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From Loews Theaters to the Natick Promenade

Address: 1398 Worcester Street, Natick, MA, 01760

Original Facility built: 1968

Construction Stage: Phase I: Complete, Phase II: In Planning

New Facility opening: (Circuit City) October 8, 2004, (La-Z-Boy) February 18, 2005

Known stores in former: Loews Theaters

Current stores: La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries

Mall (Store) website: http://www.circuitcity.com, http://www.la-z-boy.com/boston

News stories: None

The Loews Theaters complex in Natick was Loews' first location in Massachusetts when it opened in 1968. It was slated to be the chain's first "twin-theatre", although when the building opened in 1969, it contained only one large theater. In the early 1970's, the single theater was split into two individual screens. Two more screens were added to the right side of the building, and in the early 1980s, a final two screens were added to the left side of the building, leading the building to have a total of six screens. The theater itself was shuffled between chains for many years, as it was sold to Sack Cinemas, then to USA Cinemas, then became Sony Theaters and finally returned to Loews ownership in the mid-90's.

The end of the theater wasn't hard to foresee. For many years, the theater competed with the equally-sized General Cinema 6 located at Shopper's World. However, when the small and outdated Shopper's World cinema was replaced with the massive General Cinema Framingham 14 in 1995, Loews' Natick theaters didn't stand a chance. As the hit movies usually appeared at General Cinema, the six-screen Loews was stuck with the unappealing sequels and smaller films that General Cinema turned down. When General Cinema was acquired by AMC in 2002, the company's national buying power forced the Natick Loews to an even less attractive mix of movies. To add to the poor stock of films, the theater also hadn't seen a renovation in quite some times. Financial issues with the Loews chain as a whole didn't help matters either.

But the theater did have some potential: it sat on very attractive real estate, located directly across from Shopper's World. Bill Baker, president of Florida-based Baker Properties, noticed this and was able for forge a deal with Loews. Loews would sell him the theater building to construct a new shopping center, but not until plans to replace the building were approved. Initially, Baker had planned to construct three big-box retailers on the site, which would be known as the Natick Promenade: Borders Books & Music, Ethan Allen, and La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery. However, the original plans soon changed as Ethan Allen constructed a new store at the Cloverleaf Mall, and Borders backed out. Baker's proposal then changed to constructing two big-box stores instead, which would be La-Z-Boy and Circuit City. Circuit City's existing store, although located only a few hundred feet away from Baker's proposed complex, suffered from not only very poor street visibility but also had seen little change since it opened in the early 1990s.

The Loews was finally shuttered following the approval of Baker's plans in early 2004 (ironically, Loews would be acquired by AMC in 2005). Demolition began just days later, and about a month later, construction of the Circuit City began. Circuit City opened in October 2004, at which time the construction of the La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery began. That store opened in February 2005.

As construction continued, Baker created a similar deal with the owner of the adjacent LensCrafters, which would result in Baker acquiring the property after the plans were approved. In a Natick Planning Board hearing, Baker proposed adding 5,000 sq. ft. to the building, which would house a second tenant. As the board found the plans to be too unattractive, Baker brought the board a second conception with a better looking building. The Natick Planning Board is currently evaluating these plans.

Despite many store relocations and rebranding efforts, and the poor decision of laying off high-paid salespeople who pushed large sales, Circuit City never found itself on the strong financial footing of competitors such as Best Buy. While the Natick store survived a round of store closings in 2008, it did not outlive the company's decision to liquidate on January 16, 2009. The company complete its liquidation on March 9, and the store was shuttered. It remains vacant at this point.

My Pictures: Taken June 18, 2006

Circuit City during the day

My Pictures: Taken December 17, 2004

Circuit City at night

My Pictures: Taken December 8, 2004

Circuit City as seen from Shoppers World/9 interchange

The new Circuit City at 1398 Worcester Rd inside the Natick Promenade.

La-Z-Boy under construction

The new La-Z-Boy Furniture Gallery, as seen behind Firestone Tire. To the right is the Lenscrafters that is part of Natick Promenade II.

My Pictures: Taken May 8, 2004

Site following the demolition of the theater

The site where the new Circuit City and La-Z-Boy were being constructed.

Media: Artist rendering of the Loews theater in 1967 from this site, Circuit City Construction Photos

Related Links: Cinema Treasures | Loews Natick Cinema, CinemaTour - Natick 6

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