By LESLEE BASSMAN, Four Points News
The locally-founded Moviehouse & Eatery company was acquired July 26 by Cinepolis, the second largest cinema operator worldwide. Including the local theater at Trails at 620 and five other Moviehouse & Eatery theaters in Texas, Cinepolis now owns 26 movie theaters in seven states within the U.S. and 738 movie theaters in 17 countries.
Co-owned by Four Points residents Rodney and Tiffany Speaks and Leslie Sloan, the local Moviehouse site was originally tagged ‘Galaxy Moviehouse & Eatery” and was the first build of the innovative deluxe theater and dining enterprise. It opened at 8300 N. RM 620 on Nov. 9, 2012, and owers reflect now that the whole concept was taking a leap of faith.
“(The sale) allows Moviehouse to really expand outside of Texas,” Speaks told Four Points News. “We think we created an amazing concept that people all over the U.S. and the world can enjoy. Cinepolis allowed that to happen.”
Cinepolis CEO Alejandro Ramirez Magana said the acquisition is relevant to the company’s global approach to the U.S. market. Cinepolis was founded in Mexico in 1971 and has 43,000 employees world-wide, according to a news release.
“This is a strategic transaction that will help us expand and strengthen our best-in-class luxury offer in this market and around the world,” Magana said in the release.
Although Speaks and Sloan aren’t staying with the new venture, Speaks said he’s not expecting any changes to the movie-goer experience with the takeover.
“Our staff didn’t change so everything is business as usual,” he said. “Nothing’s changing as far as Moviehouse. The only thing that’s changed is the ownership.”
The theater’s employees and corporate staff will remain but Cinepolis may roll out a new loyalty program Speaks said would be “a change in the guest’s favor” that Moviehouse lacked.
Speaks also said he isn’t sure if the name “Moviehouse and Eatery” would remain long-term but,
for six months, no changes will be instituted to either the cinema name or its website. However, he said the name may eventually transition to “Cinepolis” to blend into the new owner’s overall branding concept.
Betting on a new movie theater concept
Before creating Moviehouse in 2011, Speaks said he and Sloan consulted with large movie theater companies, including AMC Theaters and Cinemark, conglomerates that wanted to put a general cinema in the then-new Trails at 620 project. At the time, Alamo Drafthouse reigned over the dine-in movie experience, Speaks said.
“We thought there was a better way to do (dine-in cinema) with the introduction of the recliner and a little higher level of food,” Speaks said. “So, we went for it. It was kind of crazy, looking back, but it worked out and was very successful.”
Prior to Moviehouse’s opening, he said the two business partners didn’t have any experience running restaurants or serving food.
“We started it from scratch,” Speaks said of Moviehouse’s concept. “And we did it the way we thought it needed to be done and it worked out.”
He said the goal of the company was “always to grow the business,” with Speaks and Sloan planning to open 10 theaters in five years but ending up with five locations—two in Austin and three in the Dallas area—as well as a Woodlands, Houston site set to open later this year.
“The theater development of the building and finding the land is a little more difficult than you would think,” Speaks said. “We were able to get six open in six years instead of 10 (theaters).”
Giving back to the community
Over the years, Moviehouse has shown its commitment to help the local communities that surround each of its locations, including a March 2013 classic car show hosted by vintage automotive dealership Motoreum in the RM 620 parking lot. The event benefited the family of Russell Crawford, a Four Points husband and father who suddenly lost his life.
“We always believe that contributing to the community is important for all businesses in Four Points,” Speaks said. “We were always contributing to the (Vandegrift) High School and to charities.”
He said the company “eventually had to set a budget” on charitable contributions as a result of its “healthy” donations to various causes.
“We felt like that (donation effort) was extremely important to the community,” Speaks said. “All of our locations did local charitable donations, whether it was in Dallas or Austin.”
One last good-bye
As real estate developers, Speaks said he and Sloan may “go back to (their) real estate roots” by developing new theater sites for Cinepolis.
Although bittersweet about the sale, he said the match between Cinepolis and Moviehouse is a good one, with Sloan agreeing that Cinepolis “shares the same high standards that we maintain at Moviehouse & Eatery.”
“It’s our baby and we’re going to miss it but I think Cinepolis was absolutely the right company to buy us and we feel really good about it,” Speaks said.