Former Chaguanas mayor Dr Surujrattan Rambachan has called MovieTowne's closure at its Price Plaza location in Chaguanas "a regrettable decision for the people of Central Trindad.
"Derek Chin brought a whole new definition of family leisure (and customer satisfaction) to the borough... As an entrepreneur he took the risk of investing in Chaguanas and, in particular, a cinema when people were arguing that the days of cinema were over," Rambachan said in a release on Monday.
He said he was personally saddened by the cinema’s closure since it would mean other businesses would be affected, along with job losses.
On Sunday, MovieTowne founder Derek Chin announced that the location, the second in the franchise, would close permanently after ten years.
Newsday was told that Price Plaza property owners Endeavour Holdings Ltd (EHL) were disinclined to negotiate on rent, compared to MovieTowne's other landlords at Lowlands Mall, Tobago and C3 Complex in San Fernando.
In a brief phone call, Chin confirmed there were other venues in Chaguanas he was looking at but said it was unlikely there would be any development right now, because of the obvious economic situation and the covid19 restrictions.
"We are sorry to leave and we thank those who supported us, but we will think of something and will come again soon," he said.
All staff, as much as they are willing and able, would be absorbed back into other elements of the business, he added.
The other two cinema locations in Port of Spain and Guyana are owned by Chin.
"(The) Port of Spain and San Fernando locations are some of the best in the world and they are pretty strong. Guyana is beautiful and we expect them to reopen at around the same time as Trinidad, by the end of October."
Cinemas have been among the hardest hit in the pandemic, forced to shutter amidst covid19 restrictions to mitigate the spread of the virus. Several of MovieTowne's staff have been furloughed and those who remain have had to take a 25 per cent pay cut, Newsday was told.
In its third-quarter financials, up to January 31, 2020, EHL reported a $26.4 million profit, although this was $1 million lower than the same period the year before. The reporting period did not, however, capture the period when the impact of covid19 would have been most apparent, since national restrictions on movement started in mid-March.
John Aboud, EHL's chairman, declined to comment on the suggestion that the company did not want to renegotiate the rental agreement with MovieTowne, but said in the next day or so, EHL will issue a statement to clarify the situation. He did add that any such suggestion was "furthest from the truth."
Rambachan, in his release, said Price Plaza had benefited from the generosity of the people of Central Trinidad without the equivalent development of the area.
"While business decisions are generally hard-nosed, the exigencies of the current economic situation should have evoked a greater level of empathy by the owners of the mall," he said, adding that the situation was unfortunate.
"The owners of Price Plaza had an opportunity to demonstrate a higher level of corporate social behaviour."
He said if the people of Central chose to boycott Price Plaza to show their displeasure, he will support the move.