village Station retail complex and owned by the shopping area’s owners. Alfred Yebba, one of the owners, said the decision depends on whether local and national theater attendance gets back to pre-pandemic levels and whether Hollywood will release more high-quality, buzz-worthy films to theaters.

The Nordica Theatre in Freeport hasn’t reopened since the beginning of the pandemic forced cinema shutterings everywhere in Maine. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

“We are totally reliant on the product Hollywood gives us and without seeing a more stable supply of quality product it’s difficult to assess whether we can reopen,” Yebba said. “These are extraordinary times and we need to get a better feel of how things may go. We are still hopeful.”


The Clark’s Pond theater was set to be reopened last year by another operator, Martin Henry Cinemas. But Martin Henry’s plans fell through and the property went back on the market in the last month or so, said Steve Baumann of Compass Commercial Brokers in Portland, the listing broker for owner Joe Soley.

Baumann said that specific types of projection equipment were hard to come by when Martin Henry was trying to set up Clark’s Pond, and that the equipment is now more readily available. He said several parties are now interested in the property for use as an entertainment center, which will feature movies but maybe food and other activities as well.


Theaters nationally have been adding entertainment options – like arcades or bars – in an attempt to attract customers as the theater business redefines itself. The family-owned Smitty’s Cinema, which has dine-in locations in Sanford, Windham and Topsham, has been part of that trend. The Topsham location opened a sports bar, arcade and ax-throwing pit in September as a way to draw people to the theater when no blockbusters are playing, said Al Waitt, director of operations for Smitty’s. All of the Smitty’s locations also are hosting live comedy shows in their theaters as well as electronic bingo games.

Waitt said that when a big Hollywood blockbuster is playing, like the recent release “Top Gun: Maverick,” attendance at Smitty’s rises to pre-pandemic levels. But there are fewer midlevel movies being sent directly to theaters, he said, so attendance lags between blockbusters.

“By adding some of these other things, we don’t to rely as much just on the movies,” Waitt said. “We want to provide more of an entertainment experience.”

Two of the Cinemagic locations, in Westbrook and Saco, were reopened by Massachusetts-based Apple Cinemas in late 2021. Owner Jegan Gomagalam could not be reached Thursday to talk about the theaters’ performance. But in December, he said his company had made a major investment in a renovation at the Westbrook location, including reclining seats, large format screens with 4K laser projectors, and self-serve concessions and ticketing.


Flagship Cinemas, based in Baltimore, has five Maine locations and recently showed confidence in its Thomaston location by installing fully powered reclining seats, said Andrew Poore, the company vice president. The company’s other Maine locations, in Falmouth, Auburn, Waterville and Wells, already have powered recliners.


Like Waitt at Smitty’s, Poore said that attendance is robust when high-profile movies are released, but not all the time. To give people more reasons to come to the theater, Flagship recently started showing older and classic movies at a discounted price of $6.75. Around Valentine’s Day, for instance, Flagship will be showing the 2004 romance “The Notebook.”

“When the product is right, it’s encouraging,” Poore said of attendance at Flagship. “When it’s not, we need to give people more reasons to come.”

Those heading to an afternoon showing of “Otto” at the Regal in Brunswick on Thursday said they were surprised to hear that the theater is slated to close.

Courtenay Snellings of Harpswell was at the theater with five friends and said she goes to movies in Brunswick about six times a year. She said it offers a nice winter entertainment option near her home. Snellings and others mentioned that they might switch to the Eveningstar Cinema in downtown Brunswick for movies in the future. Eveningstar has one screen and about 90 seats.

Eugene Hanscom of Bath said he, too, was disappointed to learn that the theater may close. Hanscom said he goes to the movies about once a month and prefers the action films that Regal offers on its screens.

Darlene and Jeff Rogen of Bath said the Regal is the only theater they go to and they probably take in a movie about six times a year, so the couple said they will have to find a new theater to patronize if it closes.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.