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Horton Plaza movie theater closes after 33-year run in downtown San Diego; more closures coming
The multiplex theater at Horton Plaza, a fixture at the downtown mall for more than three decades, have closed as the center prepares for its eventual makeover as an office campus.
No announcement of the impending closure was made by the United Artists Horton Plaza 8 theaters other than a note tacked to the window of the 7th floor theater venue advising patrons of the closing on Jan. 27. The operator of the multiplex, the Regal Entertainment Group, did not respond to telephone and email inquiries about the closing.
Just found this on digiplex’s website:
“On February 14, 2014, the Mission Valley Theater, located at 7510 Hazard Center Drive, San Diego, California became part of UltraStar Cinemas and is no longer a member of Digiplex Destinations. We want to thank you for your patronage and invite you to visit another Digiplex Destinations location when you’re nearby.
The theater will continue to honor outstanding Digiplex gift cards, VIP tickets, coupons and other promotions as a convenience to movie goers in the San Diego community.
Click here for current show times or visit www.UltraStarMovies.com for more information”
Hugh Jackman went to see The Wolverine there and tweeted a pic of himself there. Pretty sweet!
It does make sense, that they would take down the marquee on the right, as there are a number of buildings and restaurants directly in front of the fountain, just outside of the picture above (as well as the trees around the fountain and the apartments to the right of the theater, again just outside of this shot). So the marquee was pretty useless.
Went to this theater for the first time a few days ago and I was impressed, a very large, clean, comfortable theater. If I can, I would like to visit this theater again.
uklee, take a pic of it and post it on this site. :)
Wow thanks, I wish I could remember it better. The only one I can really remember well from the area was the Mann Glendora 6 theater. It’s too bad that all these theaters are virtually all gone, I hope someone posts some pics of this theater, other than the closed down remains seen at cinematour.com
Just to clarify, the above picture is NOT the theater, but a different building in the same shopping center, and I thought the marquees might be from the theater.
I went to this theater years ago, the only film I saw there was “A Perfect Murder” in July of 1998, shortly after that, it was demolished. I went to the shopping center today to take some pics of the shopping center and to see if I could remember where it was located, but I quickly realized that I have no idea where it was located. My guess is that it is where the 24 Hour Fitness now sits, however I am really not sure. can anyone confirm or deny this?
It took me a while to figure them out, but the movies being shown on the board above the box office are (from left to right):
“Happily N'Ever After”,“The Pursuit of Happyness”,“Freedom Writers”,“Casino Royale”,“The Hitcher”,“Stomp the Yard”,“Night at the Museum”,“Primeval”
Interestingly enough, I went to this theater a few weeks ago (well many times in the last few weeks) and walked by this side for the first time in a while, and apparently they have taken down this marquee. I wonder why … I guess it wasn’t serving a purpose anymore.
The Vista Drive-In is listed under “Oceanside Drive-In” on CinemaTreasures, the address for that theater is also incorrect (see my comments on that theater’s page). I am not entirely sure there ever existed a Drive-In called “Oceanside Drive-In”, I think it was perhaps just a common name used for any particular drive-in, however I am not entirely sure, I am only guessing.
I believe this theater should be labeled “The Vista Drive-In”
Here is a link to a pic of it:
And it was located on the corner of Thunder Drive and W. Vista Way on the eastern edge of Oceanside, CA.
An article that mentions the theater when it was taken over by Ultrastar.
January 28, 2001 12:00 am
With AMC Entertainment’s announcement last week that the company planned to shut down nearly half of its movie theaters over the next three years, every major theater owner on the West Coast has now announced that it will shut down theaters in a major restructuring plan.
And most of the theaters being closed down or sold off by giant movie chains like Edwards, United Artists, and AMC are smaller neighborhood theaters with four to eight screens.
North San Diego County and Southwest Riverside County are no exceptions to this trend: Four theaters with 30 screens have been shut down and an additional five theaters with 34 screens once owned by big chains have been sold to a local movie theater company called Ultrastar.
