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Movie theatre not coming anytime soon

Posted: July 27, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 27, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Laemmle Theatres lent its name to a Lancaster theater for a film programming fee in 2011, but the relationship ended in late 2012.

 

There are three things we know for certain - death, taxes and that residents want an independent movie theater to open in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Despite persistent rumors, and pleas from residents, that a Laemmle or other independent art house movie theater open in Santa Clarita, city officials said that isn’t going to happen anytime soon based on the process that needs to occur.

“We continue to have conversations. We have met with them (Laemmle) in the past couple weeks and they tell us they’d love to be but there’s no deal on the table yet,” said Jason Crawford, economic development manager for the city of Santa Clarita.

And as residents continue to clamor for what they call “good films with smart writing,” one of the Laemmle Theatres co-owners said the family-owned and operated movie chain is still very interested in staking a claim in Santa Clarita.

Local residents

Canyon Country resident, Beverly Celentano, said that she and her group of movie-loving friends would rather keep and spend their money in the city than leave it behind in other areas.

The group of movie fans does not like to have to travel to Pasadena or Hollywood to see a good movie, she said.

“We always call it a movie day and we go out to see two films and eat lunch and dinner out. We might spend $60 to $75 each,” Celentano said. “I would rather see that money go into the city of Santa Clarita instead.”

A couple years ago she and a number of other residents wrote letters to the Regal Entertainment Group, which operates the Edwards movie theaters, asking the only chain in town to open up its screens to more than just the blockbuster movies.

“We got no response from them,” Celentano said.

City officials say, however, there are a couple of options for attracting an independent movie theater to the area.
And co-owner Greg Laemmle said he is still very interested in opening a theater in Santa Clarita as long as the “numbers work.”

Options

Funds and land use became tied up when the state of California shut down the community redevelopment agencies in early 2012 - something the small family-owned and operated Laemmle theater group depended on to get started in a new community.

Cities had to create successor agencies and develop long range property management plans for property that fell under the former redevelopment agency, said Redevelopment Manager Armine Chaparyan.

Then the city council had to approve/recommend a plan and the state had to approve the plan, Crawford said.

The California Department of Finance has now signed off on the city’s redevelopment and land use plans, and the city is now in the initial phase of implementing the plans, Chaparyan said.

But the timing for when an independent theater might open is quite a ways off.

Timing
One of the pieces of land identified as a potential site to build a theater has been sitting vacant for a long time as a result of the recession and the state’s quashing of the city’s redevelopment agency.

“The city has identified a plot of land in Old Town Newhall surrounded by Main Street, Lyons Blvd., Railroad Ave. and 9th Street, Chaparyan said.

That process includes discussions with various developers whom might be interested in building on the land. But first, the city needs to select a consultant next month that will help it look at strategies for developing the land.

“The vision for the property is a sort of mixed-use development that may possibly entail entertainment uses, retail, and housing,” Chaparyan said.

After working with a consultant, she said she expects the city to issue an RFP - Request For Proposal - from developers within the next three to six months.

And that’s the point at which Laemmle Theatres hopes to step up.

“We have been involved in owning and developing our own properties in mixed-use and in partnership with others,” Greg Laemmle said. “We have a preference to be in control of our own dirt. Our interest is in the RFP process.”

In the meantime, local movie aficionados will have to wait before they can routinely see independent films in Santa Clarita.

Movie Fans

Celentano said she is surprised that with so many people in the film industry that live or work out here, that there isn’t more of a local movement to bring a good art house theater to the region.

She and one of her friends recently drove down to Santa Monica for one of their movie days because they wanted to see “a good film with smart writing,” she said. And that was the city in which they spent their money.

“In the overall scheme of world affairs, it’s not that big a deal,” Celentano said. “But when there’s a really good movie we don’t want to drive out of town.”

 

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