NIANTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — When Niantic Cinemas closed in September, it hoped to reopen in time for the holiday movie season.

Now, its owner said that the doors to the 71-year-old theater are shut for good.

George Mitchell said that the theater is expensive to operate and has seen less business than it used to.

“We see it in the numbers,” he said. “It’s been going down for about 20 years now.”

It’s a trend that small theaters around the country have seen. The decision, Mitchell said, involved a lot of soul-searching.

The Mitchells have owned the theater since 1978. The landmark has struggled since movie companies began releasing films on television and video, and then streaming services. The pandemic then compounded those challenges.

Its closure has been a loss for the downtown area.

“I was so looking forward to them reopening, and devastated that they won’t be,” said Chris Jones, who lives in Niantic.

East Lyme hopes something will fill the empty storefronts along Main Street, making the area a destination once again.

“The wheels are turning already,” said East Lyme First Selectman Kevin Seery.