The latest pickup for Ultrastar was the former Cinema Star Galaxy 6 in Bonsall, which Ultrastar took over on Friday.
Edwards, United Artists, General Cinemas and Cineplex (the owner of Loews theaters) have all declared bankruptcy and announced closings. Regal Cinemas has said that it plans to sell off some unprofitable theaters. Area theaters shut down in 2000 included Edwards San Marcos 6 in San Marcos, Edwards Carousel 6 in Escondido, Edwards Rancho California 10 in Temecula and the Mann Theater 8 in Oceanside. The area’s only discount movie house, the Silver Cinemas 7 in Rancho Bernardo, also shut down last year.
Big ones won
Most all of these theaters fell victim to bigger “multiplex” theaters that opened nearby, with stadium seating and sophisticated sound systems. And in a case of apparent corporate cannibalism, the Edwards San Marcos 6 and the Edwards Rancho California 10 both shut down due in part to competition from new Edwards multiplexes located just a few miles away.
Edwards officials said that they are not necessarily planning to shut down all of their smaller movie houses; rather, they care only about profitability.
“The plan was never to only have large megaplexes. The plan is to make sure successful theaters keep running,” said Edwards spokeswoman Anita Marie Hill.
Hill said the problem with many locations is that they are locked into expensive building leases which make it difficult for those theaters to turn a profit at prevailing ticket prices even though those locations might have a good customer base. By declaring bankruptcy, movie companies can get out of such long-term leases.
Hill said that Edwards' decision to open up megaplexes near smaller theaters was not a mistake.
“Throughout the industry, what customers are demanding is stadium seating and more sophisticated sound systems,” said Hill. “And many times, it is more cost effective to build a new theater than to renovate an existing theater.”
Effects of closings
The rash of closings has two main effects: (1) residents in some neighborhoods now must travel a few miles extra to see a movie, and (2) some shopping malls are now left with a big, empty movie theater — space that is not easy to convert to other purposes.
The building that housed the former Edwards location on Nordahl and Center Drive near the 78 is still empty. But the movie theater closing does not seem to have affected businesses such as Dalton’s Roadhouse restaurant, which serves steaks, seafood, and barbecue in the same shopping center. The Edwards Cinema shut down in May.
“Our business is up quite a bit over last year,” said Dalton’s owner Marty Ewart. “That theater was not doing much business the year before it shut down.”
Ultrastar’s president, Alan Grossberg, said that there is no real crisis in the movie theater industry. Grossberg said that total movie receipts for San Diego County totaled $7.6 billion in 2000, a record year.
“The problem is not that people aren’t going to the movies. The problem is that the big boys expanded too quickly,” said Grossberg.
Grossberg said he is a 30-year veteran in the movie industry and was a former executive with Cinemastar. Grossberg said that he left Cinemastar in 1998 to launch Ultrastar. Grossberg’s company is now benefiting from the big sell-off by the big theater owners. The company has recently taken over the Edwards Flower Hill 4, the Edwards Del Mar Highlands 8, the Edwards Poway 10, the Edwards La Costa 6 and the Cinemastar Galaxy 6 in Bonsall.
A lot of profitability
Grossberg said that the theaters that he bought from Edwards were all profitable by his calculations.
“The theaters that we took over were all profitable. We could have taken over another 30 (Edwards) screens which weren’t profitable,” Grossberg said. “The direction they are going in is towards large, mega-theaters with 14 to 20 screens and stadium seating.”
Grossberg is betting that there is still a place for smaller, neighborhood theaters.
“There is no reason for people to travel 8 to 10 miles when they can see a movie in their own back yard in a comfortable setting.”
The big movie theater owners appear to be heading toward a period of consolidation. Telecommunications and railroad magnate Philip Anschutz won control of United Artists on Monday following a bankruptcy court ruling. Two weeks ago, Anshutz Corp. and Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management bought $350 million of the $1 billion debt of Regal Cinemas. Industry analysts expect the two theater companies to merge, creating a company with 5,900 screens nationwide.
