Frank Theatres and CineBowl in Inlet Square Mall has closed after five years in business, leaving residents on the south end having to travel to Myrtle Beach to catch a movie.
The movie complex closed at midnight Saturday, according to Jim Roberts, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Urban Retail, which owns Inlet Square Mall.
Kelsey Coty, marketing assistant with Frank Theatres, said in an email the complex closed as a “mutual agreement” between the mall and the theater company. The company did not elaborate on the agreement.
The closure caught movie-goers by surprise Monday, with roughly 20 of them showing up about 11 a.m. to find the doors locked.
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There’s nothing down here now, which is a bummer. It’s not like they wound down at all either; it was just like ‘Well, we’re done.’
movie-goer Andrew Rhodes
“There’s nothing down here now, which is a bummer,” said Andrew Rhodes, who met his brother Mike at the theater to see “Captain America: Civil War.” “It’s not like they wound down at all either; it was just like ‘Well, we’re done.’”
The 62,000-square-foot theater and entertainment complex opened in 2011, and mall officials had hoped it would rejuvenate the shopping center, which has struggled to attract tenants and shoppers since emerging from bankruptcy protection in 2009. The theater was the centerpiece of a $4.5 million facelift that gave the mall new flooring, ceiling, lighting and skylight enhancements.
The mall still boasts a Belk, Books-A-Million and a Planet Fitness, which opened last year. The mall has struggled over the past few years to keep anchor tenants; J.C. Penney closed in March 2015 and Kmart left the mall a year ago.
But the addition of the 22,000-square-foot gym last year brought some life back into the struggling mall, Brooke Doswell, Inlet’s then-general manager, said in April 2015.
Roberts said management isn’t sure what will take the place of the theater complex; the company is still searching for the right retailer to fill the space.
Diana Villarreal, Murrells Inlet resident, showed up to the theater Monday morning with a plastic popcorn bucket ready to see a flick. She was disappointed to find the doors locked at the only area theater left.
“I called this morning to find out showtimes, and there was no indication they were closed,” she said.
She’s been visiting the theater often since moving to the Inlet last year, and even bought a half-price popcorn bucket to cut down on snack costs. But now the empty theater – connected to a mostly empty mall – is just another symptom of moving everyone north, Villarreal said.
The closing is unfortunate, we worked together on numerous events that brought a great deal of joy to our customers. We will continue our search in bringing retailers and other non-traditional retail partners to Inlet Square Mall that offer something new for our loyal customers.
Jim Roberts, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Urban Retail
The closest theaters are now in Myrtle Beach, which is about 30 minutes from most of Murrells Inlet. The closing of the entertainment complex – which helped anchor the mall – also means the Inlet is left with more empty buildings, Villarreal said.
“The residents of Murrells Inlet deserve a theater. I don’t want to be a part of a ghost town,” she said.
Mike Rhodes said he would see a movie at Frank Theatres every few months and it was usually busy. There were no signs the combo grille, blowing alley and theater would be shut down suddenly just before the busy summer months, he added.
Tourists passing through the area would generally stop by for a show, Mike Rhodes said, but with Frank’s closing there are fewer options for family entertainment.
“These are the money-making months,” he said. “The bikers are even here.”
Frank Theatres operates about 20 theaters in nine states, including the Rivertowne Stadium 12 in Conway.
Claire Byun: 843-626-0381, @Claire_TSN