By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent
Many Clovis residents may not have realized that the Hilltop Twin movie theater recently closed. But that, in essence, was precisely the problem for the old duplex, which stopped showing flicks June 28.
The Hilltop Twin was operated by Las Cruces-based Allen Theaters, which also operates the seven-screen complex at North Plains Mall. Abby Parrish, North Plains Cinema manager, said he’s heard almost nary a comment about the closing of Hilltop.
“Very little,” Parrish said. “We hadn’t had many people for the last year, year and a half. Otherwise, it would still be open.”
“It was one of those things where the lease was up and we felt the (North Plains Cinema) was adequate to serve the needs of the area,” said Larry Allen, owner of the statewide Allen Theaters.
Recently, the Hilltop duplex often showed movies at a discounted rate while the top draws were being screened at the mall site.
Hilltop’s closure leaves the North Plains Cinema as the only place in Clovis to watch a movie on the big screen. For more than 30 years, Clovis residents watched such blockbusters as “Jaws,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and more at the Hilltop Twin.
Parrish believes that Hilltop first opened in 1972 or 1973. Through the rest of that decade, the new complex had rivals in downtown Clovis such as the State Theater as well as competition from drive-in screens on the outskirts of town.
Eventually, the State stopped showing movies in the early 1980s and the Hilltop Twin — for a few years — stood alone until the building of the North Plains Mall Cinema.
“Technology and time has taken its toll on the 30-year-old building. We kept up with the projection and sound system, but it wasn’t stadium seating,” Parrish said. “Twin and single theaters are things of the past. You’ve got to have the masses to make a profit. It costs almost just as much overhead to operate a twin theater as it does the seven-screen of ours.
“It also cost nearly twice as much, utility-wise, to operate the Hilltop as it does the seven because of the change of better heating (systems), better cooling, better insulation,” he added.