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The opening night of the Mandel Jewish Community Center Cleveland Jewish FilmFest this fall will take place in a venue yet to be determined now that Cleveland Cinemas is pulling out of Shaker Square Cinemas in Cleveland. 

The 13th iteration of the festival is set for Sept. 5-15. Since its beginning, opening night has been at the Shaker Square movie house. Whether it will take place there in September is up in the air, at least for now.

The uncertainty arose last week after Shaker Square owner The Coral Company and Cleveland Cinemas couldn’t come to terms on a lease extension. Coral instead went with Mentor-based Atlas Cinemas, ending a relationship with Cleveland Cinemas that goes back 18 years.

“At this time, we are exploring all of our options,” said Deborah Bobrow, arts and culture director for the Mandel JCC in Beachwood. Those include shifting the Jewish FilmFest to another Cleveland Cinemas theater or working with Atlas Cinemas, which will take over the six-screen movie house once the Cleveland Cinemas lease expires Jan. 31. Bobrow noted Jan. 14 that the Cleveland Jewish FilmFest has screened three films at the Atlas Cinemas Eastgate 10 in Mayfield Heights.

Atlas Cinemas also owns multiplex movie theaters in Mentor, Euclid and Elyria. 

As of Jan. 14, Cleveland Cinemas operates seven locations, from the Cedar Lee Theatre in Cleveland Heights to the Capitol Theatre in Cleveland’s Gordon Square District and the Southside Works Cinema in Pittsburgh. It also operates theaters in Chagrin Falls, Oberlin and downtown Cleveland. 

Although Jonathan Forman, Cleveland Cinemas owner, couldn’t be reached for comment, Dave Huffman, his marketing director, said, “We just couldn’t come to terms that we both felt were what we needed.” 

Huffman added there are “no immediate plans” to establish another Cleveland Cinemas location.

Peter Rubin, president of The Coral Company, said Atlas Cinemas will refurbish Shaker Square Cinemas, and Coral is “providing capital to help them do that.” Rubin suggested a key reason Coral Co. switched to Atlas is its “interest in community engagement.”

Operating movie screens involves more than picking films, Rubin said, adding Atlas takes a “very community-minded approach.” Rubin also noted Shaker Square Cinemas hosts several film fests, including the Mandel JCC FilmFest and the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival. Atlas Cinemas, Rubin said, selects movies on the basis of community makeup and community interest.

While the refurbishing of Shaker Square Cinemas that Atlas plans to start in February is newsworthy, the “bigger story” involves all of Shaker Square, Rubin said. The outdoor shopping complex, which turns 90 this year, “is in the midst of a huge redevelopment,” he said. Planning for the $15 million project, which is “going to be a huge change to the character and dynamics of Shaker Square,” should be completed by the first half of the year, with construction to begin in the second, he said.

In regard to the Jewish FilmFest, Bobrow said the Mandel JCC “will gather all the information and make an assessment” pointing toward the right opening night venue. She added she has enjoyed working with Cleveland Cinemas and the staff at Shaker Square Cinemas.

Carlo Wolff is a freelance writer from South Euclid.

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