The former Hollywood 20 movie theater, closed for three years, may reopen before summer under new owners and management.
"I think it'll be up and operating as a theater in the next four months. That's my gut feeling," said Jeff Sherman, the Oldsmar attorney representing the theater's new owners.
The empty theater on Van Dyke Road sold for $5.2-million in October. Since then, the new owners have been talking to cinema chains about resuming first-run movies there.
Sherman said he believes the owners have been in talks with:
Marquee Cinemas, a West Virginia chain that owns a dozen theaters, mostly in mid-Atlantic states.
Muvico Theaters of Fort Lauderdale, which owns a dozen theaters mostly in Florida.
AMC Entertainment Inc. of Kansas City, which owns 235 theaters in the United States, Canada, the Pacific Rim and Europe.
A spokesman for Muvico declined to comment about the theater. Officials of Marquee and AMC didn't return telephone calls.
Sherman wouldn't comment about the Hollywood 20's new ownership. The deed shows a 75 percent share is owned by the Hollywood Lutz Land Trust, formed last July by Santo Carollo, a Clearwater mortgage broker, who is listed as trustee. The other 25 percent is owned by Bill Nye, a Wesley Chapel real estate broker, and his wife, Andrea.
In 1994, Carollo was one of seven area businessmen charged with bilking investors out of $300,000 through illegal securities sales. Also charged were Carollo's father, Salvatore, and Vincent LoScalzo, long labeled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as a local Mafia leader. The younger Carollo eventually pleaded no contest to sale of unregistered securities and was sentenced to two years of probation. His record is otherwise clean.
The Hollywood 20 was one of many theaters closed during a purge of the overbuilt cinema industry in 2000. However, it was one of the newest and biggest to close, having operated only three years.
The theater was being built by Cobb Theaters of Birmingham, Ala., when Cobb was acquired for $200-million by Regal Cinemas of Nashville. Regal also had signed to locate a 20-screen theater in the new Citrus Park mall. Thus Regal found itself planning competing theaters 7 miles apart.
Regal closed the Hollywood 20 nine months after the Citrus Park 20 opened. Regal removed the projection equipment, screens and seats. Sherman estimated that new theater managers would have start-up costs of $2-million to $6-million, depending on how many changes they want to make.
While the Hollywood 20 has been closed, its market has grown. Thousands of homes have been built in Land O'Lakes and off Lutz-Lake Fern Road.
"The area is growing and it's a good parcel," Sherman said.
_ Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or coatssptimes.com.