The only United Artist theater in North County, located in Del Norte Plaza in Escondido, was taken over last year by the mall’s property management company, Pacific West Management, in order to keep the theater open. But Pacific West has since decided to convert the theater into a health club, potentially taking away Escondido’s last movie house.
AMC said that it would shut down 80 of its 181 theaters nationwide, most following the expiration of their leases. The closings represent 548 of the company’s 2,774 screens — about 20 percent — meaning that smaller theaters are being targeted. AMC has one theater in North County, the Wiegand Plaza 8 in Encinitas. AMC officials did not disclose their plans for specific movie theaters.
The recent problems faced by movie companies are common to companies in a variety of industries. They took on a great deal of debt, expanded rapidly, and ran into cash flow problems when sales were not high enough to service their debt. Companies adopting such a strategy either win big or lose big. And the movie companies have lost big, and savvy businessmen, such as Alan Grossberg, are now picking up bargains.
Article about the closure of the theater:
VISTA —— Theater chain UltraStar Cinemas is in various stages of ending leases at three movie houses in North County that came into its fold more than a decade ago from the previously troubled Edwards Theaters.
“Our hope is to put our focus on getting out of older leases,” said Damon Rubio, executive vice president of operations for Vista-based UltraStar.
In the meantime, a new ownership group has been assembled to take over two of the three UltraStar theaters affected by the decision. The group is in the midst of building a luxury “VIP” chain in Southern California that will have waiters and waitresses serving food and beverages to patrons who will sit in La-Z-Boy-style recliners, pushing buttons to summon service.
“It’s a brand-new, unrelated company that isn’t ready to announce its name,” said Elizabeth Schreiber, vice president and general manager for Donohue Shriber.
Nonetheless, Schreiber said the newly formed company is likely to unveil its identity by this summer, when it reopens the two spruced-up theaters. Others are planned in Los Angeles and Orange counties, she said. Rubio said the investors are not associated with UltraStar.
Donohue Shriber is a privately held real estate investment trust in Costa Mesa that owns the Del Mar Highlands Town Center, where one of the former UltraStar theaters was located.
UltraStar, which currently operates 14 theaters in Southern California and Arizona, closed two theaters in North San Diego County after the company opted to not renew leases, Rubio explained.
“They were old Edwards theaters that we never had a chance to structure the way we wanted. We had to live with what we had there,” he said.
The two theaters already closed are the UltraStar Del Mar Highlands, at 12905 El Camino Real; and the UltraStar La Costa, 6941 El Camino Real in Carlsbad.
The Del Mar Highlands closed in January for remodeling, and was originally envisioned as a part of UltraStar’s chain of theaters. But a new ownership group took over the lease, and is assuming the debt on the huge “multimillion-dollar” renovation now under way, according to Schreiber and Rubio.
That theater and UltraStar’s La Costa location, which closed May 2, are expected to reopen as luxury boutique theaters under the new ownership group, Schreiber said. A spokesman for the new ownership could not be immediately reached for comment.
A third UltraStar theater, Del Mar’s Flower Hill, at 2630 Via de la Valle in Del Mar, will close this summer. The city of Del Mar recently approved a permit for the Whole Foods chain to build a grocery store at the site.
Rubio said the three properties previously came into UltraStar’s fold more than a decade ago, when it bought several theaters from Edwards Theaters. That’s when Edwards slipped into bankruptcy and restructured its operations. Edwards, like many other theater chains during that period —— including Mann Theatres, Silver Cinemas, Carmike Cinemas, United Artists and Loews Cineplex —— filed for bankruptcy, as it had borrowed heavily to expand. Edwards began shutting down or selling off unprofitable, mostly older and smaller, theaters.
“You won’t kick out a tenant unless you feel you can do much better,” said Leonard Baron, a real estate professor at San Diego State University. “Movie theaters are generally good for retail centers because they draw people.” Patrons grab a coffee, ice cream or whatever at shops that are often close to theaters.
In San Diego County, UltraStar operates six theaters. The closing of the Flower Hill theater will bring the total to five, however.
