Monroeville leaders hopeful new movie theater will lure more businesses
Monroeville Mall's new movie theater can't open fast enough for Elisia DeLuco.
She and her family are frequent movie-goers, but now they go to a theater in North Versailles.
“I can't wait for it to open. I'm excited. We're all excited,” DeLuco, 31, of Monroeville said of the Cinemark Monroeville Mall, a 12-screen theater with stadium seating set to open Nov. 7.
Officials hope the theater not only will serve as a source of entertainment, but also will generate significant sales tax revenue and attract business to mall retailers.
“We're starting to see more businesses come into Monroeville. One builds on the other,” said Debbie Iszauk, vice president of member services and business development at the Monroeville Area Chamber of Commerce.
Monroeville Mall opened in 1969, was remodeled in 2003 and has 150 stores, according to Chattanooga, Tenn.-based CBL & Associates Properties Inc., which owns the 1.3 million-square-foot mall.
The recession hurt shopping centers nationwide. Developers are focused on reinvesting in existing malls rather than building new, said Jesse Tron, spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers in New York.
Dining and entertainment options are key amenities that shopping centers are seeking to add, he said.
The new Cinemark theater likely will fare well because of its location — it can be accessed from Exit 57 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the second busiest in the state, and from nearby Interstate 376, Iszauk said. That will translate into a draw for new retailers in Monroeville, she said.
The mall is experiencing an increase in tenants, Manager Thomas Gerber said.
He cited the recent openings of clothing store H&M, Red Robin restaurant and Soma Intimates; the planned opening of Gift-ology in December; and the additions of clothing store Francesca's, specialty tea retailer Teavana and a party supply store, Party City, in the past year, he said.
“We are riding the wave of new retailers and uptick in sales to bring better, more upscale tenants to the property, and there are several other exciting announcements on the horizon,” he said.
The theater will be the third anchor at the mall. The other anchors are Macy's and JC Penney.
Real estate and economic development experts caution that a movie theater won't always bring success to a retail complex.
Movie theaters make no difference in the performance of a mall, said Ryan McCullough, a real estate economist at Washington-based real estate information company CoStar Group Inc., which is studying 255 malls in the United States.
The study, however, doesn't factor in types of movie theaters, so it's possible that a specific brand might make a difference, he said.
CBL wouldn't comment on the mall's recent vacancy rates, but a CoStar Group report put the vacancy rate at 9.3 percent in the third quarter of this year. The average vacancy rates for malls in the Pittsburgh area and nationwide were 3.7 percent and 5.9 percent, respectively.
Monroeville's business district hasn't had a movie theater since a four-screen complex at the mall closed in 1998. Showcase Cinemas East on Route 22 in Wilkins closed in 2004.
The 14-year-old Phoenix Big Cinemas North Versailles 18, which has stadium seating, is 6 miles from Monroeville Mall.
“It just seems like no theaters make it. They all close,” said Trafford resident Alison Race, 36, a Monroeville native.
Mall and municipal officials expect the new theater to keep dollars in Monroeville, which can benefit from the business tax revenue.
Business performance in Monroeville has been mixed for several years.
From 2007 to 2012, the number of Monroeville businesses paying business privilege taxes, which are taxes on the sale of services, increased 7.6 percent to 1,466, according to Monroeville data.
The number of businesses paying mercantile taxes on the sale of goods increased 25 percent to 914. Some businesses pay both taxes.
Monroeville's revenue from the two taxes declined by 7 percent from 2007 to 2012, to almost $6 million.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or firstname.lastname@example.org.