The drama behind the movie theater at Miracle Mile Plaza has been as endless as the James Bond franchise but, barring a third-act twist, may be nearing a fairytale ending.
Massachusetts-based owner Entertainment Cinemas, which closed the Lebanon movie theater at the onset of the pandemic early in 2020, has updated the announcement on the plaza’s marquee from the vague “opening soon” to a more specific “opening in October.”
Over the past 18 months the theater operator and the plaza’s owner, The Richmond Co., have been embroiled in a nasty legal battle over unpaid back rent, eviction and bankruptcy.
The movie theater has been closed since March 2020, leaving year-round Upper Valley moviegoers choosing between the recently reopened Nugget in Hanover or driving to the Cinema 6 in Claremont, the Playhouse Movie Theatre in Randolph or the weekend showings at Pentangle Arts in Woodstock.
But the Miracle Mile proceedings may be drawing to a close, paving the way for the six-theater, 800-seat multiplex to be upgraded and reopen, according to William Gannon, an attorney representing theater operator Entertainment Cinemas Lebanon.
“We’re 98% of the way through resolving this litigation,” Gannon said.
Opposing counsel concurred. The settlement “would comprehensively resolve everything between the parties,” said Matthew Delude, an attorney representing the landlord, adding “we’re very close to finalizing it.”
The bankruptcy court has extended until Nov. 3 a hearing on the reorganization plan because of the “continued settlement efforts,” according to a court filing.
That followed the bankruptcy court’s approval to allow Entertainment Cinemas to borrow $150,000 from theater owner Bill Hanney for the purpose of upgrading the multiplex and making payments due the landlord.
Hanney did not respond to messages for comment.
The legal wrangling between the theater and landlord has spilled across three separate court venues — superior court, district court and federal bankruptcy court — and follows years of an uneasy relationship as the theater had struggled to pay its rent even before the pandemic hit and wreaked havoc on the movie theater business.
(Richmond’s attempt to evict Entertainment Cinemas from the Miracle Mile Plaza was put on hold when the theater filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.)
The movie business, even before the pandemic, was already facing a less glamorous future as streaming has been overtaking the weekend excursion to the local theater.
Hollywood — or rather the traditionally staid movie theater operators that show Hollywood’s first-run movies — is adopting new designs that are meant to replicate the private screening room experience with larger, cushioned seating and other amenities.
A version of that is what Hanney hopes to introduce at his Miracle Mile theater.
Whether that will be enough to entice young moviegoers back to the big screen remains to be seen, but if the Miracle Mile theater opens as promoted in October, one sign surely will be watched closely for clues: That’s when the 25th James Bond movie, No Time to Die starring Daniel Craig as Bond, will be released.
When the Woodstock Pharmacy closed 12 months ago after 167 years in business, a hole was opened in the heart of Woodstock Village.
The Central Street mainstay had catered to generations in Woodstock and neighboring towns, who relied upon it not only for their prescribed medicines but Vera Bradley floral handbags in its gift shop and a well-stocked basement toy room.
Now the three-story, 9,000-square-foot building has been acquired by Thalia Tringo, a Somerville, Mass., real estate agent who has a second home across from the Woodstock Rec Center to which she will be moving full-time with her husband and mother.
The sales price was $1 million, according to Woodstock town records.
Tringo said via email that the building purchase is part of her plan to retire in Woodstock, a town she has loved for years, and immerse herself in the life of the community. Although she checked out other properties, Tringo said the circa 1880 building — it was rebuilt after a fire destroyed the block — stood out.
“I love the beautiful facade and historic character of the interior,” she said. “On the upper floors, you can see Mount Tom from the front windows and Mount Peg from the rear ones.”
Tringo emphasized that she is not planning radical changes, although she may divide the first floor retail space — one half was the pharmacy and the other half was the gift shop — into two separate spaces, as it was originally.
“It is prime retail space, and I’d like to give two businesses the opportunity to thrive there. I am looking for businesses that will add to the offerings of the local business community and fill unmet needs,” Tringo said, noting she’s “seeking out independent businesses that have a track record and philosophy of treating their employees well.”
Equally happy are former owners Gary Smith and his wife, Betsy Siebeck, who said they found in Tringo a buyer they could entrust with the building’s future.
“We had a lot of interest in the building, serious bids from two other buyers and twice that many who made multiple visits to the building,” said Smith who ran the pharmacy for 45 years, but Tringo has the virtues they sought in the next owner.
“Right from the first, she indicated she was planning to move up here and had an interest in the character of the village,” Smith said, adding that Tringo importantly “was the only one of the group who appreciated the economic value of the building.”
The building is assessed at $783,000, according to the Woodstock listers office. Tringo said the village is in need of “more restaurants and specialty shops, such as chocolatiers or wine shops,” and emphasized, “I am open to different ideas.”
Both Tringo and Smith gave a shout-out to Woodstock real estate agent Tambrey Vutech for bringing them together. Tringo said she’s continuing to work with Vutech in finding retail tenants for the first floor.
“We welcome input from interested businesses and community members,” Tringo said.
Contact John Lippman at firstname.lastname@example.org.