The remaining theaters are Oceanside’s Mission Marketplace, 431 College Blvd.; Poway’s Poway Creekside, 13475 Poway Road; Bonsall’s River Village, 5256 South Mission Road; Chula Vista, 555 Broadway; and San Diego’s Mission Valley, 7510 Hazard Center Drive.
UltraStar also operates theaters in other parts of Southern California and Arizona. These include its newly acquired Temecula theater, which is in a strip mall at the northwestern corner of Ynez and Rancho California roads; one in Anaheim; three in Riverside and San Bernardino counties; and three in Arizona.
After the third UltraStar theater is closed, the chain will have 141 movie screens companywide and roughly 280 employees in San Diego County and Temecula, and 575 workers altogether.
UltraStar is rolling out its own line of luxury theaters. The first was in the affluent Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale. The next is set for in Anaheim, with others eventually planned in San Diego County. The pace of the expansion of these new branded theaters, called “UltraLux,” will depend on the economy, Rubio said.
“It remains to be seen,” he said. “Hopefully, the economy turns around in the next year or two.”
Excuse the odd angle, but I was reaching through the little circular hold in the box office window to get this shot, and trying desperately not to drop my camera.
Somebody get out there and take some pictures of it before it’s gone forever!
I am not certain, but I believe this is an original structure from the drive-in, but I could very well be wrong. Although, it has obviously been repainted and fixed up.
I believe this was the main entrance to the drive-in, as you can see the box office on the left side of the entrance.
I think that this entrance was actually used as an exit, more than an entrance, as this one does not seem to have a “box office”. Although, I never saw a film here, so I am not entirely sure.
Someone made a video back in the 90’s of this theater. I’m guessing he worked there. :)
Was this really only a one screen theater. I believe I saw a couple movies here when I was a kid.
VISTA — Crystal chandeliers. Hand-painted murals. Imported tiles. Marble and granite finishes.
No, it’s not a new Las Vegas hotel, it’s the movie theater under construction in Vista.
Boasting some of the largest auditoriums in North County, curved screens for “perfect viewing,” and “ultra-plush, high-back, rocking chairs with stadium seating,” the 15-screen “Krikorian Metroplex Movie Palace at Vista Village” promises to take the theater-going experience to a new level.
But like a potential summer blockbuster, the big question is — will it deliver?
The theater is part of a downtown redevelopment in which the city and private developers have invested about $117 million for the Vista Village complex, including improvements to the surrounding streets to handle the increase in traffic.
Scheduled to open in early November, the entertainment center off Vista Village Drive will offer shops and restaurants. Within a couple of years, upscale eateries will line a meandering stream along the project’s Creekwalk Park.
The Krikorian Metroplex, however, is considered by many to be the complex’s main attraction. A theater representative said Thursday that the opening day is Nov. 5, adding it conveniently coincides with the release of the third installment of “The Matrix” trilogy, an anticipated box-office smash.
If you build it, will they come?
City officials have said they believe a classy movie theater built in the center of town will draw not only Vista’s 90,000 residents, but people from other parts of North County, too.
“Krikorian is a quality guy,” said City Councilman Bob Campbell. “People are going to walk into that lobby and go ‘wow.’ He puts a ton of bucks into a high-quality image, and I have no question they’ll be running a high-quality (show).”
“I think the demand is definitely there,” the councilman added. “If you go out to San Marcos on any given weekend it’s just jammed.”
Indeed, two Regal Cinema multiplexes, an 18-screen theater in San Marcos and a 16-screen theater in Oceanside, flank the city and often draw Vista residents out for the latest two-hour escape from reality. On the weekends, lines of patrons queue up outside the theater waiting to get tickets to a show.
Yet just three years ago, Edwards Cinema backed out of negotiations to build a similar theater at Vista Village, prompting city officials to reach out to Krikorian Theatres.
“(Edwards) did a feasibility study that showed that economically it wasn’t going to work,” said former San Diego County Supervisor and 2002 Vista mayoral candidate Paul Eckert. “Of course, that was at the time when the economy was starting to go to hell in a handbasket.”
