Curtain to fall on Chapel Hill’s Lumina Theater in Southern Village this fall

The Lumina Theater is closing its doors in September, according to published reports.
The Lumina Theater is closing its doors in September, according to published reports. tgrubb@heraldsun.com

The Lumina Theater, a longtime anchor in Southern Village, is closing this fall.

D.R. Bryan, president of Bryan Properties Inc., said in an email the five-screen theater will close Sept. 2.

Bryan and his partner, John Fugo, opened the independent movie theater as a second anchor tenant on Market Street in 2000. Weaver Street Market is the primary anchor for the community’s business district.

The Lumina started with four screens, a large arcade and cafe space, adding a fifth screen in 2005.

The lobby bar was added in 2011, and the projectors recently were upgraded to show digital films. However, attendance is down, Bryan said, in part because moviegoers have so many other options, especially through subscriber services like Netflix.

“The Lumina served as a strong anchor for the first 10 years,” Bryan said. “Over the years, there’s been a slow erosion of people going to the movies nationally, and that has affected us here.”

The Silverspot Cinema, which opened in 2015 at University Place mall, is another competitor. The $12 million, 13-screen theater offers moviegoers a nontraditional experience, from hand-sewn leather seats to reserved tickets, smaller screens with satellite broadcasts of fine arts, music and sporting events, and restaurant meals, in addition to traditional snacks.

Southern Village will continue its outdoor movie series on the Village Green, Bryan said. It’s just one of four or five things happening each week on the Green, he said.

Dixon Pitt, a Bryan Properties project manager and commercial broker, has “brought a lot of life into the Village Green,” Bryan added, making it a strong district anchor. Southern Village restaurants also have seen their sales grow, he said.

Southern Village changing

While people have expressed interest in the theater space, Bryan said he can’t say what might be in the works.

“We are moving on, and can’t really say exactly what’s going to happen next, but after 19 years, we had a good run with The Lumina,” he said. “We’ve been happy for it to be here in the neighborhood.”

The news follows the Chapel Hill Town Council’s approval in November of a plan to close part of the Aberdeen Street right of way so that the theater could expand 10 feet onto the sidewalk and bring in a partner to open and operate a taphouse.

The roughly 2,500-square-foot taphouse also was slated to fill the space formerly occupied by the Lumina’s smallest screen and a police substation. It was aimed at keeping the theater competitive, Pitt said at the time.

Although the pubhouse was expected to begin construction this year, they “could not get it to make sense,” Bryan said.

He noted that Southern Village is changing along with the nationally changing retail market and now offers more services, like salons, pharmacies, insurance companies and dry cleaners. Even Weaver Street is changing by offering more prepared foods, he said.

“One of the things when we went through approvals (for Southern Village) back in ‘93 that we tried to do was to build in flexibility into our approvals, so that when the world changed, we could change,” Bryan said.

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Tammy Grubb has written about Orange County’s politics, people and government since 2010. She is a UNC-Chapel Hill alumna and has lived and worked in the Triangle for over 25 years.