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No bids offered for cinema property

March 17, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HAGERSTOWN -- An auction of the Hagerstown Cinema 10 property on Leitersburg Pike Tuesday afternoon attracted nostalgic moviegoers, curious neighbors and a few cash-strapped dreamers, but not a single bidder.

"With the down economy, money's hard to come by," said Bernie McGarity, 60, of Waynesboro, Pa., who said if he had the money, he would turn the theater into an indoor antique mall and flea market.

The property includes 18.86 acres and the 36,233-square-foot movie theater. It will be assessed at $3.9 million as of July 1. The family that owns the property was asking for a minimum bid of $995,000.

"It's a real surprise that someone didn't step up," said Kenny Ridenour, who co-owns the property with his three siblings under the name Ridenour 1994 Family LLP.

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The Ridenour family has rented the property to a number of theater operating companies over the years. In preparation for the auction, the Ridenours terminated their lease to the most recent operator, Diamond Cinemas, effective Tuesday, Kenny Ridenour said.

However, because the property didn't sell, the family will allow Diamond to continue to run the theater without a lease until the fate of the property is decided, he said.

The siblings will have to talk things over and decide whether to keep the property on the market, Ridenour said.

The property has been in the Ridenour family for many years. The late J. Kenneth Ridenour opened the cinema there in 1970 next to a drive-in theater.

His children decided to sell the property so they could focus more on other endeavors, Kenny Ridenour said.

"We all have separate lives," he said. "This is just sort of an appendage. We just made a decision in the family that we had other things we'd rather do."

Ridenour said the family got plenty of inquiries about the property from a variety of business types and from as far away as Tucson, Ariz.

He said he thought that even in a recession, a ready-to-operate movie theater would make an attractive investment because movie ticket sales tend to go up when economic times are bad.

"It's a no-brainer," Ridenour said. "As far as I'm concerned, they had an opportunity here that they'll never see again."

About 50 people attended the auction, which was held in the theater lobby at noon.

Some, like Jeff Wilkins, were neighbors interested in hearing what a new owner would do with the property.

"I'm hoping it stays farmland," said Wilkins, who lives near the property on Leitersburg Pike.

Others, like McGarity, said their interest was fueled by nostalgia.

"We came here as kids when this first opened," he said. "A couple of my first dates were at the drive-in."

McGarity said that in those days, the theater's lobby was often so packed that it was hard to get in the doors. Today, the theater competes with Regal, which has the advantage of being attached to Valley Mall.

"There's more attractions," he said. "You can drop your kids there at noon and pick them up at 8, 9 p.m. Out here, you come see a movie and go home."

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