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Posted September 28, 2012 | comments 3 Comments

Delco Cinemas opts not to renew lease, shuts down

By Sally Voths - voth@nvdaily.com

The curtain has fallen for the final time on Delco Cinemas in Winchester.

After 14 years in Winchester, the sub-run movie theater closed on Sunday, owner Daniel Kleeberg said in a Friday afternoon phone interview.

"Basically, just the lease was up," he said. "We didn't want to commit to another five years because of money we would have to spend for digital conversion."

Plus, the cinemas' Delco Plaza neighbors, Body Renew Fitness, hopes to put in an indoor pool in that spot, according to Kleeberg, who owns four other theaters in North Carolina where he lives.

"We just went ahead and let our lease expire," he said. "We've been here pulling equipment out and seats."

Converting to digital movies would cost the theater about $75,000 per screen, or around $150,000 total, Kleeberg said. He said all movie theaters have to switch from film to digital by 2014.

About 80,000 patrons watched movies on the cinemas' two screens last year, Kleeberg said. Tickets were mostly $2 -- the same as they were 14 years ago -- although they have ranged from $1-$3 "basically based on trying to make money and pay the bills."

Had he borrowed the money to go digital, Kleeberg said he wouldn't have been able to keep the $2 price for tickets. And, he said he doesn't think people would pay $4 for a "sub-run" movie, or one that had already completed runs at mainstream theaters.

Switching to digital movies will save Hollywood a great deal of money in production and shipping costs, although it will put many mom-and-pop theaters out of business, Kleeberg said.

"You can't pay that debt unless you raise the ticket prices or do something, charge more for popcorn," he said. "A lot of theaters are just saying when that time comes we're going to shut down. While it will be sad, the truth of the matter is only the strong will survive in this business.

"Most of us mom-and-pops are in our 50s and 60s, and probably don't feel like going in debt for a quarter-of-a-million, half-a-million dollars at our age."

Kleeberg said he enjoyed his time in Winchester and the people he'd met.

"It's sad to leave," Kleeberg said. "We've been here for 14 years. It's just time to go. I think it will be better for the shopping center with the gym having the swimming pool and stuff. I think over all, it's going to help the shopping center.

"Certain times it just comes in life [when] things just don't make sense to stay. Five years to commit to a long-term lease is just not something I'm willing to do. We figured it would be best to let the gym take over the place because swimming pools don't ever go out of style."

A manager with Renew Fitness couldn't be reached Friday evening to discuss plans for a pool.

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