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Regal Columbia Cinema, 3400 Forest Drive Suite 3000: 6 February 2022   7 comments

Posted at 11:08 pm in closing

13 July 2008:

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8 February 2022:

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9 February 2022:

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The last movie I saw during the pre-COVID era at Regal Columbia Cinema was Frozen 2, in which I was highly disappointed (though my niece liked it). I know that I saw at least one movie there after the theaters re-opened, but for the life of me I can recall what it was right now. On both occasions the experience was fine (apart from the actual movie..), but you could tell that the place was definitely an older auditorium which hadn't kept up with all the new trends.

That was not at all the case when these cinemas opened. As I have written before this location was not the first theater at Richland Mall. The old open-air mall had a free-standing duplex on an out-parcel where I saw many a "summer movie" during those old "drop off the kids & shop" promotions. It also famously had a time capsule, though commenter Del says it eventually came to naught.

When the old mall was razed and the current mall was built, the new rooftop cinema opened as part of the Litchfield Theaters chain, and it was classy. There were real cloth curtains over the screens which would be closed between the trailers and the main feature, which would start after the famous "Sea Oats" logo. I'm a little hazy on what happened to Litchfield Theaters. I think perhaps the head guy perished in a plane crash and the chain fell into hard times without him, but I couldn't swear to that.

Anyway, after that, it became part of the Regal chain, and I always looked forward to the "policy trailer" with the animated monorail riding along a track of 35mm film (and the Kernel of Doom! popcorn). The trailer was updated many times over the years with increasingly elaborate train redesigns, state of the art CGI and audio effects. Most recently, it has lost a bit of its charm as people have forgotten what "film" was, and the 35mm tracks have been replaced with actual rails.

As you can see from the 2008 pictures, in the beginning, you could take the escalator from inside the mall to the roof and walk to the theater from there, and there were also "Now Playing" & "Coming Soon" posters in displays on the walls of the mall in a couple of places. Sometime after Belk closed its entrance to that side of the mall, they stopped running the escalator, and the only way to the theaters was to drive to the rooftop.

As I mentioned elsewhere recently, my impression in years past was that this theater and the theaters behind Golden Corral had a gentleman's agreement to not book duplicate movies in most cases, and it was usually the case that if you were in Forest Acres, your movie would be at this theater or that one, but not both. In recent years this broke down, especially with so few movies available recently, and I don't think that helped the bottom line for this place. Certainly being closed for months on end during the darkest days of the pandemic did not.

During that closure, the mall management put up traffic cones and sawhorses to keep you from driving back into the theater area, and as you can see in the 9 February pictures, those are now back. However the cones were set aside today as a number of vehicles were back in the theater area, perhaps getting ready to clear it out, as was a news crew from WOLO.

With the mall currently under contract to be sold and possibly razed, I doubt that any second operation or dollar cinema will move in here, but as predictions about the mall have always been iffy, we'll just have to see.

Here are stories from WLTX, The State & The Free Times.

(Hat tip to commenter Jeannette)

Written by ted on February 9th, 2022

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7 Responses to 'Regal Columbia Cinema, 3400 Forest Drive Suite 3000: 6 February 2022'

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  1. This one hurts a bit, as I have some sentimentality for this theater. Growing up near Trenholm Park, Richland Mall could be reached fairly quickly, even on foot.
    I was in middle school when Richland Mall was rebuilt. I saw many movies at this theater, including many blockbusters. Jurassic Park comes to mind, and the sound system in the theater was state of the art at the time. You could feel the bass from the theater speakers in every other screen room and even outside when certain scenes came on.
    This place was like an oasis on hot summer days in my youth. Sad to see it go, but Richland Mall has basically been a bust from the rebuild onward, and this theater did hold on a lot longer than anyone expected it to. I had planned to go see one more movie here for good old times sake, but I did not have the chance.
    Thanks for the pics, Ted. They brought back fond memories. I had not seen that exit ramp or concession stand in 20 years, at least.

    Cam

    10 Feb 22 at 2:04 pm

  2. Id love to get that neon. I have no attachment to that theatre but i saw alot of movies at the original Richland Mall theaters.

    Dan R

    10 Feb 22 at 6:01 pm

  3. When they built the original RM Theater, it had a time capsule that had several things of that time that were to be opened how ever many years later it would be. One that I remember being told was an original Beatles Yesterday and Today Butcher Cover from Merrie's? record store was in there, but due to a bad seal, over the years water got into the thing and ruined it all. My Parents and I went to the grand opening of the place in 1966 to see Doris Day in " The Glass Bottom Boat". I still have that program they handed out to each person/family that went to it. It was nice for that time, but other more updated theaters came along and it become more of an antique looking outdated place. I saw the original Batman movie there, the Ten Commandments, House of Dark Shadows, The Glass Bottom Boat, and other movies I can't remember now. If they had kept the Mall and original theater, it would be very "Retro" now I think. Columbia isn't and never was a "Fashion Mall" type place though..but people just don't get that for some reason.

    Db

    11 Feb 22 at 10:29 pm

  4. I have lived in Columbia since 2007 and never knew there was an active cinema at Richland Mall till now. Wow.

    Danielle

    13 Feb 22 at 12:10 pm

  5. Yup
    Through most of the theater’s life span it seemed quite busy.

    John

    13 Feb 22 at 7:06 pm

  6. This one stings a bit. Sure, the theater was a bit rundown, and the screens were small, but t was really close to my house and nothing beat going here on a weeknight and being almost guaranteed to have the whole theater to yourself while watching a movie.

    Matthew

    16 Feb 22 at 8:50 am

  7. I haven’t been here since seeing “Beloved” almost 20 years ago!

    Alicia

    22 Feb 22 at 8:35 pm

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