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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.