Pearl Theatre at Avenue North suddenly closed at the end of August, leaving only a final goodbye message glowing on the marquee: “Thank You North Philly For 10 Great Years!!!!”
Known to students for its six-dollar ticket deal on Tuesdays, the theater served as an entertainment hub for students and community residents alike. When the theater opened in December 2006, it was the first movie theater to open in North Philadelphia in nearly four decades. Now, an AMC Theatre occupies the seven-screen theater in the Avenue North complex on the corner of Broad and Oxford streets.
Ryan Noonan, director of corporate communications at AMC Theatres, said the former Pearl Theatre changed hands in late August and reopened on Sept. 2 as an AMC Theatre.
Nicetown-Tioga resident Donna Smith said she has been going to the theater about three times per month for years.
“[Pearl Theatre] was black-owned,” she said. “Now I don’t know if a black man will still be owning it.”
“It changes things,” she added. “It changes a lot.”
Michael Campion, the new general manager of the AMC location, confirmed that the theater will no longer be black-owned. He said the company’s theaters are not franchised, so AMC North Broadstreet 7 is now owned by AMC Theatres alone.
Campion, who has been with AMC for 10 years, said that AMC interviewed all of Pearl Theatre’s former employees and rehired the ones they thought would be the “best fit.” He said they extended offers to approximately 20 percent of Pearl Theatre’s employees.
Campion said he does not know how long the switch to AMC has been coming, but as a resident of Northeast Philadelphia he thinks the change will be beneficial for the community.
“I think it certainly will help,” he said. “Any type of business willing to set a standard and expectancy and put in the effort and hard work will pay off in the community.”
Noonan said AMC is “planning a full theater renovation,” which includes all-plush power recliner seating; new presentation equipment including new speakers, sound systems and screens in each auditorium; remodeled restrooms; new carpets and fresh paint. He said the renovation will also include expanded food and drink options and they are exploring the option of adding a full bar.
Noonan said AMC anticipates that renovations will begin in early 2017, but there is no official start date.
Although Smith thinks the change in ownership changes the theater’s presence in the community, she said she will continue to go.
“As long as I can still go in and see a movie, I’m still okay,” she said.
Erin Moran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.