By Mary Hladky
IPIC theater’s landlord in Mizner Park is seeking eviction of its tenant for non-payment of rent.
The theater has not paid its rent for eight months and owed $635,510 as of November, according to the eviction case filed in Palm Beach County Circuit Court on Nov. 25 by Crocker Downtown Development Associates. That amount would increase by $79,489 for each additional month that rent is not paid.
IPIC, a chain of 14 luxury theaters across the country, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Aug. 5, 2019, as theater patronage decreased nationwide and larger theater chains copied IPIC’s dine-in option and reclining seats.
It emerged from the legal process less than three months later when its assets were sold to an affiliate of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, the chain’s largest creditor.
Like theaters across the country, IPIC was forced to halt operations in the spring as the coronavirus pandemic prompted government orders to close all non-essential businesses.
They began reopening in May.
It is unclear if the pandemic has caused IPIC’s problems, but many moviegoers are shunning theaters nationwide.
Paul Safran, IPIC’s CEO and legal counsel, did not return a call and email requesting comment. A public relations representative of the company did not answer an email query.
Attorney David W. Black of Plantation, who represents the landlord, said in an email that he does not discuss pending litigation.
As of Dec. 16, IPIC had not responded in court to the eviction lawsuit.
Court records show no similar eviction proceeding involving IPIC’s theater in Delray Beach.
Crocker Downtown Development Associates, which is tied to Mizner Park owner Brookfield Property Partners, has in recent months sought evictions of other tenants.
They include the Blue Fish restaurant, which owed $123,105 as of September, Planet Blue women’s clothing store, which owed $185,744 as of November, and Les Bijoux jewelry store, which was behind $457,298 as of May. The Les Bijoux case settled in September, with the company agreeing to pay the amount owed over time.
But Planet Blue is fighting the eviction, saying the city ordered the closures of non-essential businesses on March 25. After the store reopened, business was stagnant because of customer fears during a resurgence of COVID-19.
As a result, it was impossible for the company to pay its rent through no fault of its own, Planet Blue said in a lawsuit filed against Crocker on Dec. 3.
The company asserts that an article in its lease provides that its rent obligation can be modified in the event of a problem such as a pandemic.
While the pandemic may have made it especially difficult for businesses to pay rent, eviction cases are not uncommon. Crocker filed three lawsuits against tenants in 2017, one in 2016 and three in 2015, court records show.