June 26, 2008

Regal Entertainment Group Brings Artistic Edge to Cinema

By Trevor Anderson, Herald-Journal, Spartanburg, S.C.

Jun. 25--Regal Entertainment Group is giving one of its cinemas in Spartanburg an artistic edge.

Regal, the largest movie theater company in North America, announced Tuesday it will convert WestGate Mall Cinema 8 into one of its Cinema Art theaters, a concept cinema that offers a variety of critically acclaimed movies, independent films, restored classics and first-run foreign movies.

"With nearly a million people in the greater Greenville-Spartanburg area as well as several colleges and universities, there is no doubt that there is a place for limited-release films, including documentaries, foreign language films and independent movies," said Jon Douglas, alternative film marketing manager for Regal. "With support from groups like the Upstate Film Society, an organization that has been working hard to bring these films to this region, we believe these films can find their audience."

Some movie-goers on Spartanburg's west side have been on the edge of their seats since Regal acquired Charlotte, N.C.-based Consolidated Theatres for $210 million in January. The deal added 30 cinemas, including Spartanburg's only standalone stadium seating cinema, Spartan 16, to Regal's massive portfolio.

With two theaters operating in such close proximity to each other, some patrons worried the company would shutter the WestGate Mall cinema. Their fears, however, were laid to rest with the announcement.

"I'm so excited about Regal's decision to show independent and foreign films at the WestGate Mall cinemaplex," said Ray Merlock, director of interdisciplinary studies at the University of South Carolina Upstate. "This gives recognition to the city's various college and university, even high school and junior high school, film programs serving so many young people who are interested in all aspects of filmmaking. Spartanburg's mature, established and knowledgeable audience, with a longtime love and interest in film also will be pleased."

Peddling art and "indie" films to Spartanburg residents has long been an afterthought for some of the larger companies who operate here, Merlock said.

In the past, local movie buffs have had to travel across state lines to see limited-release films. That is about to change.

"I predict moviegoers will be coming from Greenville, maybe Clemson and probably even North Carolina to see some of the releases that will be available at WestGate Mall," Merlock said.

Douglas said WestGate Mall 8 will continue to show some mainstream movies to provide customers with a diverse selection of films, but a majority of the theater's eight screens will be dedicated to the latest Cinema Art films.

A few titles the company said it now is working to bring to Spartanburg include: "The Fall,""Choke,""Baghead,""Edge of Heaven,""Encounters at the End of the World,""Reprise,""Standard Operating Procedure,""Towelhead,""Transsiberian," and "Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?"

The theater also will host unique events, such as this weekend's 7 p.m. screening of the movie "Mongol," followed by a question-and-answer session with Merlock.

"These events help to create a local community of movie lovers and expand the normal movie-going experience," Douglas said.

For more information, visit: www.regmovies.com/filmguide.


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