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Smuggling film closure
By Mark Brown and Paul-Mark Rendon
The curtain is set to fall on Smugglers' Alley theatre today, as Famous Players Inc. gets set to move to Masonville Place.
Mike Hogan, district supervisor for Famous Players, said the theatre will close down as of today. "All I know is that I got instructions to close that site."
Hogan added due to Famous Players' strict information policy, lips were sealed as to any future plans.
The company had asked Mutual of New York, who owns the Smugglers' Mall property, to release them from their lease so it could pursue its plans to develop theatres at Masonville Place.
The decision to close the theatre could mean the site may sit vacant but some city councillors see it as an opportunity to revitalize London's downtown core.
Joe Swan, Ward 2 councillor, said he was not concerned the site would remain vacant for long since the property would still cost MONY a quarter of a million a year in taxes.
"I guess [Famous Players] have settled their accounts with Mutual of New York. That in turn gives us some confidence that MONY has plans to develop it," Swan said. He added the timing of the announcement may be MONY's attempt to benefit from a tax break incentive being offered from the city to parties interested in building downtown.
Lindsey Elwood, chair for the London Downtown Business Association, said while the site holds much potential, he is in the dark as to what will happen. "I don't know what MONY is going to do with the building. Everyone is speculating right now," he said.
Elwood said the building is structurally designed to accommodate up to eight more floors. "It's possible to have viable retail on the main floors and residential space on the other [floors]."
Orlando Zamprogna, a controller for the city of London, said interest in the property has been on and off. "We've heard everything from residential to theatres to student housing, but I think these are wild dreams," he said.
MONY has yet to make an announcement as to what they plan to do with the site. "There is no announcement at this time as to the future of this site," said Charles Wasilewski, public relations representative for MONY.
Linda Reed, city administrator for the London Chamber of Commerce, said the city welcomes any plans for revitalization. "Investment is always good and absolutely in the best interests of the city," she said.
Zamprogna said although the city welcomes revitalization of the property, he did not believe the site should be occupied by shopping or retail businesses, as the core is presently saturated with them. "It's not the thing to do these days. We'd like to see entertainment or specialty stores take its place."
He added the city is not considering repossessing the site. "We're not thinking of expropriation at all. I for one would not be in favour," Zamprogna said.