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ParkSide lures movie fans with $1 matinees

The cinemas at ParkSide mall have a treat for film fans _ dollar movies.

To take advantage, you have to be willing to see a second-run movie during the early afternoon. The dollar shows are limited to two of the mall's 16 theaters and will play at 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday. All other features will be at regular prices.

The new offering is simply a way to make more money by trying to attract many people who do not regularly attend ParkSide Movies 16, said David Phillips, vice president of R/C Theatres Management Corp., which owns the cineplex.

When the multiplex first opened, all movies were $1 repeats and the proceeds went to charity. About 15,000 people went to the movies during that time, but many did not become regular patrons, Phillips said. When R/C began looking for ways to maximize the money they were making at ParkSide, someone said, "Why don't we do something to draw these people back to the theater?"

"We thought we would try it and see what happens," he said.

This week, R/C booked Meet the Parents with Robert DeNiro and Ben Stiller and America's Sweethearts starring Julia Roberts and Billy Crystal. Next week, the dollar films will be the Mel Gibson/Helen Hunt film What Women Want and the animated Shrek.

In April, the offerings include Along Came a Spider, Rush Hour, Erin Brockovich and The Wedding Planner.

Phillips said the dollar shows do not represent an act of desperation; the theaters are doing well. But he conceded that Pinellas County's movie market has changed since R/C decided to open in Pinellas Park.

The main change, he said, is the proliferation of other cinemas with stadium-style seating and advanced sound systems. St. Petersburg's BayWalk, among others, may have drawn some business that would have come to ParkSide had it been the only such theater.

But local people are going to ParkSide, Phillips said, and the cinema is doing better financially than ParkSide mall as a whole.

"Certainly the rest of the mall has lagged behind in success," Phillips said.

It's no secret that ParkSide mall continues to struggle despite millions of dollars in renovations. Most of the storefronts are empty; foot traffic is limited. Most of the mall's activity is concentrated at the ice skating rink and the movie theaters.

Late last year, John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co., the mall's owner, apparently put the structure up for sale. It's unclear if there has been much interest.

Mall managers did not return a phone call asking for comment.