Marc Berkovits at Regal Cinemas 18 in 2012.

The pandemic has hit industries across the country hard, and movie theaters were hit especially hard. The closest theater to my home, the Regal Cinemas 18-screen multiplex on Beach Boulevard, had been my primary theater for years before the Cinemark Tinseltown and XD on Southside adopted early morning showtimes and reserved luxury recliners. As Regal Cinemas begins to reopen locations around the county, the Regal Beach Boulevard 18, which I had visited 104 times over nine-and-a-half years, will not be reopening. Its doors will remain closed, its projectors off, its seats empty, indefinitely. Word is the building will be demolished soon to make way for new apartments.

I first visited the Regal Beach Boulevard in February of 2010, more than two years before I moved to Jacksonville, and saw Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Once I relocated to Jacksonville in the summer of 2012, that theater became my home away from home. In the second half of that year, I made 26 trips to the cinema, and during my first eighteen months in town, my trips to the now forgone theater accounted for more than half of my total visits. My final trip to the theater came in July of 2019 when I saw Yesterday, eight months before the pandemic hit and closed the theater. The theater would reopen in August of 2020 on the heels of Tenet and then closed again, as all Regals did, in October when No Time to Die was delayed. After that, the theater would ultimately never reopen.

On the big screen of the now-shuttered multiplex, I saw the works of amazing filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Robert Zemeckis, Ang Lee, Michael Bay, Alexander Payne, and the Coen Brothers. I also saw films from great filmmakers like James L. Brooks (How Do you Know), Clint Eastwood (Trouble with the Curve), Cameron Crowe (Aloha), and Oliver Stone (Savages) that were nowhere near great. I watched films made by Rian Johnson (Looper) and Denis Villeneuve (Prisoners) before they reached their current cinematic heights. I was introduced to Colin Trevorrow with Safety Not Guaranteed and then watched him soar with Jurassic World. I also experienced numerous films I can barely remember, including Nerve, Beastly, Red Riding Hood, The Big Wedding, This is Where I Leave You, and The Call.

The shuttered Regal Beach Boulevard in 2021.

I saw franchises end or begin their endings with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 and Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1. I watched franchises try and fail to come back from the dead with Independence Day Resurgence. I watched the Dark Universe launch and crash with The Mummy. I saw Marvel Studios films (Iron Man 3 and Doctor Strange) and non-Marvel Studios Marvel films (The Amazing Spider-Man and 2015’s Fantastic Four). I saw a dozen Best Picture nominees including two Best Picture winners, Argo and The Revenant, on Regal’s screens.

In the halls of that theater, there were cinematic moments I will never forget. I heard songs like “Let It Go”, “Lost Stars”, and “Everything Is Awesome” for the first time. I watched Mike and Sully go off to college and saw the Cleveland Browns select Vontae Mack. I met memorable characters such as Furiosa, Lou Bloom, and Napoleon Solo. I traveled to Tomorrowland, ventured Into the Storm, and survived Pompeii. I remember seeing Lincoln on Thanksgiving and Les Misérables. I remember going to see Black Swan and running into the frontman of a band I had seen just weeks earlier at an Orlando concession stand.

There are too many memories to recount that I experienced at this theater, a shining beacon of cinematic arts that is now shuttered. It wasn’t the best theater in town – its seats weren’t comfortable, its floors were sticky, and its showtimes weren’t the most accommodating, but 104 times, when the lights went down and the projector turned on, I was awed by what I saw. And no locked door or wrecking ball can ever erase that. With that, I say goodbye to the Regal Cinemas on Beach Boulevard, but most importantly, I say thank you.

Guest editorial by Marc Berkovits.