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Movie Theater For the People

A movie theater has been donated to a small town, after AMC opted not to renew their lease in the space.

Apple Valley is a large town in southeastern California, between Barstow and San Bernardino. Until earlier this year, the town boasted a 14-screen AMC movie theater. But as the cinema franchise tightened its belt in the wake of a pretty terrible 2022, the location closed down, with no plans to reopen.

It’s pretty common on the past several years and especially since 2020 – theaters are closing all over the county. The pandemic, recession, and streaming video have all hit them hard.

“I think ultimately what impacted the theater and retail business was the pandemic,” said Apple Valley mayor Scott Nassif. “The last couple years, when people just couldn’t get out and intermingle and socialize as much as they used to, I think that had an effect.”

Rather than try to court another theater company or a buyer for the 55,000-square-foot building, the owner (who has opted not to be named in the news) contacted the city administration with a generous offer – he’d donate the whole thing to the town.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever heard or talked with somebody who donated something like this,” said Nassif. “It’s tremendous. We can’t thank them enough, and the community is very grateful and excited. It’s a unique opportunity for us.”

Nassif and his administration are seeking input from the town’s citizens about what to do with the space, with popular options being a performing arts center, a science center, or a museum. There’s even an in-person session scheduled Thursday to discuss the many options.

Whatever’s to be done with the space, almost every option will add value and community to the town and its 75,000 citizens. The owner’s generous gift will be a boon to so many people, when it could have just been another shuttered and decaying building.