There's life among the ailing movie theater chains after all.
AMC Entertainment Inc. has revived plans to bring a 16-screen cineplex to downtown Burbank as it moves out of the retrenchment mode that the industry has been facing for more than a year.
AMC received city approval in September to tear down the 14-screen theater it already operates at First Street and Palm Avenue and build a new stadium-style theater across the street. The 4,200-seat theater will be part of a $60 million, two-story, 80,000-square-foot complex with restaurants and stores on the lower level, according to Jack Lynch, senior project manager with Burbank's redevelopment agency.
The existing AMC theater was built in 1986 as a 10-screen facility. Four more screens were added in 1989, but it still has only 3,850 seats and an older, sloping floor plan. The new theater, originally scheduled to open by this Christmas, is now expected to open in April 2003.
Like its top competitors, including New York-based Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp., AMC suffered during the late 1990s, primarily because of overbuilding throughout the industry. Nine theater chains, including Loews, were forced into Chapter 11 reorganization.
While some have successfully reorganized, all have shut down many of their older theaters. AMC closed 279 theaters across the country.
"AMC substantially curtailed its building plans over the last couple of years," said Matthew Harrigan, an analyst with Denver-based Janco Partners.
"Clearly AMC remains the frontrunner in terms of a turnaround, primarily because it has managed its capital expenditures closely and is a proven winner in key markets," said Harrigan.
AMC lost $11.9 million for the quarter ended June 30, compared with a loss of $12.9 million for the like period a year ago. Revenues were $309.5 million vs. $288 million.
There is some activity among the other chains. Pacific Theaters Corp. closed its five-screen complex in the Sherman Oaks Galleria last year to make way for a new 16-screen theater set to open when mall renovations are completed in November. Pacific also will open the Paseo 14 in the new Pasadena Paseo project just outside of Old Pasadena soon.
In Hollywood, Pacific is adding 14 screens at the landmark Cinerama Dome as part of a complex scheduled to open by spring of 2002.
Newport Beach-based Edwards Theaters Circuit Inc. is set to open a five and a half-story Edwards Giant Screen Theater in Valencia in January. The theater is one of several that Edwards took over from IMAX Corp., according to Fred Bell, company spokesman.
Until the late 1990s, Regent Properties wanted to build a mixed-use complex in Burbank on the site of the old police headquarters on Olive Avenue that would have included offices, shops, a hotel and a movie theater. But the troubles in the theater business made it difficult for Regent to secure a tenant.
Legacy Partners Commercial Inc. later offered a plan that also included a movie theater. But by October of last year, the city, concerned that Legacy's plans would also fall through, accepted a second proposal from local developer Cusimano Group. Then Cusimano dropped out of the running earlier this year when the city refused to reduce the asking price for property.
The Burbank City Council is now preparing to select a fourth developer, whose project includes primarily housing with some retail and office components, but no theater.
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