Josh Dulaney, The (San Bernardino County) Sun
Posted: 11/29/2011 08:03:09 PM PST

SAN BERNARDINO – A lease agreement for a new downtown movie theater was approved Tuesday night.

The board of the Economic Development Corporation – the nonprofit agency which has had oversight of redevelopment here since March – voted 4-0 to approve a 10-year lease agreement with Regal Entertainment Group.

The agreement – which carries one-year options up to 34 years when the initial lease runs out – is for Regal to operate 14 of 20 screens at the former CinemaStar theater near Fourth and E streets.

The six remaining screens would be turned into restaurants and other uses.

Redevelopment officials say a Regal theater will draw more businesses to the area and is a key piece in transforming downtown over the next few years.

“For us, this isn’t a theater deal, for us this is an economic development deal,” said Emil Marzullo, the interim director of the Economic Development Agency, and chief executive officer of the EDC. “Without Regal, you can’t get the restaurants. Without the restaurants, you can’t get downtown to begin to expand.”

As an example, officials said the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has shown interest in moving into the location.

Officials said the theater will be called Regal Stadium 14.

Sixth Ward Councilman Rikke Van Johnson, who also sits on the EDC board, said when it comes to attracting businesses to the area, “that name needs to be out in front.”

The City Council last week voted 4-3 to endorse the concept of a Regal theater, while questions lingered about the lease agreement.

Seventh Ward Councilwoman Wendy McCammack said she saw 23 questionable provisions in the agreement and, in addition to pointing out that a development agreement is not in place, questioned whether the EDC would be put at risk financially if the theater doesn’t turn a profit.

Councilman Tobin Brinker, who also sits on the EDC board, supported the concept during last week’s council meeting but said he needed to get legal questions about the agreement answered prior to Tuesday night’s approval.

Brinker joined fellow board members – including Johnson, Mayor Pat Morris and Dennis Craig – in approving the lease, saying his legal concerns were answered.

Among the legal issues addressed by Marzullo in a 14-point memo presented Tuesday night, he said the EDC is the lessor, not the city.

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