Edison cinema owner hopes to create new movie scene

Corey Perrine/Staff
Neil Hill, project manager, shows off the bays inside a Sony digital projector Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 at Edison Park 8 Cinemas in Fort Myers, Fla. The locally-owned theater is eyeing to open around Christmas after a full renovation of the former 25 year-old cinema. Owner Jay Suarez has spared no expense offering premium surround sound and latest Sony SRX-R320 digital projectors. It's said to be the first  4K projector offered in Southwest Florida. Simply put, 'The neighborhood needs it,' Suarez said. 'If you give the quality, the audio, the service -- then you have a family.' Hill said that all 35mm format projectors will cease to be supplied movies at 2013's end.

Photo by COREY PERRINE // Buy this photo

Corey Perrine/Staff Neil Hill, project manager, shows off the bays inside a Sony digital projector Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012 at Edison Park 8 Cinemas in Fort Myers, Fla. The locally-owned theater is eyeing to open around Christmas after a full renovation of the former 25 year-old cinema. Owner Jay Suarez has spared no expense offering premium surround sound and latest Sony SRX-R320 digital projectors. It's said to be the first 4K projector offered in Southwest Florida. Simply put, "The neighborhood needs it," Suarez said. "If you give the quality, the audio, the service -- then you have a family." Hill said that all 35mm format projectors will cease to be supplied movies at 2013's end.

The exterior of Edison Park 8 Cinemas in Fort Myers on Aug. 11, 2011. Because of a Lee County court case, Jim Record's dream of opening a theater there stalled. Record has said he paid James Duffy for equipment, but the lawsuit raised questions who the equipment belonged to. Greg Kahn/Daily News

Photo by Greg Kahn

The exterior of Edison Park 8 Cinemas in Fort Myers on Aug. 11, 2011. Because of a Lee County court case, Jim Record's dream of opening a theater there stalled. Record has said he paid James Duffy for equipment, but the lawsuit raised questions who the equipment belonged to. Greg Kahn/Daily News

James Duffy at the Plaza Cinema Cafe in downtown Orlando in a photo taken for a magazine on June 29, 2009. Duffy and his brother, John, started their movie theater empire in Orlando in the mid-1970s. Nathan Dobbins/Special to the Daily News

Photo by Nathan Dobbins

James Duffy at the Plaza Cinema Cafe in downtown Orlando in a photo taken for a magazine on June 29, 2009. Duffy and his brother, John, started their movie theater empire in Orlando in the mid-1970s. Nathan Dobbins/Special to the Daily News

FORT MYERS — For a movie theater undergoing a rebirth near Edison Mall in Fort Myers, it's part three of the trilogy.

This time, the man developing it promises a much different ending.

Miami businessman Jay Suarez is the owner of a Winkler Avenue shopping center that is undergoing a $2 million overhaul, including an Edison Park 8 Cinemas theater scheduled to open by month's end.

After seeing two ventures by would-be tenants fail, Suarez is opening the theater himself, determined to make it a success.

In spring 2010, the theater made news in Southwest Florida when two men tried to lease the space to open The Victory Center for the Performing Arts, a planned Broadway-style theater. The Daily News reported that the men, together and separately, had founded at least a dozen businesses in Florida since 1998. Eight of those companies were dissolved within 15 months for failing to file annual reports with the state and the men left a trail of lawsuits in several Florida counties, the Daily News reported.

The next would-be tenant was Jim Record, a cinema manager who became embroiled in a lawsuit when he acquired movie projection equipment from a Bonita Springs theater that suddenly closed in late 2010. Record planned to use the equipment to open his own cinema, at the Winkler Avenue theater.

The Bonita Springs theater operator was James Duffy of Atlanta, who was the subject of a Daily News investigation and August 2011 report called "Behind the closing curtains." The Daily News tied Duffy or his string of companies to 69 lawsuits and more than $25 million in judgments for refusing to pay bills in 26 states spanning decades.

Record and Duffy were among the defendants in the suit brought by the lender, Wells Fargo, which said it wasn't paid by Duffy when he closed the Bonita theater.

With the Lee suit and questions about who owned the projection equipment pending, Record couldn't use it to open his Fort Myers theater and the venture failed.

According to court records, the Wells Fargo suit against Duffy and Record was dismissed by Lee Circuit Judge Keith Kyle in mid-September because it wasn't being actively pursued by Wells Fargo under Lee civil court procedures.

Duffy, the attorney for Wells Fargo and Record couldn't be reached for comment for this story despite repeated attempts. Court records show Lee court officials couldn't locate Duffy to serve him notices of the Wells Fargo lawsuit ending.

The transferred equipment from the Bonita Springs theater, which has since been reopened by another company, doesn't fit into Suarez's plans.

Suarez said he parted ways with tenant Record; Suarez has secured high-tech Sony equipment for use in his theater that's expected to open later this month.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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