Parkway Cinemas to close next month

mstucka@macon.comJuly 7, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- Parkway Cinemas, a mainstay of Russell Parkway for 30 years, is scheduled to close its doors in a month.

Bill Stembler, chairman and chief executive officer of Georgia Theatre Co., said the discount theater doesn’t have the equipment to go on.

At $2.50 per ticket, the six-screen theater had been one of the cheapest entertainment options around. But film companies have been pushing away from actual film prints, which are costly.

The companies had been financing conversions for regular movie theaters from film to digital, but they would not finance conversions of the discount theaters, Stembler said.

“They made the decision that they would not allow discount theaters to participate in that program of financing. This theater doesn’t have the right equipment to show (digital) movies,” he said.

In the late 1990s, Georgia Theatre Co. opened a more modern theater in what’s now known as the Houston County Galleria. Several years ago, Georgia Theatre Co. opened another movie theater in nearby Kathleen, at the corner of Lake Joy Road and Ga. 96. That newest theater has since been expanded with a 70-foot-wide screen comparable to some of the IMAX movies.

“It’s been more than replaced by other newer, more modern theaters,” Stembler said.

Georgia Theatre Co. closed another discount theater in Valdosta earlier this year, and it has just three other discount theaters in operation in a chain of 30 theaters. The film companies aren’t distributing much on film any more, making non-digital theaters like Parkway Cinemas no longer viable.

“It’s kind of hard if you don’t have something on the screen,” Stembler said.

The theater has screened some movies, such as “The Lego Movie,” after they’ve been released on DVD.

Stembler said the building will be leased by Mark Fogarty, pastor of the First United Pentecostal Church. Fogarty could not be reached for comment.

A Facebook group formed to save the Parkway Cinemas had 135 members as of Monday afternoon. A drive to raise $1 million to buy equipment for the theater and keep it open had attracted no contributions by Monday.

Some employees will move to other locations, Stembler said.

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