WESTBOROUGH – As the site of the former Regal Cinemas on Turnpike Road remains closed, it’s become an attraction of a different — and unwelcome — sort.
Since closing in 2019, the Westborough Police Department have responded to nearly three dozen incidents, ranging from illegal dumping to breaking and entering, according to their logs.
“We’ve had numerous issues down there,” said police Lt. Michael Daniels.
After the theater closed in 2017, the town obtained the property through foreclosure in 2022.
Daniels said that when the town first obtained the property, “it probably generated more calls.” The number of incidents decreased during the COVID-19 pandemic; once the pandemic eased, the incidents began to increase, he said.
Incidents at Regal Cinemas
In total, the Westborough Police Department responded to 35 incidents. The most frequent call police responded to was a report of either suspicious activity or a suspicious vehicle, totaling 12 calls. The police also responded to three calls of vandalism, two calls of property damage and two calls of breaking and entering.
During an April 2019 call, police found graffiti on one of the cinema’s doors. The graffiti, which they surmised was created with white paint, depicted words and a face with a tongue sticking out.
In this report, police noted that the sprinkler room and electrical room were accessible because “they cannot be secured.”
In November 2020, police noted damage to the sprinkler room door. It had been secured with a padlock and hardware, but “the hardware securing the padlock to the door and the frame of the door was destroyed and pulled out of the door frame. As a result of the damage, the door cannot be properly secured.” The electrical room door was also damaged; however, the padlock and hardware stayed intact.
A year later, the door to the sprinkler room was damaged again.
During a building check, police noticed the padlock and its assembly destroyed and pried open. Some 2-by-4 boards that were used for additional security were also destroyed. Inside the sprinkler room, a hole had been smashed through the drywall, allowing access into the cinema, according to the report. However, police observed no footprints or any sign that the dirt or debris inside the building had been disturbed.
Later that day, just after the shift change, police conducted a check of the cinema property and noticed damage to the electrical control room door. The latch had been pushed all the way to the right; upon inspection, police saw the lock to the latch was missing, and the door ajar.
When they entered the room, police observed a rectangular cut on one of the walls in the drywall. Police believed that someone was trying a similar approach to opening the drywall to access the cinema.
In January 2022, police were dispatched to the cinema to look for a male known to hang out at the site. He “was known to climb onto the roof of the building and also go into the woods surrounding the area.” Police deployed a drone to sweep the roof, using infrared and natural light.
Although there was no sign of the male, police did find footprints in the snow and “what might have been an open hatch on the roof.” The male was later found at Kohl’s in Northborough after he crashed his vehicle.
Some people have been arrested following incidents at the site. In September, police arrested a Shrewsbury man after he allegedly cut another man with a machete; and last month, a Hopkinton man was arrested for an alleged break-in at the site.
Daniels said trash dumping has been a persistent problem.
“It’s an eyesore,” he said.
Patrols visit the area not only for signs of illegal dumping, but to spot vehicles in the back parking lot. Daniels said for the most part the vehicles usually have someone having lunch or seeking a little privacy.
However, in the incident on March 10, a suspicious vehicle in the lot led to the arrest of a Hopkinton resident on charges of vandalism and possession of a burglarious instrument.
As to why someone would want to break into a building that’s been closed for years, Daniels said, “People are obviously very curious. It’s an old movie theater, and they’re kind of having free rein [in there]. They don’t know if there’s mold…”
Looking to dispose of the site, Westborough had awarded a request for proposals to LAX Media; however, the future of the property is currently before the courts.
As the site goes through litigation, Daniels said the police will continue to monitor the building and parking lot.
“We want to prevent any further damage,” he said.
Those seeing any suspicious activity at the site are encouraged to call Westborough police.