TAMPA — A bankruptcy judge Tuesday said he would not bar Channelside Cinemas from hosting events, some of which may involve big-name political celebrities, during the Republican National Convention next week.
A complaint had been filed on behalf of the cinema's landlord, Channelside Bay Mall LLC, asking the judge to stop the cinema from hosting events because they violated a lease provision prohibiting the cinemas being used as a "meeting hall."
Channelside Cinemas filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year.
In court papers, an attorney for the theater mentioned numerous big names who planned events, including Glenn Beck, Colin Powell, Laura Bush, Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin and Bill Cosby.
But a cinema marketing executive, Matt Pezzullo, told Judge Michael Williamson that Beck may have backed out. And after the hearing, Pezzullo said others mentioned in court papers had not yet signed contracts, though they may yet book events at Channelside.
Lawyers said Christine O'Donnell, a Republican from Delaware who lost a bid for U.S. Senate, was hosting an event at the cinemas dubbed the Troublemaker Fest. O'Donnell is best known for once telling comedian Bill Maher that she had "dabbled into witchcraft."
The financially struggling mall in which the theater is a tenant was placed in receivership in 2010 after defaulting on a bank loan. The receiver, Charles G. Taylor, asserts the theater has not kept him apprised of its plans and had not sought permission before booking next week's events.
Brandon Faulkner, an attorney for the receiver, said he did not necessarily oppose the events. He said the receiver just wanted more information to ensure plans, among other things, did not conflict with events by other Channelside tenants.
Faulker suggested a compromise allowing any RNC events to take place on the condition that cinema officials provide copies of the contracts it has signed, and guaranteeing profits be used to pay money owed to the landlord, including past-due rent.
Paul DeCailly, an attorney for the cinemas, said the events are allowed under the lease and his clients are not required to get approvals from the landlord.
Williamson said he would not ban next week's events because the receiver had not proven he had a substantial probability of success at a trial later. The judge also said canceling any programming would not be in the public's best interests.
Williamson nonetheless imposed a few conditions on cinema officials, ordering them to provide more information to the receiver, including its contracts. He also ordered the cinema to release budget projections and to use profits to pay money owed to creditors.
William R. Levesque can be reached at [email protected]