Real estate investors are coming up with novel ideas for repurposing the commercial space vacated when a movie theatre closes down. It appears that these opportunities will be plentiful in the months and years ahead. Recently, NATO chief John Fithian predicted that without an infusion of substantial federal relief funds, “around 70% of our mid-and small-sized [theatres] will either confront bankruptcy reorganization or the likelihood of going out of business entirely by sometime in January.” Pre-pandemic, when a theatre closed its doors the most likely re-use would be another exhibitor moving in to take over the cinema operation.
These days, it’s just as likely for the building to be demolished, or the space to be converted to an entirely new use. While it requires a certain amount of creativity, modern cineplexes are often located in prime suburban locations, commercially zoned with ample space, high ceilings, and advanced HVAC systems. Some developers are converting them into mixed-use developments that integrate retail and office space, apartments and condos, and co-working facilities. Another appealing opportunity is to convert these sites into last-mile e-commerce warehouses and logistics hubs, located close to suburban population centers.