Tue | Jun 18, 2019

Palace re-entering Portmore as its economy matures, forecasts sunshine

Published:Friday | May 24, 2019 | 12:17 AMAvia Collinder - Business Reporter
Cinema couple, Marketing Manager Melanie Graham and Chairman Douglas Graham of Palace Amusement Company.
Cinema couple, Marketing Manager Melanie Graham and Chairman Douglas Graham of Palace Amusement Company.

Palace Amusement is returning to Portmore at a time when the community has matured into its own economic centre, says the cinema company’s marketing manager, Melanie Graham.

The movie theatre that Palace operated there more than a decade was shuttered after failing to generate sufficient income, but that was when Portmore was mainly a dormitory community that fed workers into Kingston, Graham said.

Now, Portmore is a place where banks, retailers, business process outsourcing operators and a number of other businesses have expanded, bringing jobs with them to the so-called Sunshine City; and the residential community has grown alongside them.

Palace previously disclosed its planned return to Portmore to shareholders last year, then said in an update to the market last week that it would open the new Sunshine Palace Cinema by mid-June at the newly built Sunshine Outlet Mall.

Graham declined to comment on the investment being made, saying only that it was “hundreds of millions”. The movie house will have four screens and 674 seats.

The cinema company is also more bullish about keeping the movie theatre seats filled because of the location selected, which Graham said is more central. The site, which the company is leasing, also expands its business relationship with the Loshusan family.

The Loshusans, whose main line of business is grocery operation as well as the development of commercial real estate, are the developers of Sunshine Outlet. Palace also operates a cinema at the Loshusan-owned Sovereign Centre in Liguanea, Kingston.

Graham said Tony Loshusan was the point person for the new complex in Portmore, which, in addition to the movie theatre, will house shops and restaurants. The complex sits beside Sovereign Village, which was built by Gladstone Loshusan.

Portmore had an estimated population of about 182,000 in the last official census, nearly two decades ago. Today, those numbers have grown to around 260,000, who are more efficiently connected to Kingston through new highway routes, and the moviegoers among them typically trek into the capital for big-screen entertainment.

Palace Amusement is aiming for business for Sunshine Plaza not only from Portmore, but other St Catherine communities such as Bog Walk, Linstead, Old Harbour and Spanish Town, Graham said.

Palace Amusement, which is majority owned and operated by the Graham family, currently generates revenues of over $1 billion annually from three theatres – Carib 5 in Cross Roads with 1,355 seats and Palace Cineplex in Liguanea with 349-seats, both in Kingston; and Palace Multiplex in Montego Bay, which has 845 seats. It also distributes films to Cove Cinema in Ocho Rios and Caymanas Bay in Grand Cayman.

Palace has traded on the Jamaica Stock Exchange since 1973 and is currently the market’s most expensive stock, which up to mid-April was trading at a high of $1,450 but is now down to $1,300 per share. Majority ownership of the cinema company is held by Chairman Douglas Graham through Russgram Investments Limited.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com