Sea Turtle Cinemas thwarts court action by filing for bankruptcy

May 4, 2010 

Sea Turtle Cinemas, the 12-screen movie theater in Bluffton's Berkeley Place shopping center, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Tuesday, court records show.

The bankruptcy filing is a response to a lawsuit filed in April, in which the theater's landlord, Sea Turtle Entertainment, says the theater owes more than $691,000 in rent, according to Michael Mogil, an attorney for the theater.

A hearing in the rent case was scheduled for Tuesday, but the bankruptcy filing precludes that action, he said.

The theater's operators want to remain in control as it reorganizes. "It's Sea Turtle (Cinemas') intent to continue operating in the normal course," Mogil said.

Sea Turtle Cinemas and Sea Turtle Entertainment have some ownership in common, said Robert Deeb, an attorney with the McNair Law Firm and the registered agent for both entities.

A judge appointed a receiver, commercial real estate firm Faison of Charlotte, to run Sea Turtle Entertainment and the 24-acre, open-air shopping center about a year ago after lenders sought to foreclose. At the time, Wells Fargo said Sea Turtle Entertainment owed more than $27.3 million on a $23.5 million loan.

Faison officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Lori Kaylor, vice president of Sea Turtle Cinemas, said the theater is "fine." She was previously identified in news reports as managing partner of Sea Turtle Entertainment.

"We are open for business," she said. "We will continue to be open."

Tuesday's bankruptcy filing listed assets and liabilities of between $1 million and $10 million. More precise figures should be filed within two weeks, Mogil said.

The 45,000-square-foot theater and 145,000 square feet of retail and commercial space accompanying it opened in late 2005 after several delays. The project, announced in 2002, originally was expected to open in 2003.

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