Entertains Proposal to Combine Cinema, Parking Downtown
By Lookout Staff
November 12 -- The City Council could give new meaning
to the term “drive-in” Tuesday night when it decides
whether to entertain an unsolicited proposal to combine a movie
house with parking Downtown.
The proposal by Mann Theaters has spurred the council to consider authorizing
the solicitation of proposals to redevelop the site of Parking Structure 3,
located at 1318-20 Fourth Street, for subterranean parking, ground-floor retail
and cinema development.
City officials hope the proposal will help the Downtown successfully compete
with a slew of state-of-the-art theaters cropping up in surrounding communities.
“In the past decade, new cinema complexes have been built nearby which
offer movie-goers more choices and better amenities than are available in Santa
Monica,” staff wrote in its report to the council.
The proposal comes three years after the Promenade Uses Task Force cautioned
that the trend posed a threat to the cinema market that helped put Downtown
Santa Monica on the international map.
“The Task Force’s report encouraged the City to support the upgrading
of cinemas in order to sustain the diversity of activity within the Downtown
and to ensure that Santa Monica residents have opportunities to enjoy movies
locally,” staff wrote.
The unsolicited proposal from Metropolitan Pacific Capital, LLC
and Mann Theaters envisions expanding a Third Street Promenade cinema
to Structure 3, one of three parking structures slated for replacement
under a plan to add 1,700 parking spaces Downtown over the next
“The Promenade Uses Task Force foresaw the opportunity to combine these
efforts and suggested that options to enhance the cinema experience ‘may
include combining cinema development with the Downtown parking structure reconstruction
and expansion program,’” staff wrote.
“Staff believes that this proposal presents an excellent opportunity
and recommends that the City solicit proposals to determine private sector interest
in a project of this kind on this site.”
The developers propose to retain Mann’s the existing entrance on the
Third Street Promenade and construct 10 theaters with approximately 2,240 seats
and 35,000 square feet of ground-floor retail on Arizona Avenue and Fourth Street
by bridging Fourth Court and constructing two levels of cinema over subterranean
public parking on the site of Parking Structure 3.
The proposed project, staff contends, “offers several potential benefits
to the community,” including “retaining a cinema entrance on Third
Street Promenade and creating ground-floor retail space along Arizona Avenue
and Fourth Street.”
The project would expand “the energy of the Promenade to these adjacent
streets that are currently challenged by blank walls and parking at street level,”
Despite the benefits, staff acknowledges that the proposal “raises several
issues, including parking availability.”
“Dedicating the site of Parking Structure No. 3 for cinema development
and only reserving the subterranean area for public parking may not achieve
the full parking program that the Downtown Parking Plan envisioned for the site,”
“Another issue for consideration is that making only one site available
for new cinema development will not fully satisfy the need to modernize the
cinemas in the Bayside District, nor satisfy existing demand for upgraded cinema
facilities,” staff wrote.
“If one cinema operator is able to upgrade successfully using the Parking
Structure 3 site, other cinema operators could be at a competitive disadvantage
until other opportunities arise.”
The Bayside District currently offers four cinema complexes and three cinema
operators, with a total of 21 screens and more 5,500 seats, according to City
“The existing Bayside cinema complexes only offer between four and seven
screens each, which potentially could put them at a disadvantage in competition
for first-run movies, as movie distributors prefer to offer their product to
theaters that can show movies on multiple screens at multiple times,”
“Furthermore, existing theaters in Santa Monica do not offer stadium
seating and other amenities that new theaters offer.”
Contemporary cinemas at the Howard Hughes Center and in Culver City directly
compete with the Santa Monica cinemas, and have been joined by new cinemas at
Westside Pavilion, Century City and the Grove, according to staff.
“Both Mann Theaters and AMC Theaters are on long-term leases which expire
within the next 15 to 20 years,” staff wrote.
“If cinema patrons and distributors favor other cinema centers, the economic
viability of existing operations in Santa Monica will decline, the
operators may decide to leave Santa Monica, and Santa Monica residents
will be forced to travel outside the City to see first-run films.”