Developers Boost Culver City Theater Project

Staff Reporter

Pacific Theatres and developer OliverMcMillan LLC will increase the size of a theater complex at Culver City's Town Center in an effort to pick up more customers from Westwood and Century City where a number of movie houses are closing.

Originally designed for 10 screens and 1,600 seats, the theater project, which is jointly owned by the developer and Pacific, now will have 12 screens and 1,852 seats, officials said. Groundbreaking is slated for April.

The decision to increase the scope of the project follows a move by OliverMcMillan to indefinitely put on hold the retail and restaurant components of the planned 495,000 square foot mixed-use project.

But with Westwood's 18 movie screens soon to be reduced by seven by the departures of multiplexes operated by Mann Theatres and United Artists, and a four-screen Loews complex closing along with the Shubert Theatre, Pacific and OliverMcMillan are betting the Culver City project will help fill the void.

"Between Pacific and ourselves, we felt we could compete better for patrons and films if we had more screens," said Paul Buss, executive vice president for San Diego-based OliverMcMillan.

With the retail component on hold, business owners in the area are pushing for the even bigger theater complex at the Town Center, which is at the intersection of Washington and Culver boulevards.

"If they expanded they could have one large theater where they could be looking at being able to do screenings and premieres, said Jay Handal, president of the Culver City Downtown Business Association and West Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce. "That will bring a better quality of restaurants and retail into Culver City and make it a real Westside destination."

But Buss said that a larger development would run up against space constraints and perhaps neighborhood opposition. In addition, a theater that is suitable for premieres requires almost 1,000 seats, more than OliverMcMillan and Pacific are willing to risk on one screen.

Beyond Westwood's remaining theaters, the new Pacific complex will compete for moviegoers with a nearby Mann multiplex and, more formidably, the 17-screen The Bridge: Cinema de lux near the San Diego Freeway (405) in Westchester.

"They really rely on the freeway draw while our audience is the surrounding neighborhood," Buss said.

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