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Congestion Feared : Santa Monica Ponders Life With 13,905 Movie Seats

April 19, 1987|TRACEY KAPLAN | Times Staff Writer

Westwood has become a dirty word in Santa Monica, which is considering proposals for seven new movie theater complexes that would add at least 10,476 seats to the city's current supply of 3,429.

Few residents appear eager to deal with the traffic, parking problems and noise that they say stem from Westwood's popular theaters, which seat about 9,000 people.

But though City Council members are concerned about the impact of multiscreen "cineplexes" on residential neighborhoods, they say they would welcome theaters downtown to help revitalize the Third Street Mall.

The council has asked the Planning Department to study and report on land-use controls for movie theaters in the city. The big question facing planners is whether Santa Monica will become "another Westwood with its fast-food restaurants and late-night activity," said senior planner Kenyon Webster.

Review Scheduled

The City Council is scheduled to review the planning staff's report at its April 28 meeting. In the meantime, city officials and neighborhood groups are looking at the following proposals, all of which are in early planning:

A 1,120-seat complex with four screens proposed by Janss Corp. of Los Angeles. It would be incorporated into a 118,000-square-foot mixed-use commercial project on the mall. The project involves a seven-story building at 309 Broadway, across the street from Santa Monica Place.

A six-screen theater with 1,856 seats at 234 Pico Blvd. submitted by Dean Beck & Associates of Century City. The four-story, 123,000-square-foot mixed-use commercial project also would include retail stores, a restaurant and offices.

A 1,200-seat complex with an unspecified number of screens at the northwest corner of Pico and Cloverfield boulevards proposed by Schurgin Development Corp. of Los Angeles. The 85,000-square-foot mixed-use commercial project would include a 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot grocery store, restaurants and retail stores.

A 2,500-seat subterranean complex with eight screens proposed by Southmark Pacific Corp. as part of the second phase of its Colorado Place mixed-use commercial project. The complex would be in the basement of an office building at the corner of Broadway and 26th Street.

A two-screen theater with 800 to 900 seats in the vacant Criterion Theatre at 1315 Santa Monica Mall. Janss Corp. is preparing a proposal, but no plans have been submitted yet.

A 1,500-seat complex with six screens in the J. J. Newberry building at 1300 Santa Monica Mall. No plans have been submitted yet.

A 1,500- to 2,000-seat movie complex with four to six screens on a block-long site on the south side of Wilshire Boulevard between 23rd and 24rd streets. Proposed by City Equities Inc. of Century City, the complex would be incorporated into a four-story, 79,000-square-foot project that would include retail shops, restaurants and offices. Neighborhood opposition has been strongest to this proposal, which city planners said they thought was defunct but which the developer said he intends to pursue.

Each of the seven projects must undergo an environmental review, which includes public hearings, before the Planning Commission considers it. The commission's vote is final unless an appeal to the City Council is filed, or unless the project lies within the coastal zone. The California Coastal Commission must approve any development on the Third Street Mall and at 234 Pico Blvd.

"If all seven projects went (through), there would be vast overbuilding," said Bill Janss, president of Janss Corp. "Everyone's just trying to get in and get control of the market."

Santa Monica could support about 5,000 movie theater seats, said City Councilman Dennis Zane, who requested the report from the planning staff. The city now has 3,429 seats, not including the Pussycat Theatre that shows X-rated films, and the Latino, which shows movies in Spanish.

Some theaters probably would be driven out of business if the new complexes were built, said Bob Laemmle, co-owner of Laemmle Theatres, which has four screens in Santa Monica. "It's going to be a very, very, very competitive area," he said.

Despite the recent proliferation of proposals, Santa Monica has looked desirable to movie exhibitors for the past five years, said Jim J. Sheehan, president of Mann Theatres Inc. He said the city appears more willing to consider growth since the November, 1986, City Council election.

"Population density is what intrigues all exhibitors, and you've got it here," Sheehan said. "I think if you had some new theaters, distributors would think twice before they granted clearance (exclusive rights to show a film in a particular geographical area) to Westwood."

Population Attractive

Theaters in Westwood now have exclusive rights to about 40% of first-run movie releases, Sheehan said, largely because the theaters in Santa Monica are operated by small companies and are relatively old.

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