Eckert said he still questions the viability of Vista’s new theater.
“I don’t consider the one in Oceanside as having been successful, and the one in San Marcos and Vista are going to split (ticket sales),” he said. “I just think there are a lot of unanswered questions, and only time will tell.”
Silver Screen means gold coins?
If Vista’s new theater is successful, that means an increase in sales tax is funnelled into city coffers.
Todd Cummings, Krikorian’s director of operations, said he expects the theater to be “highly successful.”
“We are going to build a beautiful theater, and there is nothing in North County to compare it to,” he said. “I don’t want to say anything negative about other theaters in North County (but) look at the material we use — all granite floors, hand-painted murals on the walls, high back chairs with rocking mechanisms … better customer service … real butter in our popcorn.
“We try to build an experience, not herd you in and out of the theater. We don’t bombard our patrons with advertising.”
Neither Cummings nor Kathy Baker, a project manager with the city, would offer details on how much is being spent to build the theater, or how much rent the private developer, Vista Village LLC, will charge Krikorian each month.
Randall Blaum, Krikorian’s director of marketing, said “we are not releasing the final costs (but) it’s a multimillion-dollar project.”
In the theater business, ticket sales determine a theater’s success, Cummings said.
“It’s all product driven,” Cummings said. “Profit is based on the quality of movies. You can have the greatest theater in world,” but blockbusters are what rake it in for theaters.
Blaum and Cummings said they are sure the quality of Krikorian’s movie theater will tend to make people come to Vista to watch new releases.
“This is the grand movie palace of this century, and I promise that is not marketing spin,” Blaum said. “It is awe inspiring.”
A final ticket price for general admission has yet to be determined, “but our ticket prices will not be one penny higher than nearby competitors, including concession stand (prices),” Blaum said.
The theater’s grand opening starts Oct. 31 with a “Safe Halloween Party” for parents and children, Blaum said.
“Mr. Krikorian is a family man,” Blaum said.
Following the party, a week’s worth of special events is planned, leading up to the Nov. 5 official opening, Blaum said.
“We’ll have special charity events, (including) dollar movies and free popcorn and soda,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want to go spend some time there?”
Baker said people should go to the theater just to check out the lobby.
“(City officials) went to a Krikorian Theatre up in Orange County, and it is unbelievably beautiful,” Baker said. “The carpet, the lobby, they are a top-notch theater, and you don’t even have to buy a ticket to enter the lobby.”
Krikorian owns six other theaters, Cummings said. They are located in San Clemente, Downey. Chino, Monrovia, Buena Park and Redlands.
Cool, this too:
VISTA — The curtain rises this weekend on a key tenant of the Vista Village entertainment and shopping complex — the 15-screen Krikorian Metroplex Movie Theatre.
The Saturday opening marks the first in a list of revitalization projects as Vista attempts to spruce up its downtown following more than 15 years of planning, preparation and building.
More work is needed to complete city officials' overall vision for Vista Village — including the construction of shops directly in front of the theater, finding more tenants to fill empty storefronts, and building restaurants along the complex’s Creekwalk Park, a stream and walkway near the theater.
Despite the long road ahead, the theater’s opening is creating a buzz throughout City Hall.
“It’s exciting; we have been looking forward to this for a number of years,” said Mayor Morris Vance. “I think the community is going to be pleased with what they see. (The theater) is the anchor for a revitalization of the downtown … for the downtown to be successful Vista Village needs to be successful.”
The Vista Village complex has cost about $117 million in public and private investments, including improvements to the surrounding streets to handle the increase in traffic.
On Tuesday, the site off Vista Village Drive and South Santa Fe Avenue was a construction zone.
At least 100 workers, shovels and pickaxes in hand, were planting trees along the complex perimeter.
Men in hard hats and bright orange shirts pushed large piles of dirt around in tractors. Cement trucks filled gaps of road that remained unpaved.
