CARY — CARY Looming demolition plans are only part of Galaxy Cinema’s troubles: The Triangle’s largest art-house theater also faces eviction and a six-figure rent bill, according to court records.
The cinema’s landlord, York Properties, demanded last month that the theater and an affiliated restaurant leave a southeast Cary shopping center, claiming the businesses have outstayed their lease and owe nearly $160,000 in past-due rent. York already has tentative plans to replace the aging theater with a 53,000-square-foot Harris Teeter grocery store.
News of the six-screen theater’s precarious position quickly went viral this week, prompting scores of comments and thousands of clicks. Supporters said the theater’s quirky design and array of independent films are a cultural highlight of Cary, while its Bollywood features have made it a hub for Indian-Americans.
“We are dedicated to finding a way to keep that spirit, of an independently owned and operated business that’s providing this wonderful, magical mix of movies,” said Kim Yaman, marketing director for the 7-year old business.
But Yaman acknowledges she has stopped selling memberships to the Galaxy and says she has no idea what will become of the cinema that opened more than 30 years ago as the Imperial Theater.
The case to evict the theater could be decided as early as a July 10 hearing in Wake County Small Claims Court, while York Properties expects a final decision on the Harris Teeter proposal within two months.
“We do not have a definitive timetable, nor are we 100 percent certain that the deal may happen,” said Smedes York, chairman of York Properties, who had a hand in the shopping center’s construction in 1975. “...If things fall into place, we’re talking about knowing the timetable within 60 days.”
Site plans for the project, submitted this month to the town of Cary, also call for the demolition of the 56,000-square-foot office building that is home to a number of businesses, such as Shortie’s Out of Sight Café, as well as The Center for Volunteer Caregiving and the office of Grace Community Church. York Properties contacted those tenants Wednesday, York said.
Harris Teeter, which operates another store just across the road, has declined to comment on the proposed plans.
Court records show the rent dispute began as early as February, when Village Square Limited Partnership, an arm of York, claimed that Bombay Beijing, a Galaxy-owned restaurant, owed almost $40,000 in rent. The complaint was dismissed weeks later because neither party went to a hearing.
The new eviction notices, filed on May 22 and May 24, make broader claims. They argue the cinema owes about 21 months of rent and the restaurant owes six months, and that leases for both businesses ended on April 15. The claim seeks full payment and vacation of the premises.
York declined to comment on the eviction, and Yaman, the theater marketing director, said she didn’t know enough about the theater’s finances to comment. Four people own the Galaxy, and none of them could be reached for comment Wednesday.
The business will have a chance to appeal the case if the July hearing goes against the theater and restaurant.
It took less than 48 hours for more than 400 people to join Save Galaxy Cinema, a Facebook group founded Monday night. They’ve compiled a lengthy history of the theater and kicked around plans to pressure local governments and the developer.
“In my opinion, if you took all the other independent theaters in the area and combined them, you still would not have the Galaxy,” a user named Barry Gibbe wrote on the Facebook page.
Elena Everett of Durham, one of the Galaxy’s first employees, recalled the theater’s growth into a cultural hub. “There’s international cinema, there’s Spanish-language films – people would drive all the way from South Carolina to see those movies,” said Everett. “The closest Bollywood cinema is in Atlanta.”
And the Indian-American owned theater is a crossroads where Cary’s growing Indian-American community mingles with folks attracted by the Triangle’s largest independent film offerings, said Subhash Gumber, chairman of the N.C. Indian-American Political Action Committee.
“The whole community goes there,” he said. “That is a very valuable thing to have, a venue for all of us to go to.”
The ultimate decision about the property’s future likely lies only with the shopping center’s owners. Even if the theater escapes eviction, York has the legal right to put a new commercial building on the property, so long as it meets the town of Cary’s rules and regulations.
Kenney: 919-460-2608 or twitter.com/KenneyOnCary