…due to COVID-19, Chairman says
…new outlet store to open at facility
WHEN the COVID-19 virus hit Guyana in March, 2020, Cineplex and shopping mall MovieTowne Guyana was just marking its one-year anniversary and was in the infantile stages of development, notwithstanding big plans on the cards.
With most public facilities required to shut up shop, the cineplex was forced to shut its doors and shelve its development plans, unable to see the proper realisation of its potential. As a matter of fact, Chairman of the MovieTowne Franchise, Derek Chin, told the Guyana Chronicle that he estimates the losses suffered over the past year and a half due to the effects of the pandemic to be between US$2.5 – US$3 million.
However, with COVID-19 restrictions being eased in Guyana and an aggressive vaccination drive giving hope, principals of the facility are ready to see MovieTowne become the flagship facility they know it can be.
“Unfortunately, with the interruption of the few years, that was a major setback for us at MovieTowne, but we are here now to go and finish the job and when it’s finished, it’s going to take on such a beautiful life of its own,” Chin shared.
Ahead of getting back on track at the facility, Chin paid a four-day visit to Guyana last week and on Friday last, he sat down with the Guyana Chronicle for an exclusive interview to discuss his development plans for the facility.
“I am here to ensure all that needs to be done is done,” Chin said.
“I want to come to Guyana, meet the authorities, my tenants and staff and be able to have a chat with them; we all have experienced one of the worst years. I just want to let them know we will build this back, and we will give them back what they’ve lost plus more. We’ve sat down with staff and talked about how much capital we are willing to put in to get the place ready.”
Chin said the revenue loss greatly affected him and the staff since most of them could not work.
“It really hurts to see my place closed down. This is a shadow, we have experienced two years of a very rough time and it’s nowhere near where I want it to be,” he expressed.
Nonetheless, Chin praised his staff, whom he said ensured the facility remained in tip top shape even as it battled the pandemic.
“I was impressed that it is being kept and maintained as if being opened all along. I told my staff now let’s make it even better for the people of Guyana. I want them to help me to make it ‘di’ place. I have some great staff, who have really carried the flag during the COVID situation,” Chin said.
Meanwhile, Chin noted that there are plans in the pipeline to expand and develop his brainchild facility, and the public can expect to see the pace of things picking up by year-end.
“The challenge now is how do we complete the journey and become the MovieTowne that I know it can become?
“We have been wooing and securing tenants that we feel are going to add to the space. We have the shoe store ‘Payless’ which is going to open this month. We have a number of other tenants in the process of finalisation that would probably put us up to about 80 percent. We are hoping that most of them by Christmas will be firmly in place and open for business,” the Chairman said.
Later this week, the first Payless Shoe Source franchise is scheduled to open at the mall.
INVESTMENTS IN GUYANA
Aside from spending time at his facility, Chin’s visit also included meetings with the President of Guyana, Dr. Irfaan Ali; Go-Invest Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Peter Ramsaroop, and National Security Adviser to the President, Gerry Gouveia, among others.
Chin was also accompanied by a number of major investors whom he said are looking into a number of opportunities, though he is not ready just yet to share those projects, saying: “In terms of funding and what we want to do, I wouldn’t want to disclose that just yet. We are working closely with our banks to ensure we have the necessary support to get things done. And we have explained to our tenants what is the situation and what is going on, so they are aware and are not out in the cold.”
According to Chin, he has also re-initiated talks with the government about the construction of its Georgetown River Walk Hotel and Amusement Park, which is scheduled to be constructed next door to the existing MovieTowne location.
Situated on 10 acres of land on Guyana’s coast, at Liliendaal, MovieTowne Guyana is the first of the franchise to be established outside of Trinidad and Tobago, where it is one of the country’s premier entertainment complexes. The US$50 million complex was conceptualised in 2011, and first began construction in 2014 before opening its doors in 2019.
The facility includes a 200,000 sq. feet building offering an array of attractions and leisure amenities, a sprawling parking lot, and is also site of the Massy Mega Store, and also boasts a number of restaurant franchises, including Hard Rock Cafe, Jaxx International, and some of the country’s leading local brands including Kosmos and Bistro restaurants.
The cineplex also recently began construction on a new food court. Chin promised that just like with other aspects of the mall, he is focused on attracting quality brands to this new addition.