Police nab suspect with spirits, videos

St. Petersburg Times - July 9, 1987


ST. PETERSBURG - A man with a taste for blood, wine and beer never had a chance to enjoy the horror movies and spirits that police say he carefully chose at a Circle K store early Wednesday morning.

Police arrested Darris L. McKinney as he left the store with a plastic garbage bag filled with an empty computerized cash register, 11 bottles of Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler, six cans of Busch beer and about 30 scary videos.

''It was kind of weird, which movies he took,'' said Annie Teal, manager of the Circle K store at 1345 34th St. S.

Night of the Zombies and The Creepers were among those taken, she said. Left behind were ''sophisticated'' movies such as The Woman in Red and Stuck on You.

Many of the recovered tapes were damaged, Mrs. Teal said. The now-broken cash register, three wine coolers and several cans of beer also were recovered by police, she said.

According to police and Mrs. Teal, at about 1:05 a.m. McKinney used a car jack to break a glass door and entered the closed store. He inadvertently triggered a silent alarm, and police said they arrived as McKinney left the store.

Two police officers and one police dog chased McKinney. Mrs. Teal said the police told her the suspect tossed bottles of wine cooler at the officers. The officers dodged the bottles and caught McKinney, who was charged with commercial burglary, police said.

The man, whom police described as a Clearwater-born transient with no local address, was in jail Wednesday afternoon in lieu of $5,000 bail.

Mrs. Teal said the man, who also is known as Darris L. Lemon, has been a regular customer at the store.

Store workers were conducting an inventory Wednesday to see if anything else was taken in that burglary and in a similar incident the night before, she said.

Mrs. Teal said no one was arrested in the Tuesday incident, when the store lost sandwiches, cakes, another cash register and two cases of Michelob and Lowenbrau beer.



Miami Herald, The (FL) - March 18, 1984

Author: BILL COSFORD Herald Columnist

Headline: WOMETCO TO SELL ITS THEATERS.Item: There's an usher who works the early shift at Wometco's Miracle Theater in Coral Gables, and has for as long as I can remember. When you give him your ticket he says, "Enjoy the show." On the way out, if there's not a crowd he asks, "How did you like the show?"

Sometimes it is the little things.

With Wometco Theaters, the little things have mostly been done right. Several years ago, The Herald did a three-county survey on movie theaters. We visited all of them, not checking on the movies but investigating everything else: cleanliness, comfort, crowd control, food quality, price. Before the survey was half done, we had confirmed what had been only a suspicion, that the Wometco insignia was that rare thing in American business, a guarantee of quality.

There are other well-run theaters, of course. The Riviera, across the street from the University of Miami, is one; it attracts a young crowd, and with it an excuse to be dirty and loud, but the Riviera is neither. Fort Lauderdale's Galleria is well maintained. And in north Dade, the Marina complex remains the best-run "tube theater" -- eight screens under one roof -- in the area. There are a few others scattered about South Florida.

The difference with Wometco has been, for years, that virtually all their theaters were well run. At a Wometco Theater, if you had a complaint, you were likely to get an answer. For a long time, it has been company policy that if you didn't like the movie, and you left early, you could get a free pass to another. The ushers actually tell loud people to be quiet, the concession stands are clean, even the restrooms are clean. An attempt is made to sweep the aisles between shows.

With all that, we found another thing about Wometco theaters: Their prices were lower -- in most cases on tickets, in all cases on popcorn, candy bars and drinks.

Wometco, in other words, has been a nice place for a long time.

We were never sure why, exactly. The late Jack Mitchell, who died not long ago after a fight with cancer was one of the reasons. He ranthe Florida theaters (Wometco also has theaters in Alaska and the Caribbean), and when you talked to him about putting on a show, he would always start his speech about the employes, and how to get kids working for little money to treat moviegoers who weren't spending much money themselves as important people. He loved to talk about that, though he had better themes from his days as a minor-league P.T. Barnum, putting on outlandish film promotions. I think it was Jack who staged the chariot race down Biscayne Boulevard, and I know it was he who put the live sharks in the Dadeland lobby for Jaws II, and who challenged Sylvester Stallone to a fistfight between Rocky's.

