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South cineplex closed for lack of licence

Published: 
Friday, August 22, 2014
Following police, fire operation:
The doors to the newly opened $20 million South Park Cineplex at Michael Rahael Boulevard, Tarouba, remained locked after fire prevention officers and police shut down the facility yesterday. Photo: RISHI RAGOONATH

Police and fire prevention officers have shut down the newly-opened $20 million Caribbean Cinemas South Park ten multiplex cinema, just a day after its gala opening in San Fernando, saying the complex did not have a cinema licence to operate. The ultra-modern multiplex cinema was opened by acting mayor of San Fernando Junia Ragrello on Tuesday night. Around 3 pm yesterday, police, led by Senior Supt Cecil Santana, Supt James, attorney PC Phillips and a team of fire officers, supervised by assistant divisional fire officer Steven John, went to the entertainment centre at Michael Rahael Boulevard Tarouba, San Fernando and spoke with the project manager, who identified himself as Mr Lee.

“I asked if they had a cinema licence to operate. He said they were awaiting that from the court. I told them that until they acquired that licence, they cannot operate,” Santana said.
Over 50 people were waiting in line to enter the multiplex, which has ten cinema screens. The police then advised the patrons that it was not safe for them to enter the building. Many of them left. Santana posted several officers at the scene to ensure that the operations remained closed.

When a news team from the T&T Guardian visited the scene, a security guard was turning away patrons. “The cinemas are not open, come back tomorrow,” the guard said. A man, who refused to give his name but identified himself as a manager, said there were technical issues at the facility and this was why the multiplex cinema was closed. Asked whether they had obtained a licence to operate, the manager said he was not authorised to comment. He said all of the issues will be resolved today. He added that the Caribbean Cinemas president was the only one authorised to speak but he was engaged in meetings and would issue a statement later. 

Caribbean Cinemas president Robert Carrady, who flew to T&T from his Puerto Rico base, was unavailable for comment as he checked out of Trade Winds hotel yesterday afternoon.
Several patrons expressed shock that the cinema was shut down so soon after its opening.

Acting Mayor: It’s unfortunate 
Meanwhile, Ragrello said he did not know that a cinema licence was required to operate a cinema. He said when he was at the opening, he got a text message from the police saying that certain approvals were not granted. However, Ragrello said he met with stakeholders and was shown a compliance certificate from the engineering department of the San Fernando City Corporation and a fire certificate. “I saw these documents. They had a fire certificate for the building, and a compliance certificate for the building. What I understand now is that they now need to get a cinema licence from the court. They made an attempt to get it today but the magistrate court is not functioning and staff is not cooperating,” Ragrello said.

He said staff at the court were engaged in protest action. “I am concerned about this because this is an investment that we benefit from and we are caught up in that scenario where the union has its issues and it is hampering development,” Ragrello said. He also said he spoke with Carrady, who said the court’s cinema and fire licence was an outdated document that dealt with film. However, modern movies are now digital and so the licence was not required in modern countries of the world. Ragrello said he did not want foreign investors to be discouraged from doing business in T&T, adding that he hoped the matter could be resolved soon.

CARIBBEAN CINEMAS
Caribbean Cinemas is a chain of movie theatres in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. It is the only major chain in Puerto Rico, after its main competitor CineVista Theatres, went bankrupt and closed all of its cinemas. The chain has expanded into Dominican Republic, St Thomas, St Maarten, St Kitts, St Lucia, Antigua, Aruba and T&T.