Camelot owner getting no takers for new theater

2013-11-09T18:00:00Z Camelot owner getting no takers for new theaterBy GENE ZALESKI, T&D Staff Writer The Times and Democrat
November 09, 2013 6:00 pm  • 

The property manager of the building that held the former Orangeburg Camelot Four movie theater says he has been marketing and working to attract another theater without any success.

Melvin Younts, a partner in Fountain Inn-based Palmetto Real Estate Trust, which manages the entire complex, says the lack of interest will most likely mean plans to convert the space into a retail outlet.

“We have been working on it ever since the other one left,” Younts said. “We have not had any success at the present time.”

The movie theater closed in January.

Younts said the lack of interest has been a disappointment.

“We would rather have a theater in there because it is my understanding there is not another one between Columbia and Charleston,” Younts said. “It ought to do good if somebody would want one. But it is about a thing of the past.”

As a result, Younts said he will continue to keep his fingers crossed for someone to step up to the plate.

“We will probably let it stand another month or so and then will try to convert it back to a business or retail,” he said. “Maybe two or three, but we won’t do anything until after the first of the year.”

Younts said has no idea what type of retailer or business he would try to attract as he has not gauged interest in the building beyond a movie theater.

The movie theater was built in 1977 as the Camelot Twin. It was praised by officials at the time for its automated Simplex Five Star projection system.

Ticket prices for afternoon showings at the time were about $1. Officials announced the first movies shown would be “In Search of Noah’s Ark” and “A Star is Born.”

In August 1984, the Twin Theaters became Camelot Four with a $200,000, 5,500-foot addition.

Orangeburg County Development Commission Executive Director Gregg Robinson said the Orangeburg Plaza property is successful and has a great location.

But, it “is a very tired piece of property,” he said.

Robinson said due to the rapidly changing technology in movies the former theater would have to be “completely overhauled.”

“The movie experience today is totally different from five years ago,” he said noting all movie theaters such as the Regals and Carmikes are struggling as people are resorting to other ways of seeing movies through home and personal technologies.

Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce President Dede Cook said inability to attract a movie theater to the Orangeburg Plaza is not deterring efforts and discussions.

“We still are quite interested in a theater locating in Orangeburg County,” Cook said. “We certainly are continuing to have conversations about just that. We believe that Orangeburg County is a great area to operate a movie theater.

“Not only does the population in our county and the population radius around Orangeburg County bring people to our area for their shopping needs, but the student population in our area with four universities and colleges would support such an endeavor,” Cook said.

Robinson said attracting a movie theater entails a very “complex business” plan because of the rapidly changing technology environment.

“We are working with national chains and independent retail groups,” Robinson said. “We have been in multiple discussions.”

Robinson said three areas — downtown, North Road and near Interstate 26 — are being discussed as possible theater locations though all is currently in a discussion phase.

He said another challenge in attracting a movie industry is commercial properties, unlike industrial properties, are assessed at a lower rate of 6 percent meaning that loans and grant funding tend to be more difficult to obtain because technology depreciates so rapidly.

Despite the challenges of the movie theater business, Robinson said movie theaters do help improve the livability of an area especially with a number of colleges and for a segment of a population which continues to patronize theaters particularly to see blockbuster movies.

“We are community that is big enough to have a movie theater,” he said.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551.

Contact the writer: 803-533-5551

Copyright 2015 The Times and Democrat. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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