Another factor was that Wometco, unlike General Cinema or AMC or Plitt or the other chains, was locally based. The company regarded the Dadeland theater as its flagship, but since executives could drop in anywhere here, they were all flagships after a fashion.

What was sure was that people who went to the movies a lot often tended to regard the entire Wometco chain warmly. And in all the time that I have been going to movies, I have never encountered an entire theater chain about which people felt good.

That not only sounds nice, it sounds like good business as well. But the movies are not such good business as you might think.

Contractual relations between movie distributors and movie exhibitors are complex and fraught with quirks of accounting, but the basic terms of a contract for a big movie usually come down to this formula: Allowing for a certain deduction for movie-theater overhead -- an amount that is often arrived at arbitrarily, and may bear little resemblance to the theater's actual cost of doing business -- the initial week's take for a film such as Return of theJedi or Superman III, the ones you would think make everyone rich, is divided according to the "90/10"split. The "10" -- 10 per cent -- goes to the theaters. The "90" goes back to Hollywood. After a few weeks, the split drops to, say, "80/20."

In any case, the split is arrayed against a large advance guarantee, and advance guarantees are not ordinarily refundable even if your blockbuster goes, as they say on the West Coast, into the toilet.

This is why, and it has become a cliche of the business, theater owners will tell you that the profit is all at the concession stand. That is not quite true, but it's close.

It is also why the trend to large numbers of small theaters under one roof -- "tube" theaters, the worst kind of place to see a movie -- is probably irreversible. If you can show eight movies with the overhead of a single large theater -- one big rent, one ticket seller, one projectionist, one large concession stand -- you have a better chance to make some money.

This is why even Wometco, which cared for its theaters and their place in the community, first broke the Miracle, at 1,600 seats a genuine movie palace, into a twin, and more recently, into a "four- plex" (yes, even the names are ugly). The Dadeland was similarly altered. And when Wometco built new theaters -- Campbell Square, Miller Square -- they, too, were tubes. Handsome, well-run tubes, but tubes nonetheless.

Wometco might have stayed with its theaters and their fine reputation for years, but Wometco ownership recently changed hands. Van Myers, who began with the chain 40 years ago, when theaters were essentially its only business, and who is now chief executive officer, speaks with the delicacy of a man
auctioning off his family's antiques: "On the part of the new owners, there is good reason to divest those properties which they feel do not have the long-range potential of some of the other properties."

In other words, a forward-looking Wometco does not want to be in the popcorn-and-hot-dog business any longer. To a businessman taking a cold look at that 90/10 split, they haven't been in the movie business for years.

Myers says that the sale of the Florida theaters, when it comes, is likely to be to another chain. And he is optimistic that such theaters as the Miracle, a Coral Gables landmark, will not go the way of the old Coral and Gables theaters, sold and torn down to be replaced by office buildings.

Nonetheless, as Myers says, "Times change, industries change." Wometco is keeping its cable-TV operations, and the lesson there is Business 101. Cable makes a good return selling us movies that have already proven themselves in theaters. The trick, for theater owners, is to get people into the theaters first. Wometco knew how to do that, but even at its best theirs was not exactly a growth industry.

"It's just one of those things," Myers says, and of course he's right. I can find no villain in the piece, so I look for just a twinge of nostalgia for those years of a job well done. We'll miss Wometco theaters when they're gone, I tell Myers.

"Well," he says, "I'm not so sure that we won't, either."



Miami Herald, The (FL) - March 12, 1984

Author: LARRY BIRGER Herald Business/Monday Editor

When Miami-based Wometco Enterprises Inc. is acquired this spring, provided a last-minute glitch develops, one of the first moves of the new owners will be the sale of the company's 45 movie theaters.

