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Prices for Second-Run Movies Are First-Rate

March 25, 1993|FRANK MESSINA | Frank Messina is a free-lance writer who regularly contributes to The Times Orange County Edition.

In a sad-sack economy, the word discount turns heads.

Whole stores revolve around the "nothing above" concept. Nothing above $5 at this clothes store. Nothing more than a buck on the shelves of a general merchandise shop.

Thanks to discount cinemas, moviegoers can also shop for bargains on the big screen.

The films may not be first-run, but for cheap dates and family outings, the prices can't be beat at more than a half-dozen theaters in and around Orange County where all seats are less than $2.

"$6.50 a ticket is a bit out of our league," said Jim Reemer as he waited in line to get popcorn for his family of six at the Orange City Cinemas last weekend. "Would I rather wait for a while and see the same picture for $1.50? Ask me something tough."

When you have a family of six, Reemer said, you learn to cut a few corners--take a sack lunch to work, buy ketchup in gallon tubs, open an account at the neighborhood video store.

But when the movie "Aladdin" came out late last year, he knew the old refrain "wait until it comes out on video" wouldn't hold off his four kids for long.

So off to a first-run theater went the Anaheim family, where the evening's tab went something like this: two child tickets, $7; four adult admissions, $26 (his two older children are 12 and 13), and $15 for refreshments (a tub of popcorn, three sodas and four boxes of candy). That's $48 for the night's entertainment.

Last week, the Reemers made another trip to the movies--this time to see "National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon I" at Orange City Cinemas--and the happy ending started at the box office. Paying $1.50 per ticket and buying candy at a convenience mart cut the price tag for this outing to $19 (popcorn and beverage prices were about the same as at the first-run theater).

"For that much (savings), the kids can wait a couple of months," Reemer said. "I hope."

But the time lag isn't the only drawback to discount theaters. Some cheap seat cinemas are a little rough around the edges: broken seats aren't repaired quickly, if at all, and restrooms tend not to be as clean as at first-run theaters.

Also, picture quality can be shaky. Movie film is brittle. After months of play, the celluloid gets scratched and cracked. If not properly maintained, the film can break during a screening.

"It takes a lot more work to keep (the films) repaired," said Kent Johnson, assistant manager at the Brookhurst 6 in Anaheim. "Some theaters are really bad about it. We can usually tell which theater a film has come from.

"To keep your (discount) theater successful, you have to work hard to keep the place clean," he said. "We tend to be a lot friendlier, and that's what keeps us in the game."

Along with the inexpensive ticket prices, that is.

At the Brookhurst Cinema 6, some people show up at the box office unaware that admission is $1.75.

"They've come to see that movie they've been wanting to see for weeks," said Johnson, "They're shocked when they find out we only charge $1.75."

In the past, many discount theaters were independently owned. But now, even the large chains are getting into the act.

Edwards Cinemas, which owns the most screens in Orange County, recently lowered the admission price for its Harbor Twin Cinemas in Costa Mesa to $1.

Syufy Enterprises, a San Francisco-based theater chain which owns the Century Cinedome 11 and Stadium Drive-Ins in Orange, also runs Century City Center 4, where all seats are $1.50.

Making Orange possibly the discount movie mecca of Orange County, both AMC and United Artists operate cinemas in the city, with ticket prices at $1.75 and $1.50 respectively.

"You can't beat the price; you can't do it," said Janeen Rodriguez at the Edwards Twin Cinemas in Costa Mesa, where she lives. She had come there to see "Shadow of the Wolf." "It costs more to rent a video, and I think that's pretty miserable compared to the big screen."

Bargain Area Cinemas

Edwards Twin Cinemas, 2500 Harbor Blvd., Costa Mesa. Admission per movie: $1. (714) 631-3501.

AMC Orange Mall, 2320 N. Orange Mall, Orange. Admission per movie: $1.75. (714) 637-0340.

Century City Center 4, 3901 Metropolitan Drive, Orange. Admission per movie: $1.50. (714) 634-9505.

UA City Cinema, City Shopping Center, Orange. Admission per movie: $1.50. (714) 634-3911.

Super Saver Cinemas, 12343 Seal Beach Blvd., Seal Beach. Admission per movie: $1.75. (310) 594-9411.

Brookhurst Cinema 6, 2299 W. Ball Road, Anaheim. Admission per movie: $1.75. (714) 778-6910.

Promenade Cinema 6, 4300 Green River Drive, Corona. Admission per movie: $1. (909) 273-9973.

AMC Alondra Six, 10802 Alondra Blvd., Cerritos. Admission per movie: $1.75. (310) 924-5531.

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