Along the strip of shops north of the theater, workers installed signs, screwed in doors and cabinets, and reviewed blueprints. A few of the shops remained empty and barren. Signs posted in windows demanded that workers ensure all trash, tools and bins be “picked up by 5 p.m. Tuesday — no exceptions!”
Underscoring the workers' feverish pace is the need to fix up the complex in time for the weeklong series of events starting Saturday that will tout the theater’s grand opening.
While the theater is opening this weekend, other Vista Village shops are not. City officials have said the rest of the shops, including Panda Express, Starbucks, Juice Zone, Perfect Nails, Coldstone, La Salsa and Nextel, should open in December.
An owner of Great Clips, a store in the complex, watched the construction continue Tuesday and said he’d like to open as soon as next week but is waiting for utility work.
Vista resident Joann Hurley said while working at a restaurant near Vista Village that she is not a big movie person but looks forward to checking out the Krikorian lobby.
“It’s a good addition to Vista,” Hurley said. “We need a movie complex here, I think the closest one is in (San Marcos). It will be very interesting to see if it pulls in the business that they expect it will.”
The theater’s special events begin with $1 movies, popcorn and soda to benefit a Newspaper in Education Fund on Saturday and the Vista Unified School District on Sunday. Movies shown during this weekend’s charity events are recent hits but not current releases.
Other events throughout the week will lead up to the official opening day Nov. 21 and the “Hollywood Comes to Vista” event Nov. 22, in which about 10 TV actors will attend a red-carpet movie screening of the new film “Cat in the Hat.”
“The theater is three years in the planning, one year in the building and six months in the marketing,” said Randall Blaum, Krikorian spokesman.
The “movieplex” — boasting crystal chandeliers and hand-painted murals, freshly popped popcorn with real butter, and stadium seating with rocking chairs — cost several million dollars to build. Krikorian will not disclose the precise figure, Blaum said.
Despite the fast-paced construction and last-minute preparations for Vista Village, Blaum said he is sure the opening will go smoothly and that the theater is “ready to go.”
“We actually do anticipate a very smooth transition into the opening,” he said. “Part of the reason we do these charity events is to obviously help charities but also to ‘work out the kinks, help us get trained.’ ”
The Krikorian Metroplex Movie Theater is hosting a series of events before its grand opening Nov. 21. Call (760) 945-SHOW or visit www.krikoriantheatres.com for more information.
Saturday: $1 movies, popcorn and drinks. The box office opens at 11 a.m. and films run from noon until 10 p.m. Movies to be shown are recent hits but not current releases.
Sunday: $1 movies, popcorn and drinks. The box office opens at 11 a.m. and films run from noon until 10 p.m. Movies to be shown are recent hits but not current releases.
Monday: Employees who work for cities and towns along the Highway 78 corridor, including Bonsall and Fallbrook, are invited to tour the theater and enjoy a free lunch. Have a business card or city identification. Doors open at 11 a.m. and lunch will be served until 2 p.m.
Monday: The Vista Village Business Association is hosting an art exhibit to kick off its monthly art project to be based at the theater. The event runs from 6 to 8 p.m. and admission is free.
Tuesday: The Cinema Society of San Diego will host the San Diego premiere of the new film “EM & ME.” Contact Andy Friendenberg at
Stumbled upon this today:
From the North County Times:
November 14, 2003 12:00 am
$1 movie day planned
VISTA — Movies, popcorn and soda for $1 will be featured all day Nov. 15 at the new Krikorian Metroplex Vista Village 15 Theaters, off the Vista Village Drive exit at Highway 78. All proceeds from the Saturday event will go toward the North County Times' Newspaper In Education program, which brings more than 1 million newspapers into local schools each year to keep children up to date on community and world issues. Movies scheduled to be shown at a $1 admission price include “Bruce Almighty,” “2 Fast 2 Furious,” “Daddy Day Care,” “Tomb Raider 2,” “XMen 2,” “Down with Love,” “Shrek,” “Chicago,” and “Frida.” Film selection is subject to change. The box office opens at 11 a.m. For show times, call (760) 945-SHOW or log on to www.krikoriantheatres.com.