AUBURN | When moviegoers Tracy Rooker and Kevin Durst arrived at the Fingerlakes Theaters in Fingerlakes Mall on Saturday afternoon, they were unpleasantly surprised by a small white sign posted on the ticket-booth window.
With no explanation, the theater went dark on Thursday leaving many families, movie buffs and supporting customers confused.
“We had no idea they decided to close," Rooker said. “And it's really too bad, because it was a place for us to come and catch a movie. And it brought a lot of business to the mall.”
Rooker and Durst hung around even after discovering that their evening plans were disrupted, watching an interesting show go on just outside the theater.
More than 20 families walked in on Saturday to learn about the theater's closing without warning.
“It was kind of sad,” Rooker said. “You saw all of these parents with their kids rush into the mall and then you saw their disappointment when they realized it was closed. It was the kids who were so sad though.”
Rooker and Durst were back at the mall on Monday afternoon but instead of catching an afternoon matinee, they were playing pool. They're disappointed by the news, they said.
Fingerlakes Mall management was also surprised by the closing. “It was very sudden,” marketing coordinator Liz Bunn said.
She said she couldn't go into detail about why the theater was shut down so abruptly but insisted that management is working hard to get someone else to operate the theater.
“We're looking right now and we are in talks with a few people but we are open to anyone interested in the theater,” she said. “We really want to go digital with our movie equipment and make it a nice experience for moviegoers and we're trying to do the best we can to get it open again.”
The theater was run by Rochester Theater Management — owned by William Yantz — who took over the mall's movie theater in 2005. The space, which consists of four movie theaters, was previously run by a Vermont-based company — Cinema North.
As of Monday afternoon, white signs were still up around the theater, an automatic message addressed callers on its 24-hour movie info line, and the management website indicated that the theater is closed. Management thanked customers for seven years of service and offered to reimburse movie gift certificates.
Multiple phone calls made to Rochester Theater Management went unanswered on Monday afternoon.
Bunn couldn't comment on the theater's revenue over the last few months, she said. But she did suggest that a face lift and new management could move it in the right direction.
“We understand what an essential experience the movie theater is to our mall and our customers and we definitely don't want to let it go to the point where there is no movie theater here," she said. "So we're really dedicated to getting that done."
She added: “If it is put in better hands it could really grow and be successful."