Ground was broken on the CinemaStar with great fanfare in 1998, and it opened after Thanksgiving 1999. By 2001, the corporation was struggling. It went bankrupt in 2008 and closed the San Bernardino theater.


Published: 02 October 2011 09:23 PM

San Bernardino officials say the city’s only multiplex theater could reopen next year, in what they say will be the first piece of an entertainment and restaurant complex that officials hope will rejuvenate the economically depressed downtown.

Only minor issues need to be worked out with Regal Entertainment, officials said. After the lease is signed, a second developer would remodel four of the 20 screening rooms into restaurants.

“This new theater will create so much buzz in the downtown area and the city of San Bernardino,” Councilwoman Virginia Marquez said. “It will be vibrant, just like I remember it being when I was growing up here.”

Emil Marzullo, the interim executive director of the city’s Economic Development Agency, said he is hopeful that the lease and other agreements could be brought before the City Council soon.

The Regal, which would take over the shuttered CinemaStar theater at Fourth and E streets, could open as early as spring, he said. The property is next to the California Theatre, which hosts live entertainment.

The remaining issues include wages that would be paid at the theater, maintenance, parking and what food the restaurants could sell that would not compete with Regal snack bars, Marzullo said. Movie theaters make their profits off concessions, he said.

“Obviously there’s a ‘no popcorn’ deal,” he said.

Marzullo said he hopes the cinema and restaurants will open about the same date. Cinema operators typically try to open new theaters in one of three movie-release cycles, he said: Christmas, spring break and summer.

Officials with Knoxville, Tenn.-based Regal said they agree with Marzullo’s characterization of the negotiations.

Regal operates 6,623 screens in 530 theaters in 37 states and the District of Columbia under the Edwards, United Artists and Regal nameplates, according to its website. The San Bernardino theater would be the only multiplex in a city of 200,000.

Regal would lease 14 of the 20 screening rooms in the theater building. A restaurant developer would lease four others.

Marzullo said he has received four letters of intent from “fast-casual” restaurant operators that he would not identify. Another of the other auditoriums would be used as storage for the adjacent California Theatre, and the other would be a theater that could be used for comedy shows, lectures and church services, Marzullo said.

Marzullo said the quick-serve restaurants are important because he has heard complaints from California Theater patrons who couldn’t get a cup of coffee after a performance.

In the project’s second phase, if demand develops, a building would be constructed that would serve a dual purpose: It would attach to the 1920s-era California Theatre, providing seismic support to make the building safer, and host entertainment events. The third phase would feature sit-down restaurants on the east end of the property.

There also would be an open public space where people could sit and eat lunch and perhaps listen to live music.

Marzullo sees the Regal as a centerpiece of a commercial rebirth downtown.

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