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SAN DIEGO-In another casualty of an industry rapidly fading from black inkto red, Edwards Theatres Circuit Inc. has filed for bankruptcyprotection and closed four theaters—including a 7-screen complex in the North County suburb of Mira Mesa.

In addition to the seven-screen theater on Camino Ruiz, the Newport Beach-basedchain—one of the largest in Southern California—closed a theater in theOrange County city of Stanton and two more in the Inland Empire. Edwards says its other San Diego-area complexes will remain open.

The closed theaters screened their last picture show the night of Aug. 22, asEdwards filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in US Bankruptcy Court inSanta Ana. The chain now operates 70 theaters in California, Texas andIdaho and will continue to operate its remaining properties during thereorganization.

In a statement, the company says it made “significant progress” inrestructuring its debt and operations on its own, but ultimately neededto file for bankruptcy protection to complete the job.

Chief Executive Officer W. James Edwards says the move will give thechain time to strengthen its balance sheet while repositioning it tosucceed “in today’s highly competitive entertainment marketplace.”Employees will be offered jobs at other Edwards theaters, the companysays.

An over saturation of the market caused by the construction of hundredsof new screens over the last few years has caused the downturn, saysStephen Coffey, recently appointed president of Edwards Theatres.Moviegoers are abandoning older theaters for the bigger, fancierstadium-style theaters—hurting chains like Edwards that have anabundance of older, smaller properties.

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