Park Place Stadium Cinemas has been a fixture in downtown Charleston since 1981. (Photo/MetroNews)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A 43-year entertainment venue in downtown Charleston has closed its doors.

The owners of Park Place Stadium Cinemas announced on Facebook Tuesday that it closed its doors at the end of business Monday.

“This decision wasn’t easy, but unfortunately, declining business and the high cost of necessary upgrades have made it unavoidable,” the message said.

The owners, the Hyman family of Huntington, thanked their patrons who have watched movies at the Washington Street East location since 1981.

Park Place has been a fixture in downtown
Charleston since 1981. (Photo/MetroNews)

“We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you who has been part of our journey. Your support, laughter, and shared moments have made the Park Place Cinemas an enduring part of the Charleston community,” Park Place said.

Owner Derek Hyman told MetroNews it’s a tough business.

“We are not unique. This is something that is happening in the theatre business. There are other theatres closing down. We have theatre we closed in Cincinnati just last week,” Hyman said.

Covid hurt Park Place but also competition, Hyman said.

“They (number of patrons) dropped off recently because of covid but they also dropped off when Marquee (Southridge-based Marquee Cinemas) put the loungers (lounge chairs) in their theatre and we’d have to do the same thing which would be quite expensive,” Hyman said.

He said putting the specialized chairs in Park Place’s 11-theatres would cost about $1 million. Hyman said he’s still waiting on a profit from a $2.5 million renovation they company did in 1999.

“Whether or not we got all of the money back—it would be close. I could probably done just as well putting money in the Stock Market,” he said. “But that is what needed to be done at that time and unfortunately every 20 years or so someone comes up with a new idea and we have to go out and spend a million dollars to do.”

Good memories

Park Place was the first theatre with more than two screens to make its way to the state’s Capital City. There was a two-screen theatre at Plaza East on Charleston’s East End and a multi-screen theatre in Kanawha City.

St. Albans resident Amy Young remembers frequently coming to Park Place when she was growing up.

“A lot of good memories here back in the day,” she said outside the theatre Tuesday. “When you came here was a big treat to come see movies and I can remember as a kid coming to see cartoon films, theer was one with a little mouse called Fievel (The American Tail) and I really like that movie. I don’t know why I remember that one.”

South Charleston resident Daniel Mead saw ‘Return to the Jedi’ at Park Place in 1983. He said he hates to see it close.

“It was a great place to have a date and it was just enjoyable to watch the movies back then,” Mead said.

Both Mead and Young are hopeful recent updates in downtown Charleston will attract something else in the space.

“It is sad to see it close considering all of the work they are going to put into the mall for the youth (Capitol Sports Center). I could see that revitalizing places like this downtown,” Young said.

Future buyer?

Current owners said they hope someone will buy the property and reopen it.

Amy Shuler Goodwin

“As we say goodbye, we hold onto hope that a new operator will see the potential in the Park Place and bring it back to life. We believe in the power of community and the magic of the movies, and we hope to see the lights of Park Place shine once again.” the Facebook message said.

Hyman said they’ve checked around for some possible buyers but they’ve had no takers. It said it would probably take a while considering the current climate.

A statement from Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin said the city will begin looking for a new tenant.

“The City has made improvements to the theater space over the last couple of years, including major improvements in the garage.

“It is our understanding all of the movie-related equipment will remain, so we are hopeful another operator will be interested in locating downtown. Foot traffic and business have both increased in this area and are expected to continue increasing with the construction of the Capital Sports Center and major improvements in the Business Improvement District. We are hopeful to find a partner that shares our vision for the future of our Downtown,” Goodwin said.

The End

Hyman said he’s sorry he had to close Park Place abruptly Monday night but that was the best way.

“If we had told our staff they would have all disappeared and had jobs within a week or two. The managers are all getting severance pay and the regular people are getting a couple of weeks of pay,” he said.

Hyman was a teenager when his father opened Park Place in 1981. He would later take over the business. He said it’s been a good life. Hyman said he hopes Park Place will be remembered for the good times it provided for movie-goers and how it helped downtown Charleston. The biggest accomplishment?

“I would say bringing hundreds of thousands of people downtown for years and years,” he said.