Cinemark project advances
Will Yuba City ever get a new movie theater?
Signs point to progress toward a new 12-screen cinema at the Movies 8 location on Whyler Road.
While officials with the company that operates Movies 8 have long complained that the city was thwarting their efforts for a new theater in Yuba City, the complicated plot seems to be nearing a resolution.
“I think the city just really wants a movie theater at this point,” said Tom Owens, Cinemark's vice president of development.
“We're seeing a lot more cooperation than we've had in the past,” added John Ochipinti of Aztec Development and Construction.
Cinemark went before the City Council in April to get a general plan amendment for a nine-screen rebuilt movie theater. The change, described as a cleanup item, was needed so the city could issue building permits when the application is filed.
Months later, Cinemark is hoping for a building permit within the next four months that would give it a green light for a new theater.
“Now we're down to the end of it, how the buildings are going to be positioned on the site, and what the building's going to look like,” said Owens.
After a permit is issued, it would take another five months until construction starts, then about nine months to build the cinema. A late 2007 opening would be an optimistic goal.
Movies 8 would remain open to the public while construction occurs, then torn down after the new building is completed.
Cinemark is able to move ahead with plans after a potential legal hurdle was cleared earlier this month.
A legal opinion was issued by the city's law firm on the ordinance restricting development of new movie theaters to the downtown area until Jan. 1, 2013.
Ochipinti said the consensus was that the existing Movies 8 could be torn down and a new cinema built.
“Cinemark didn't want a car with a new paint job - they wanted a new car,” said Ochipinti.
What the Cinemark project means for the Roxy Yuba City Stadium 15 Theater - the city's downtown redevelopment centerpiece - is unclear. It could be that Yuba City is too small a market to support two new theaters.
Its developers, Roxy Yuba City Partners of Santa Rosa, fired off an e-mail to council members in July saying they were concerned about theater developments - including Ochipinti's talks with city planners about a new theater rather than a remodel.
According to a copy of the e-mail obtained by the Appeal-Democrat, the partners went as far as to say that the area could only support one state-of-the-art theater.
“If a new theater is built outside of downtown, then the downtown will never have a new theater,” said the e-mail.
Roxy Yuba City Partners also said that a new theater is expressly prohibited in the city's downtown theater ordinance.
Larry Wasem, general partner with the developers, qualified the statement that the area could support only one theater, saying if a new, state-of-the-art, 14- to 15 screen theater is built, there's only room for one. He added that he wouldn't count a nine-screen theater as state-of-the-art.
Though rumors have been circulating that the city's downtown redevelopment centerpiece project is dead, Wasem said those rumors are premature.
He said the partners plan to rebid the Roxy Yuba City in October or November. If the bids come in favorably, the project can move forward, he said. Previous bids came in too high, making it an unprofitable endeavor.
Appeal-Democrat reporter John Dickey can be reached at 749-4711; you may e-mail him at email@example.com.