Did Galleria owners use Hurricane Dorian as an excuse to close its doors?


By E.J. Rolle

Compass Contributor

As Grand Bahama continues to recover from the devastation from Hurricane Dorian and as residents try to settle into some level of normalcy, they are beginning to notice a void in their lives. The kind of void that may not be considered important, but rather a necessity in helping those who live there forget about the misery they’ve been through since September 2, 2019.

Entertainment has always been a way to help people forget their troubles and with so many of the entertainment places on the island out of commission because of the storm, many Grand Bahamians have taken to binge watching their television sets at home.

But during the Christmas break and every weekend since electricity was totally restored to the island, Grand Bahama residents have had a craving to take in a movie, but knew that the only movie theatre on the island, Galleria Cinemas, has been closed since Dorian passed through.

Everyone took it for granted that because of destruction, the theatre was down. Five months since the storm and with no sign of the theatre reopening, Grand Bahamians began asking questions. Over the past weekend, when new movies like “Bad Boys” and “Just Mercy” films were released and with no way for Grand Bahamians to take in the movie at the theatre, the questions turned into concern.

“It’s been five months and I don’t even know if Galleria is closed for repairs or closed for good,” said Michael Bain, a movie lover, who said he spent hundreds of dollars at Galleria over the years. “No one is saying anything. I don’t think the public should be left in the dark like this.”

A source has told The Compass that Galleria has permanently closed. Asked if it was due to damage from the storm, the source revealed that that was only a small part of the problem.

“There was some damage because the roof leaked and a lot of the chairs got wet,” said our source. “So there was roof damage and minor damage inside the theatre, but because the building was closed up all this time, I think that mold is probably a big problem by now.

“What is worse is there is no work being carried out at the place, so only God knows what inside the theatre is like now.  Mold in a dark, damp place…my goodness.”

From all indications, the owners have no immediate plans of reopening Galleria Cinemas.  As the source indicated, no cleanup or repair work has taken place at the theatre. At least, none anyone has seen.

The Compass has also learned the owners have since removed all of the projectors from the theatre.

According to one worker, the owners have not officially closed the theatre and while there have been no firings, they have been left hanging in limbo, unsure if they still have a job.

“We were paid one or two weeks right after the storm, but since then, no one has been paid on a consistent basis,” said the worker. “They pay us something when they feel like it, but it’s nothing consistent.

“At this point, I don’t know whether to go out and look for another job or to hang around until they make up their minds about what they want to do with the theatre. I can’t survive like this. I have bills that come every month, but without a consistent paycheck, I’m having problems making ends meet.”

Asked why the workers don’t get together and go to the Labor Board, the worker said it won’t make sense because they have not officially been fired. It seemed like a smart move by the employer to keep the workers hanging on while keeping them from the Labor Board or any kind of industrial action.

The question that lingers is whether or not the workers can walk away from the job and go and seek other jobs? If they can, they will not be able to demand nor collect whatever payout they may be entitled to.

Thus the move to keep them in limbo.

No doubt, it’s an unfair position for the employees of the theatre. It’s also unfair to the people of Grand Bahama who find themselves stuck without a movie theatre on the island. Regular movie-goers know that watching certain movies at home on television is not the same as watching it on the big screen in a movie theatre.

Besides, who wants to watch bad, grainy, blurry, black market copies of new, popular movies, with the heads of people in the screen or walking past, with popcorn in hand? Some movies are just better seen on the big screen.

With Galleria having been closed for months, according to our source, the owners in Nassau were made an offer to sell the theatre from an American businessman out of Florida, who wanted to buy the name. However, Christopher Mortimer, former DNA Deputy Leader and CEO of Galleria Cinemas, allegedly declined.

The owners of Fusion Movie Theatres in Nassau are also reportedly looking at the closure of Galleria as a means for them to move into Freeport and set up a branch of Fusion in the Second City. However, they are wondering if Grand Bahama has the market to sustain the kind of theatres they provide.

In fact, it is believed that the opening of Fusion has taken major market share from Galleria Cinemas, thus resulting in low sales and less profit, which means that the theatre in Freeport was not only struggling, but had quickly become a deficit.

That was evident when Galleria in Freeport refused to bring the Fast and Furious: Hobbs and Shaw (July 2019) movie when it was released. It is alleged that the owners could not afford to pay for the movie for both Nassau and Freeport. The struggle for Galleria in Freeport was on.

Apparently, Hurricane Dorian was the final nail in the coffin and perhaps also a way out for the owners. They used “damages” to the theatre as a means to not reopen the facility. While it may be considered a smart business move, it was unfair to the employees, especially if they are left hanging in limbo.

So, what is the future of Galleria Cinemas? No one seems to know. The only person who can answer that question are the owners in Nassau. The Compass made attempts to contact the owners for information, but they did not return any of those calls.

Is it fair for Grand Bahamians to watch television and see trailers for all of the new movies coming out this year and not be able to go to the theatre to see those movies? With the summer quickly approaching, which happens to be the biggest time for big blockbuster movies, will Grand Bahama have a theatre which Grand Bahamians will be able to partake in one of the favorite entertainment past times?

It’s apparent that no matter how big the televisions are at home or how quick and fancy the streaming services may be, when popular blockbuster movies hit the big screens, everyone sees it as a night out to sit back in a dark theatre with popcorn, hotdogs and nachos in hand and nothing but the big screen in front, transporting one to a place other than where they presently reside.

That’s the beauty of entertainment.

Galleria owes Grand Bahamians an explanation.