Earvin "Magic" Johnson is close to signing a new deal to open a multi-screen movie theater at the $100 million Capital Centre shopping center after canceling a lease last year because of problems in the theater business, project developer Cordish Cos. said yesterday.

The 460,000-square-foot center at the US Airways Arena site in Landover is to include Borders Books & Music, Linens 'n Things and Pier 1. Capital Centre is scheduled to open in fall 2003.

Cordish decided to hold the theater space despite the chaos in the movie theater industry last year and although retailers wanted the space, said Reed S. Cordish, vice president of the Baltimore developer.

"It was a big risk," Cordish said. "We decided to hold back the perfect spot with the hope that they would come back."

Johnson Development Corp.'s theater partner, Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year. Loews, which recently emerged from Chapter 11, and other theater companies are beginning to return to health.

Cordish said the delay gave his company the upper hand in reworking the lease. Other theater companies are competing for the spot, but the deal with Johnson and Loews remains the top choice.

Arthur Turner, president of the Towns of Kettering Homeowners' Association, said the theater would boost Prince George County's retail landscape.

"There are a lot of kids hanging out, and the theaters are not well maintained," Turner said of other movie houses in the county. "A lot of people go to Anne Arundel, Virginia or Montgomery where their feet won't get stuck to the floor because of last week's soda. . . . He [Johnson] has assured us that his theater won't operate that way."