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Wednesday July 28, 2021
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Quality 16 Is Dark, Again

This one may be permanent.

by Micheline Maynard

From the July, 2021 issue

West siders and people who like to watch movies in comfortable seats were delighted when the Goodrich Quality Theaters group opened Quality 16 on Jackson Rd. in 1999.

Along with big studio pictures and independent films, Quality 16 hosted broadcasts of Metropolitan Opera performances and other on-screen events, attracting flocks of kids, parents, and movie devotees.

But films have not been shown there since April, and the theater is closed "until further notice," says Matt McSparin, the chief operating officer of GQT Movies.

"It's kind of a sad story," McSparin says.

GQT was created last year, when west Michigan-based Goodrich Quality Theaters filed for bankruptcy and New York's Mason Asset Management and Namdar Realty Group picked up the pieces. The Ann Arbor theater reopened last October, showing films at bargain prices--$3.99 in the morning, $4.99 in the afternoon, and $5.99 at night.

But when the pandemic's second wave hit late last fall, Michigan's "pause to save lives" closed theaters for seven weeks, wiping out the lucrative holiday movie season.

"We had to shut when we would have gotten healthy," McSparin says. This past winter, GQT theaters overall were attracting only 15 percent of their 2019 business. That, plus an inability to find enough staff, led to GQT's decision to shut the Ann Arbor location indefinitely.

McSparin says that they decided to focus on theaters elsewhere in Michigan, where it has nine properties, mainly on the west side of the state. It has fourteen more in five other states.

He says business elsewhere has climbed back to about 50 percent of where it stood two years ago. Summer movies, such as In the Heights and Cruella have been "a shot in the arm," he says.

There's still a year to go on the Ann Arbor lease, and McSparin says the property's landlords already have been "very friendly to work with."

However, reducing rent alone can't revive the complex, because challenges at Quality 16 predate the pandemic, he says.

The theater complex faced stiff competition in the Ann Arbor area and across metro Detroit from other multiplexes as well as the city's historic theaters. "It's been in an accelerated decline in sales for the past five years," McSparin says.

McSparin says he can't predict whether Quality 16 will eventually reopen or who might become the next tenant. "There might not be a theater a year from now," he says.


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