CARROLLWOOD — Flooding, a landlord-tenant dispute, a threatened lawsuit and a tsunami.
One problem after another has plagued the proposed cinema bistro at the Main Street Shopping Center, and now the theater's owner can't say for sure when it will open.
"It has been a nightmare," said Howard Edelman, who co-owns the business with partner Gonen Minuskin.
Problems started unfolding last spring after heavy rains revealed a leaky roof as the theater's six screening rooms, restaurant, bar and separate party rooms upstairs were still under construction.
A contractor hired by the landlord in July ripped off the roof to make repairs but didn't complete the project before a heavy downpour struck in August, leaving the half-finished theater in ruins.
"The water was just pouring in through the ceiling," he said. "We had to rip out ceiling tiles, sheet rock, the electrical. The cabinets were ruined. There was water everywhere."
Edelman's insurer agreed to pay $90,000 and sent a flood-abatement company to clean the mess.
The roofing work was finally completed, but then a dispute erupted between Edelman and landlord RMC Property Management Group over who should pay remaining costs for the damage, estimated at $130,000. Edelman blamed RMC.
Even before then, problems were brewing. This past spring, Edelman got word that delivery of six Sony digital projectors from Japan had been delayed because of the earthquake and tsunami that struck that nation in March. They're now sitting in storage.
Then, about a month ago, an attorney representing the Broward County Film Society threatened to sue unless Edelman changed the theater's name — then called Cinema Paradiso Bistro — because it was too similar to the name of a theater in Fort Lauderdale called Cinema Paradiso.
The proposed theater's name now is Villagio Cinemas. The marquee at the shopping center was changed about three weeks ago.
"We could have fought it, but it was just easier to change the name," Edelman said.
Edelman is a former executive at Warner Bros., Regal and UA Cinemas and co-owns with Minuskin Channelside Cinemas 10 in downtown Tampa. He says he's never encountered so many problems in opening a theater. "It's been one thing after another."
While Edelman insists he's still pushing ahead with the project, he concedes he's not exactly sure when the theater will open. He said he's hoping for a grand opening in May, but that unless the financial dispute with RMC is resolved soon, it might not happen until the fall, or later.
"If we don't open for May we'll miss the summer," he said. "Traditionally, theaters open in May or just before Thanksgiving."
Complicating matters, the company that Edelman and Minuskin own at the Channelside entertainment complex, Channelside Cinemas Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August. Edelman, who is president of that company, said the bankruptcy filing has nothing to do with the delays at Villagio Cinemas. The holdup now, he said, is due to the on-going financial dispute with RMC.
Until that's settled, Edelman said, construction at the site has been halted and he's refusing to pay rent.
Several calls to RMC's chief executive Mitchell Rice were not returned.
The theater is the former home of Main Street Cinemas. It sits tucked in the back of the Main Street shopping plaza at 11776 N Dale Mabry Highway. Edelman said he took possession of the defunct space about a year ago and began remodeling the interior shortly after, anticipating a May 2012 opening.
The lobby at Villagio Cinemas is intended to resemble an Italian village courtyard, with faux-stone columns and balustrades.
Theatergoers in six screening rooms would sit in plush recliners with tables that swivel toward them. The menu would include entrees, salads, appetizers and drinks. VIP rooms on the second floor would offer separate space for parties.
"Once it's done, it will be beautiful," Edelman said. "Basically it was a roof problem, and if it wasn't for that we'd be open now."
The in-theater dining concept is catching on around the country, particularly in places like New York and Los Angeles. Cobb Theatres, which is not affiliated with Villagio Cinemas, opened CineBistro theaters in Hyde Park and Wesley Chapel.
Rich Shopes can be reached at [email protected]
CLARIFICATION: Villagio Cinemas, a proposed Carrollwood theater with dining, is not affiliated with Cobb Theatres, which opened CineBistro theaters in Hyde Park and Wesley Chapel. Earlier versions of this story appearing in print and online were unclear on that point.