March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Scripps Howard investigating movie company with plans to come to Okemos

Tuesday, Aug. 23 — A national news organization is investigating a business with plans to move into the Meridian Mall.

Scripps Howard News Service is investigating James T. Duffy, CEO of Simi Valley Theater Co. LLC, about his history of failed movie theater projects, according to a California paper, the Ventura County Star.

Duffy is also the CEO of American Theatre Corp., which wants to take over the AMC Meridian Mall 6 movie theater in Okemos, as City Pulse reported on Aug. 3.

The company wants to take over the theater and serve restaurant-style food with a full-service bar, but similar endeavors throughout the country have not always been successful. Some projects have failed or never came to fruition because the company's subsidiaries have failed to pay rent or disclose financial information, according to media reports. This caused courts in four states to order the company's subsidiaries to pay more than $5 million for broken contracts and unpaid rent, a Florida newspaper reported.

In fact, the Ventura County Star reports that Duffy or his companies have been sued at least 69 times and have accumulated $24.6 million in judgments for unpaid bills.

Earlier this month, the Meridian Township Board of Trustees awarded one of American Theatre Corp.'s subsidiaries, Lansing Theatre Co., a coveted free liquor license to help with their Okemos movie theater plan, beating out local vendors who also applied. The license typically costs businesses between $50,000 and $60,000, but the quota license is basically free and very rare — the township only has one that it can award.

American Theatre Corp. could not be reached for comment for the City Pulse story and the Ventura County Star reports that Duffy has not responded to requests for a comment by Scripps Howard.