DAYTONA BEACH — The Paragon Ocean Walk 10 multiplex at Ocean Walk Shoppes closed its doors permanently at the end of the night Friday, but movies will soon be showing again at the oceanfront retail/entertainment complex.
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A new theater operator, Satellite Cinemas, has already taken over the 4-story, 50,000-square-foot space with plans to extensively renovate and reopen by mid-September, according to Richard Wakeel, managing director for Ocean Walk Shoppes.
Satellite Cinemas has locations in Titusville and Satellite Beach as well as eight in Argentina, with three more set to open in that country as well as one in Colombia, said Alejandro Sarasino, the company”s president.
Sarasino said his company, which is based in Argentina, operates in that country under the name Cine Sunstar.
The new movie theater will also have a new rebranded in-house pizza restaurant that will replace the My Pi pizzeria that Paragon operated.
Sarasino said he hopes to be able to reopen by Sept. 14, but said his company has yet to fully assess the extent of improvements needed.
“We”re installing digital projection and digital sound equipment,” he said.
Wakeel said the decision to terminate Paragon”s lease at Ocean Walk Shoppes, which still had several years to go, was ”a mutual agreement to get them out. Their attendance had gone down the past couple of years.”
“With Cobb (12 Daytona Luxury Theatres) coming on a couple years ago (at One Daytona), that affected every theater in the area,” Wakeel said.
The new theater operators at Ocean Walk will install new movie projectors as well as other new equipment, Wakeel said.
“The new operator is keeping all the workers (from the Paragon Ocean Walk 10),” he said, adding, “They”re much more aggressive in marketing. Much more hands on.”
Mike Whalen, CEO of Deerfield Beach-based Paragon Entertainment Group, confirmed that his company closed its Daytona Beach location because it couldn”t compete with Cobb.
“We were down 45 percent (in revenue) in 2017,” he said. “We still had the tourists but we lost the locals (to Cobb). The (Ocean Walk Shoppes) site was always challenged. The parking deck (across the street) was not conducive, having to have our customers pay for parking even though we refunded them out of our pockets. Also during Bike Week and other big special events, it was too crowded.”
Paragon took over the movie theater space at Ocean Walk in 2012 and over the next three years spent $2.5 million on improvements, including adding the My Pi restaurant that opened in 2013, according to an interview with Whalen and Paragon President Mike Wilson in 2015.
In his 2015 interview, Whalen said his company planned to invest another $1 million on further renovations.
On Tuesday, Whalen acknowledged Paragon never went through with those additional improvements.
“We had a great run,” he said. “The theater was successful (for a while) and was profitable, but the opening of Cobb, that was really the downfall.”
Whalen and Paragon President Mike Wilson in 2015 said their Daytona Beach location employed 45-to-60 workers, depending on the season.
The Daytona Beach theater was down to roughly 20 workers when it closed, Whalen said on Tuesday. Whalen also confirmed that his company removed the movie projectors when it closed its Ocean Walk location.
Sarasino said his company plans to interview the workers that lost their jobs when the Paragon Ocean Walk 10 closed.
“Most likely, it”ll be the same staff,” he said. “We”re going to give them a chance.”
Shawn Fisher, general manager of the Sloppy Joe”s restaurant at Ocean Walk Shoppes, said, “Having a movie theater is critical to this complex.”
While Fisher said business for his restaurant has been up so far this year, compared with last year, he said he wasn”t surprised that Paragon closed its theater.
“Frankly, they seemed to have a lot of issues with maintenance,” Fisher said. “I know they had A/C (air-conditioning) issues for a number of days and the awnings for My Pi were ripped off during the hurricane (Irma) and haven”t been replaced.”
“It”s good that they”re being replaced,” he added of the theater. “You don”t want a space that big empty.”
Dawn Stoll, assistant manager of the Johnny Rockets restaurant at Ocean Walk, said she personally was saddened, but not surprised, to see Paragon close its theater.
“We”re not getting as much traffic as we did,” she said. “I think it”s the economy.”
The Paragon theater “really didn”t bring a whole lot of people,” Stoll said, “but it was just $7 a day to see a movie. It was great, especially on beachside.”
Isaac Benzaken, owner of the Point Break Resort Wear shop at Ocean Walk, also attributed the closure of the Paragon theater to a decline in foot traffic.
“I think Paragon went down because of less tourism,” he said.
“So far, I”m surviving,” Benzaken said of his own shop. “Thank God for the new owners (of Ocean Walk Shoppes). They”re trying a lot. They”re listening to us. The problem is if there are not enough tourists, there are not enough customers.”
Wakeel described Ocean Walk Shoppes as an “iconic location” that has seen its overall occupancy rate increase since his company, Toronto, Canada-based Dundas Real Estate Investments, took over the 110,646-square-foot retail/entertainment complex in 2016.
The center recently leased its last available restaurant space to a Vietnamese/Asian fusion cuisine chain called Pho 13, which will open its location next to Johnny Rockets by year”s end, Wakeel said.
Wakeel said his company now has just one retail space left: a 6,000-square-foot second-level unit above Ker”s WingHouse that was previously being used as storage space.
Built in 2002, Ocean Walk Shoppes at 250 N. Atlantic Ave., is located next to the historic Bandshell, between the area”s two largest hotels: the 744-room Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort and 710-room Wyndham Ocean Walk timeshare resort.
The center”s other tenants include several restaurants and bars: Sloppy Joe”s, Bubba Gump Shrimp, Crazy Italy, Mai Tai Bar, Johnny Rockets, and Ker”s WingHouse, as well as several retail shops.