A sign posted in the box office window of the AMC Pine Square 16 Theatre in downtown Long Beach sums up what has been in the works for several months — the theater went dark Sunday evening.
An AMC employee said Monday morning that since no more movies would be playing at the 18-year-old theater, patrons could redeem American Multi-Cinema, Inc. (AMC Theatres) gift cards or pre-purchased tickets at nearby locations such as the AMC Marina Pacifica 12 in Long Beach and AMC Rolling Hills 20 in Torrance.
In September, Kraig Kojian, president and CEO of the Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA), said there was a clause in the theater’s lease stating that it can “go dark,” or cease operations, before the end of its 20-year lease (which was set to expire Dec. 31, 2012). Although AMC Director of Public Relations Justin Scott said the company declined to comment at the time about the closure, Pine Square’s property owner said conversion of the space into condominiums had been in the works for five years.
“Once the theater vacates, we want to convert it into a residential use with luxury lofts,” said Armando Delgado, vice president of real estate for Downey-based Meruelo Group, Pine Square’s owner. “We feel it’s the best use for the space.”
And with the blessing of the Long Beach Redevelopment Board (RDA) to move the condominium project forward during the Nov. 15 meeting, the residential development’s construction was poised to begin prior to 2012.
However, the developer first will have to address a parking agreement, Communities Facilities District (CFD) contract, Public Facilities Lease and covenants it holds with the city and Long Beach Redevelopment Agency (RDA) before moving forward. Because the RDA Board voted for Executive Director Amy Bodek to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Pacific Court-Pine Square Partners to renegotiate redevelopment of the Pine Court property, discussion regarding those agreements may begin.
Carl Morgan, RDA Downtown Project redevelopment officer, said the scope of the project would include two stories of residential units (totaling 69 dwellings). The 543-square-foot box office possibly would be reconfigured for an entryway into the residential complex or remain commercial space, and the exterior escalator to the theater would be eliminated.
If Pine Court is converted to residential use, the Theatre Space Offsite Parking Agreement will end, and the RDA will provide no parking, Morgan said. The developer would need to repay a $10 million CFD bond so Pine Court’s public garage could become a private garage for residential use only.
“The two-story commercial component would remain intact outside the theater parcel,” Morgan said. “We attempted to keep the space for commercial use, and looked at a fitness center and a number of other different things … it’s a difficult space. At this point, we don’t have an option of retaining the commercial space.”
In September, Vice Mayor and Second District Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal said she supported the possible conversion of the AMC Theatre space into residential units.
“More downtown residents are the key, not only to our recovery, but also our success over the next 20 to 30 years in retail, dining and entertainment,” Lowenthal said. “Downtown visioning and retail studies all point to a lack of critical mass in supporting our goal to become a vibrant downtown. This economy will eventually rebound, so it’s in our best interest to lay the ground work in planning, building and public infrastructure.”
When questioned about the competition between AMC Pine Square and the neighboring Cinemark At the Pike, which opened in 2003, Lowenthal said declining attendance at movie theaters nationwide and the proximity of the two theaters probably contributed to AMC’s closure.
For details, call (888) AMC-4FUN or visit www.amctheatres.com.