Maple Grove is now without a movie theater after AMC Theatres abruptly closed the Arbor Lakes 16 following last week's shows, ending a 21-year run.
A sign taped to the front door of the multiplex directs patrons to the nearest AMC theater in Coon Rapids.
Maple Grove officials had been bracing for the possibility that the theater might close, but they were not expecting anything to happen until at least March when the theater's lease was up.
"It came as a surprise to us," said Joe Hogeboom, Maple Grove's director of community and economic development, who learned about the sudden shut down through an e-mail Sunday night.
However, the building at 12575 Elm Creek Blvd. in the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes isn't likely to remain vacant long. Launch Properties has submitted plans to the city that includes transforming the cinema into a Floor and Decor store. The Georgia-based retailer specializes in hard surface flooring and flooring accessories.
Plans also call for three new buildings to rise in part of the theater's parking lot. They include a bank and a national deli chain that is entering the Twin Cities market, a 6,000-square-foot upscale Italian restaurant with a 3,000-square-foot patio, and another eatery Hogeboom described as a "fast-casual restaurant."
"This looks to be a good reuse of a big box [store] that are becoming increasingly available," Hogeboom said.
Launch Properties is expected to bring final plans to the Maple Grove Planning Commission on Jan. 31 with the measure to come before the City Council in February.
If approved, the project could solve issues the city has had with the property. In 2019, Maple Grove declared the theater a nuisance property because the city had to fill potholes that formed in the parking lot and there was lots of overgrown vegetation.
"The theater did minimal maintenance," Hogeboom said. "We are excited to redo the parking lot, trees and vegetation, and correct things the community has been talking about."
Redeveloping the cinema complex is also expected to help improve traffic circulation in the area, he said.
The theater opened as a Mega Star Cinema in 2001 before AMC took over. The theater had a full slate of blockbusters and feature films until the onset of the pandemic in 2020.
"It really has not come back to that," Hogeboom said, noting it has been used mostly for special events and rentals in recent months.
An AMC spokesman didn't give a specific reason for the closure, but said the Kansas-based chain "makes decisions on a theater-by-theater basis based on what will best strengthen the company going forward."
Employees at the Maple Grove theater were offered the opportunity to transfer to nearby locations, said spokesman Ryan Noonan.
Maple Grove lost its only other cinema, the Mann Theater, in 2012 when it converted to a facility featuring bowling, laser tag and WhirlyBall, a game in which participants ride in bumper cars while trying to throw a Wiffle ball into a goal. That left AMC as Maple Grove's last remaining place to catch a flick.
Hogeboom said the city has reached out to other chains to fill the void, but it has not had any takers yet. He said the city remains open to bringing in a cinema.
"We recognize the desire to have one [a movie theater] here in the city," Hogeboom said. "I'm hopeful that as the market comes back for that type of use, we will again see a movie theater in Maple Grove."
Redoing the AMC site is not the only big project on the agenda for 2022. In the summer, Maple Grove plans to refresh its Main Street corridor with new roads, new crosswalks, sidewalks, lighting, public art and public gathering spaces.