Wants to open next month
By James Hanlon
Leader Staff Writer
Like most movie theaters these days, the posters outside the Oxford 7 in downtown haven’t changed in four months. But it’s not just because of the pandemic.
Goodrich Quality Theaters, Inc. (GQT) the Kentwood/Grand Rapids regional chain that owned Oxford 7, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late February, ahead of the COVID-19 shutdown. Court records from the bankruptcy filing showed GQT owed $30 million to three banks and nearly $5 million to unsecured creditors.
Last week, a New York-based real estate partnership acquired most GQT theaters, including Oxford 7. It hopes to be screening flicks in a few weeks.
Masson Asset Management and Namdar Realty Group purchased “substantially all of the debtors assets,” including the Goodrich trademark, as Goodrich Theater NewCo, LLC (“New GQT”). The sale was for $12 million according to the asset purchase agreement.
Based in Great Neck, New York, Mason Asset Management and Namdar Realty Group specialize in owning and operating enclosed malls, and believe that “the GQT theater chain is a natural fit” for their portfolio, according to a press release.
A 2018 Reuters article described their “aggressive low-investment” strategy as targeting often bankrupt properties across the country at very low prices. Their aim is to hold assets, not to flip or redevelop them.
“The plan is to continue operations of the existing theatres and grow the brand’s footprint,” Elliot Nassim, Mason Asset Management president, said of the GQT sale.
They have partnered with a theater operating company, VIP Cinemas, to manage and operate the twenty-two New GQT theaters. The theater locations include twelve in Michigan, seven in Indiana, two in Missouri, and one in Illinois.
“We are truly excited to be acquiring and reopening the GQT theaters and we remain optimistic about the future of the industry,” stated Mark McSparin, President of the New GQT. “We will reopen with the main objective of maintaining quality operations for our guests through cleanliness, customer service, and value. The Goodrich name has been in the theater business for 90 years and we believe that it is important to keep the name going for many more years to come.”
William Goodrich founded the company in Grand Rapids in 1930. His son, Bob Goodrich, controlled the company from 1967 until the bankruptcy.
Mark McSparin said they will “welcome the majority of GQT’s former general managers and staff to the New GQT team.” The Oxford 7 general manager has not been hired yet, but they are actively seeking to fill the position, said New GQT spokesperson Matt McSparin.
No specific date has been set, but if COVID-19 restrictions permit, they aim to open the Oxford 7 by early August ahead of this summer’s anticipated blockbusters such as Warner Brothers’ “Tenet” and Disney’s “Mulan.”
No date has been set for when movie theaters will be allowed to reopen in southeast Michigan. “We are tracking the impact of the Governor’s decree and watching that closely in order to make a responsible decision on re-opening,” Matt McSparin said.
“One thing that you can expect right away is a reduction in concession prices, and in most cases, ticket prices. We have built our other theater operations on the promise of value and will continue to make that a hallmark of the New GQT operations,” Vice President of Theater Operations, Jake McSparin shared.
The New GQT says it will honor GQT gift cards and the GQT Rewards program, subject to applicable law.
Initially, Oxford 7 tried to stay open through the bankruptcy proceedings and early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Michigan, until Gov. Whitmer ordered all theaters to close March 16. Several days later, all employees were terminated and were told they would not reopen after the COVID-19 shutdown.
GQT has owned the Oxford theater at 48 South Washington since 1997. The theater’s history goes back much further than that, however. It occupies the site of the former Oxford Opera House, built in the 1890s and destroyed by fire in 1972. The Opera House began screening motion pictures in 1914 and was fully repurposed as a movie theater after a 1934 fire.