Cinamerica proposes 12-plex/retail venture

Cinamerica Theatres L.P., the joint venture of Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures, unveiled plans Monday for a 12-screen, 3,000-seat multiplex and retail center to be built in the heart of Westwood Village.

And in another move toward revitalizing a Los Angeles moviegoing mecca, the theater chain recently submitted plans to the city to build a multiplex near its flagship Mann’s Chinese Theater, as well as plans to build a retail and entertainment complex and a renovation of its historic theater.

The new Westwood complex is designed to upgrade the quality of the exhib’s screens in the area, which has been slowly recovering since a series of civil disturbances in 1990 and 1991 sent visitors to newer nightspots in Santa Monica and Century City.

The project, to be built under its Mann Theatres banner, is one of a handful of plans to upgrade the area. Also pending is a 16-screen movie and retail complex being proposed by developer Ira Smedra. It would be built on a five-acre site on Glendon Avenue, and also includes retail shops, restaurants and an Imax theater. Mann looked at being a tenant in that project but declined to participate.

A familiar face

That Mann is proposing a new project in Westwood should come as little surprise, considering its presence in the market: seven theaters and 10 screens. It has been refurbishing some theaters in the area, while considering its options of others.

Cinamerica’s proposed Regent Mann Theatre complex will be about 50,000-60,000 square feet, divided almost equally between theater space and restaurant/retail space. Both Paramount’s and Warner Bros.’ consumer products arms have expressed interest in the project.

“What this creates is an entertainment hub anchored by the (Mann) Village and the (Mann) Bruin,” said Charles Goldwater, president and CEO of Cinamerica Theatres. He added that business has started to come back during the past year, which he attributed to the quality of the films, the opening of new restaurants and shops and an expanded police presence.

“(Developers) are long overdue in looking at Westwood,” Goldwater said. “It has been back for some time.”

The theater and retail complex would be built on the area’s west side, between Gayley and Broxton avenues and south of Weyburn Avenue. Cinamerica currently is talking to the owners of Mario’s restaurant, which also is on the block, about incorporating the well-known dining spot into the project.

To comply with building regulations, Mann will close the Mann Regent and the Mann Four-Plex. The new theater would have stadium-style seating and digital stereo sound, among other amenities.

There also will be at least 600 parking spaces in an underground parking facility. The complex would be near a 400-car parking structure currently being built on Broxton.

Opposition in place

A major step in the project will be gaining city approval in an area with a strong presence of homeowners associations. Goldwater and other execs already have met with neighborhood community groups, and plan to soon file applications with the city of Los Angeles.

The leader of one group, Laura Lake, president of Friends of Westwood, said she had concerns that the project will not include ample parking, but she otherwise was more favorable to the project because it makes up for the new theaters by eliminating others.

“That should be a wash,” she said. “It’s not an issue. The real issue will be for the (project) to provide the required amount of parking.”

By contrast, she is opposed to the Smedra project because it would add 4,700 movie seats, bringing Westwood’s combined total to more than 10,000. Westwood’s specific plan caps the number of seats at 6,000.

Westwood once was L.A.’s major nightspot and favorite moviegoing destination, commanding the lion’s share of exclusive runs in the Los Angeles area, drawing crowds from as far away as the South Bay and San Fernando Valley. It got so crowded on weekend nights by the late 1980s that main streets were forced to be shut down to all but pedestrian traffic, and neighbors have for years been cautious of new development.

Redevelopment rides Red Line

Meanwhile, Cinamerica is in the concept stage about plans for the area around Mann’s Chinese Theatre, which is the centerpiece of the city’s efforts to revitalize several blocks along Hollywood Boulevard. City officials for years have been struggling to revitalize the area, and are trying to encourage the area’s rebirth by tying it into the pending arrival of the Metro Red Line subway.

The theater chain recently submitted a proposal to the city that calls for building a major multiplex with 12 or more screens, complementing Mann’s Chinese.

“We expect that it is going to represent all of the grandeur of Hollywood’s past, present and future,” Goldwater said. “It is a much larger project and there are a number of variables to be worked out.”

Warner Bros. and Paramount’s consumer products divisions also are looking at the project, which would include restaurants and shops and other entertainment uses. The development is being done in conjunction with the Hahn Co. and David Malmuth.

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