Most probably, they'll also sell two of Wometco's best-known attractions -- the Miami Seaquarium and Citrus Tower in Claremont, in Central Florida.

Also on the block will be Wometco's vending division, which was built from scratch into one of the 10-largest machine-fed food-service operations in the United States.

Plans to sell these assets were disclosed in a voluminous proxy statement prepared for Wometco's proposed sale -- the largest leveraged buyout in the United States -- to the New York banking firm of Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co.In a leveraged buyout, the purchaser -- in this case borrows most of the money and uses the cash flow from the company's operations to pay off the debt over an extended period.

Wometco shareholders will vote March 29 on the proposed buyout at $46.50 a share. Also being sold to KKR is the 15 per cent of Wometco Cable TV Inc. that is held publicly. For that, stockholders will receive $29.50 a share.

If shareholders approve, and the Federal Communications
Commission also agrees to the transfer of Wometco's six television station licenses, the deal could be consummated as early as next month and cost KKR slightly more than $1 billion.

The buyout would mark an end to the empire that began in 1925 with Mitchell Wolfson and Sidney Meyers, both now dead, who opened their first movie theater on North Miami Avenue between Third and Fourth streets.

From that tiny start grew a leisure-time empire that 58 years later, in 1983, grossed $520 million and enjoyed after-tax profts of $30.8 million -- both all-time, one-year records.

KKR and its limited partners are financing their heir
purchase by borrowing $660 million -- including $500 million
from a group of banks headed by Continental Illinois of Chicago. Another major lender is Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, which is putting up $27 million.

Van Myers and Arthur Hertz, who will stay on as chief executive and administrative officers, say sale of the amusement and vending units -- and also extensive real estate in Miami and Alaska -- was dictated by the need to raise cash to reduce the huge debt accumulated in the buyout.

"In the formula of a leveraged buyout, you have to convert into cash those assets that don't produce sufficient return to justify the debt," Hertz says.What will be left of Wometco will be split into two companies. Broadcasting will be headed by Anthony J. Cassera, president and chief executive officer of Golden West Television, owned by another KKR company.

Myers and Hertz will head up non-broadcasting, which will include the company's 47 cable TV systems in 163 communities and the soft-drink operations. Wometco is one of the nation's largest Coca-Cola bottlers with operations in areas that serve 12 million people.

But Myers is quick to point out the company will not be in a hurry to dispose of its expendable assets.

"This is no fire sale," he says, "We're not in a rush to sell. There will be no bargains. We'll only sell when we find buyers who are willing to pay a fair price."

The divisions up for sale, however, have not been among the company's star performers -- which is another reason to dispose of them. Wometco closed five theaters during 1983, and the division lost money in 1981-82 before earning a modest profit last year.

Seaquarium attendance dipped from 950,000 in 1980 to 525,000 in 1983, with the decline attributed to a general drop in tourism in South Florida.

Vending sales of $102.6 million in 1983 were slightly ahead of 1982, but income declined to $3.8 million from $4.5 million a year earlier.

Analysts who follow the company say what Wometco's new owners are doing is typical in a leveraged buyout.

"It's a very usual technique that you streamline operations by selling off extraneous, less productive assets and also real estate that is generally carried on the books at cost but could bring a big profit when sold," says Ed Tavlin, of Miami's Prescott Ball & Turben Inc.

Robert Beck, a partner in State Street Research and Management Co. of Boston, whose mutual funds hold a large position in Wometco, agrees.

"Vending is traditionally a very cyclical business that requires lots of capital. And motion pictures aren't the greatest growth business. I'd also think the company has very valuable real estate under the theaters. So it's an intelligent way for them to reduce the leverage and not sell off the better assets."

Beck also says KKR, an outsider with no emotional ties, will have an easier time selling off company holdings than the Wolfson family. "It's very difficult for the family to take an objective view. It's tough for them to sell."

Except for two of its members, the family will be out of the picture once the sale is completed.

