Marion Theatre/Ocala, FL

Ocala Star-Banner (Florida)
Thursday March 4, 2010

Ocala, Fla., Marion Theatre deal comes together
By Susan Latham Carr, Ocala Star-Banner, Fla.

Mar. 4–Because of a little serendipity and a former Ocala city councilman, the Marion Theatre may, once again, feature first-run movies.

While attending a Vanguard High School reunion, City Councilman Kent Guinn was introduced to S. David Passman, who was at the reunion with his wife. It turns out that Passman was an Ocala City Councilman when he was 19. Today, Passman is chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Carmike Cinemas, the fourth largest theater chain in the United States. He was named to that position in June, 2009 at the age of 56.

“I told him, ‘I have a theater I want you to look at,’” Guinn said.

Passman met Guinn downtown at the Marion Theatre and told Guinn he had two RC bottle caps and a quarter, the theater’s old admission price. So Guinn, who had been waiting for eight years for an opportunity to present the theater to someone who could possibly breathe new life into the historic movie house, let Passman in the door.

Guinn asked Passman if his company would be interested in operating the theater. Passman said he would have to see if it was viable. Then, one day, Passman called Guinn and said, “We think we can make it work.”

The negotiations began, and on Tuesday, the Ocala City Council, with a 4-1 vote, approved a contract with Eastwynn Theatres Inc., a subsidiary of Carmike Cinemas, to operate and maintain the Marion Theatre in Ocala’s downtown for one year. Councilman John Priester was the dissenting vote. Priester said the historic theater has termites, a problem that needs to be addressed before moving forward.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Priester said he had been present at several inspections of the theater about two to three years ago. At that time, he said Florida Pest Control reported that the building had termites “top to bottom” but could not be tented because it was adjacent to other, private, property.

“We need to do further investigation as to where we stand with the termites,” said Priester, who said he was concerned about a major incident occurring if the structure is faulty.

At around 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Assistant City Manager/City Engineer Bruce Phillips e-mailed city Fleet and Facilities Management director Chris Dobbs to ask if the theater has been treated for termites and whether the city had a termite contract.

Dobbs responded about a half-hour later by e-mail stating that the theater was treated for subterranean termites on March 20, 2006, by All Safe Termite & Pest Control. He wrote that the city has a yearly maintenance contract with All Safe.

Dobbs wrote further that the building was retreated after the theater’s renovations had disrupted the soil and breached the original barrier.

In spite of Priester’s concerns, the City Council voted for the contract, which can be renewed after the year is up.

Until Eastwynn recoups the cost of the improvements, the company, which will operate and maintain the theater, will keep 80 percent of the profits and give the city 20 percent. After that, the company would get 60 percent of the profits and the city would get 40 percent. The improvements are expected to cost $100,000. The city will pay any property taxes and will maintain the air handlers, roof and elevator.

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