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Leitersburg Pike cinema closing

new theater planned

October 07, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Hagerstown Cinema 10 on Leitersburg Pike will close Sunday, General Manager Ed Taylor said.

However, plans for another cinema there are in the works.

Lifehouse Church East -- which has held services in the theater building north of Hagerstown since January 2008 -- hopes to work with a new company to open a family-friendly cinema, Pastor Patrick Grach said Wednesday.

The church has a lease with an option to buy the property, Grach said.

He said the purchase is likely to happen next year. The church then would have Leitersburg Cinemas LLC, which formed in May, run the theater.

Rich Daughtridge, the founder and president of High Rock Studios in Hagerstown, formed Leitersburg Cinemas LLC, Grach said.

Meanwhile, the current cinema is scheduled to close Sunday. The last three movie screenings will start at about 5 p.m.

Gift certificates must be used by then.

Taylor said business usually is slow early in the school year, but turnout has been "extremely low" because of the economy.

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The decision to close was prompted by the church's plans for the building, he said.

Diamond Cinemas signed a 10-year lease to operate the cinema in November 2007.

In March, four Ridenour siblings who own the building and land under Ridenour 1994 Family LLP tried to sell the property through an auction.

The auction ended without anyone making the minimum bid of $995,000, so there was no sale.

Grach said that's when the church worked on a deal for a lease and purchase option.

The late J. Kenneth Ridenour opened the cinema in 1970, next to a drive-in theater.

The family has held on to the property as several theater operators have come and gone. The cinema briefly shut down in 2002, 2006 and 2007, in between operators.

Grach said the new cinema would be designed with families in mind. It wouldn't show R-rated movies, with possible exceptions, he said.

The planned cinema's income would be used as leverage to pay the mortgage.

"We think the building should pay for itself," Grach said.

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