Mitchell Wolfson Jr., son of the founder, who will be paid $84.5 million for his holdings, will remain as one of Wometco's seven directors. He is investing $7 million of his own money to become a limited partner.

Louis Wolfson III, a grandson who is a vice president in Wometco Cable and whose holdings of more than 1 million shares are worth nearly $50 million, is buying a small equity position
from KKR.

Together, 31 company employes will wind up with 5.9 per cent of the non-broadcasting side and 4 per cent of the broadcasting side. But they'll have to pay $5 for each share they acquire.

They were given the ownership option in the restructured companies, each of which will have 15 million shares of privately held stock.

Hertz, 50, who will receive more than $2.2 million for the Wometco shares he holds, will emerge as the largest shareholder among current managers by paying $1 million for 200,000 shares in the two new companies.

Myers, 66, who will get nearly $1.4 million for his Wometco stock, will pay $200,000 for 40,000 shares.

KKR, meanwhile, will receive $10 million for negotiating the purchase agreement and will receive annual fees that start at $600,000 and increase at a compound rate of 10 per cent yearly for managing the surviving companies.

Drexel, Burnham Lambert Inc., a New York investment banker hired to render an opinion as to whether the $46.50 price was fair to the stockholders, is being paid $4 million.

Merrill Lynch Capital Markets, which also rendered a favorable opinion, is getting $200,000. And Continental Illinois will receive $1.2 million for bringing Wometco to the attention of KKR.

Not all shareholders are pleased with the price. Several class actions suits have been filed with one litigant claiming the price is "grossly inadequate and unfair." Another maintains that Wometco's board had earlier turned down more than $50 a share.

Analyst Tavlin calls the $46.50 "a full price" since Wometco is selling for 28 times 1983 earnings. "But its earnings are growing rapidly," he maintains.

Adds State Street's Beck: "I think it's a fair price, and it could be underpriced. Wometco has some very valuable assets."



Miami Herald, The (FL) - September 25, 1983

Author: MARY JO TIERNEY Herald Staff Writer

The message on the marquee at the Sunrise movie theater is something no one wanted to see.

It says "Closed for Refurbishing," but there's not much action inside the 60-year-old downtown movie house.

"We're not quite sure what we're going to do with it. We have to have our architects take a look at it and analyze the situation," said Tommy Hyde, vice president of Kent Theaters, which has rented the building from the Koblegard family for more than 20 years.

Not many people got sentimental when the old Fort Pierce Hotel was torn down last month. But the Sunrise movie theater -- now that's something else.

It's where St. Lucie County Judge E.P. DeFriest first saw Tom Mix on his white horse. "I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the most exciting thing that ever happened to me. The most disappointing thing that happened to me was not having a dime and having to miss one of those serials on Saturday afternoon," he said.

The theater is where A.E. (Beanie) Backus started his artistic career. Backus made the posters of the upcoming attractions. He was paid $14 a week, but also got to see some of the "big shots" who came to the Sunrise. And he said there were some big shots.

Sally Rand was there, doing her fan dance, and Olson and Johnson's Hellzapoppin rolled them in the aisles. There was vaudeville and the Saturday morning Mickey Mouse clubs, followed by a double feature.

But the biggest attraction was Wednesday night. That was bank night. "A drum majorette would pick a number out of a bowl and the winner would get a couple hundred dollars, or some dishes or furniture. The place was packed. Everyone in town would be there," said Circuit Court Judge Philip Nourse.

Nourse was an usher, making $3 a week "working every night of the week and on weekends." But he said the the job did have its fringe benefits. "All the pretty girls were there on Saturday afternoon."

For decades,the Sunrise theater was a favorite rendezvous spot for teenagers. It was big and dark enough for some discreet smooching, just as long as they stayed out of the balcony.

The balcony was reserved for the blacks, who until the late 1950s, were not permitted to sit in the main theater.

