Palace Amusement invests millions in new Portmore cinema

Business reporter

Sunday, May 26, 2019

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RANSFORD White, the entrepreneur who owns the Portmore Pines Plaza, may have been right in his forecast for a movie house in Portmore, St Catherine, even after Palace Amusement's decision to exit the market in 2004.

Eight years ago the entrepreneur pumped $300 million into a 10,000-square-foot multilevel space designed for a cinema in Portmore Pines based on his research which showed that the residents of Portmore would welcome a cinema.

White was seeking to lease the building to investors with a track record in the movie business, but in 2015, he decided to pitch the space at information technology and communication businesses after the movie concept failed to materialise.

Today, that space is occupied by nearshore business process outsourcing company, Ibex Global and, interestingly, Palace Amusement is eyeing June opening for its fourth cinema in the Sunshine Outlet Mall, Braeton Parkway; less than 500 metres away or roughly a five-minute walk from the Portmore Pines Plaza.

Efforts by the Jamaica Observer to get a response from Palace Amusement on if it had considered White's arrangement proved futile, but recent developments in the area's housing and commercial infrastructure may have contributed to the company's decision to re-enter the market.

“That was a long time ago and things have changed a lot. At the time there were not many businesses in Portmore and people had to commute from wherever, mainly Kingston, to see our shows, so it was difficult to sustain the cinema,” Palace Amusement's marketing manager, Melanie Graham told the Sunday Finance.

She added that the cinema was also forced to have mainly early shows to mitigate concerns of commute by its customers combined with the fact that Portmore Mall did not prove viable for the operation.

“Now that the city is more developed and has a lot more businesses, quite a number of people will find it easier to access. The specifications from the previous cinema were not what we wanted, but this one has the ingredients that make it successful,” the marketing manager said.

The cinema, which will operate under the brand, Sunshine Palace, will bring back to four the number of cinemas Palace Amusement operates, including Carib Cinema and Palace Cineplex in Kingston and the Palace Multiplex in Montego Bay. The company closed its Odeon Ciniplex in Mandeville back in 2014.

Graham told the Jamaica Observer that the company has already pumped “hundreds of millions” in the Portmore development which has a seating capacity of 674 across five spaces the Palace Amusement has leased from the Loshusan–owned Sunshine Outlet Mall.

Aside from leasing expenses, a portion of the investment was also used to equip one of the auditoriums with digital laser projection, a service that has already taken off at Palace Amusement's flagship cinema, Carib 5 in Cross Roads.

“This is a special device that uses a silver screen. It enhances the cinema experience and creates exceptional 3D brightness, high contrast, and superior colour performance,” Graham said.

While maintaining the regular concessionary fares, Palace Amusement hopes to woo the residents of St Catherine with VIP recliners for the laser theatre. With improved road access across the island, the cinema is targeting customers as far as Bog Walk, St Catherine.

“We decided to try something a little different with the recliners. We will also have a kiosk outside of the cinema so it can be accessed even when we are not open,” Graham said.

“The show times haven't been set, but we are looking at early and late show on Saturdays. We understand that Portmore is a late night city, so we are looking forward to all of that,” she continued.

Sunshine Outlet spans 106,391 square feet or 2.44 acres of land with 38,000 square feet used for building space. Operator of the facility, Coronet Holdings — a subsidiary of Vincent Loshusan and Sons Limited — will lease 24 retail spaces to include the four theatres and the kiosk that will be occupied by Sunshine Palace.

It understood that the shopping mall will open until 1 am on the weekends to facilitate the operations of Sunshine Palace and a grill.

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