The Sunrise was once the biggest theater between Jacksonville and Miami. For decades it was the only theater in Fort Pierce. Now there's the Village in Searstown with its six theaters and the Cinema on South U.S 1 with its two screens. But most serious moviegoers said the Sunrise is still the best place in town to watch a film.

The screen is mammoth compared to the others and the theater is big enough to have a smoking section.

But the Sunrise has a lot of overhead and no longer draws enough of a crowd to fill all of those seats.

"The public just doesn't realize what's involved in running a theater like that," Hyde said.

He said Kent theaters could give up their lease to the Koblegards, but no decision has been made.

R.N. (Koby) Koblegard, whose father and grandfather both ran the Sunrise, said he isn't sure what the family would do if Kent decided to pull out.

"I guess we could put something else in there or renovate it. Or maybe we could tear it down and start all over ... It's just not a moneymaker anymore," he said.

Nourse said he may have the answer. "Tell them to have the bank nights again," he said. "They were always the talk of the town."



Miami Herald, The (FL) - May 25, 1983


Sheriff's deputies were searching Tuesday for a print of the film Return of the Jedi that was stolen from a movie theater .

Kjel Nore, manager of the Bush River Cinemas, said the movie completing the Star Wars trilogy was delivered early in the morning, but it was gone by the time he got to work.

Return of the Jedi makes its world premiere today in more than 800 theaters in the United States and Canada. The movie is expected to gross more than $20 million in its first week, 20th Century-Fox officials said.

Sheriff's Capt. Jack Bowden said the movie print is worth about $3,000, but "it's not the value of that particular print we're worried about. It's the potential lost income. They're worried about somebody copying the film and distributing it. That could run into millions."

Another copy of the film was quickly shipped to the theater for its 11 a.m. premiere.



Miami Herald, The (FL) - March 10, 1983

Author: From Herald Wire Services

A civil liberties group challenged the Reagan Administration in court Wednesday over its decision to brand three Canadian films as propaganda that must carry special labels when shown in the United States.

In legal papers filed in U.S. District Court, the American Civil Liberties Union said the action violates constitutional free speech guarantees and stigmatizes the films, two about acid rain and an anti-nuclear movie nominated for an Academy Award.

Meanwhile, Rep. Robert W. Kastenmeier (D., Wis.), chairman of the House judiciary subcommittee on civil rights, introduced a bill to repeal the section of the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 requiring that films and other similar material carry the disclaimer.

Kastenmeier said his bill would repeal the section of the law calling for Justice Department review of films and other materials.

"I view such actions as unwarranted government intrusion into activities in an area clearly protected by the First Amendment," the congressman said.

At issue is the Justice Department's decision that the three films -- produced by the National Film Board of Canada, an independent agency of the Canadian government -- are subject to the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Under that law, the department can review materials intended for distribution in this country by registered agents of foreign powers.

If the material meets a definition of "political propaganda," it must carry a label that it is edited by the registered party and that "registration does not indicate approval of the contents of this material by the U.S. government."

The film board also must tell the government the number of groups seeing the film and the names of the television stations, organizations or theaters using the material.

The ACLU said the government's "attempts to cause a denigrating label to be placed or retained on the films, and the requirements that the Canadian film board assist in the execution of any notice of dissemination in connection with the films violate the First Amendment."

It also said the films fall under a fine arts exemption of the law.

The ACLU asked the court to declare the "political propaganda" regulations are unconstitutional and to block the government from requiring the films to carry the special label.

The government's action has caused a storm of protest and condemnation from members of Congress. It also prompted long lines at movie theaters showing the films: If You Love This Planet, Acid From Heaven, and Acid Rain: Requiem or Recovery?.

The Justice Department had no comment on the ACLU's suit. However, in letters to editors last week, department spokesman Thomas DeCair said the administration is not engaging in censorship and called the reaction "uninformed hysteria."

The ACLU filed its suit on behalf of two environmental groups, a Washington movie theater which has shown the documentaries, a film distributor, the New York Library Association and the state of New York, which argued its citizens have a right to learn about the acid rain problem that affects their environment.