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Metropolitan Digest / LOS ANGELES COUNTY NEWS IN BRIEF

Magic Johnson, Sony to Open 12-Screen Theater in Baldwin Hills

April 27, 1994|ERIN J. AUBRY

Surrounded by city officials, including Mayor Richard Riordan, and representatives of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Earvin (Magic) Johnson announced a new partnership Tuesday that will bring a 12-screen multiplex theater to Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza next summer.

The Baldwin Hills theater, which will be owned jointly by Johnson and Sony Theatres, will be the first in a chain that promises to locate in underserved minority neighborhoods.

"This will be a first-class operation with first-class service," Johnson said, flashing his trademark smile. "Everything this community has always wanted, the type of service it deserves, will be right here. You won't have to drive 20 miles to get it anymore."

The new complex, expected to cost between $11 million and $15 million, will boast a large glass atrium, plush seats, state-of-the-art stereo sound and projection and lobby video monitors. It will be a prototype for a new, upscale theater that Sony Theatres, formerly Loews Theatres, says it wants to make its trademark.

Sony Theatres co-chairwoman Barrie Lawson Loeks said the demographics of the Crenshaw community, which includes affluent Baldwin Hills, Windsor Hills, View Park and Leimert Park, made the plaza an ideal location for the venture.

"When I toured the neighborhood last fall, I was astounded at how many people with substantial incomes had such a paucity of movie theaters," said Loeks, who also operates Loeks Michigan Theatres and Loeks-Star Theatres, also in Michigan. "We didn't have to be convinced that this was a good deal. This was a no-brainer."

The mall, which was a joint venture of developer Alexander Haagen and the city of Los Angeles, has struggled financially since opening in 1988. After city officials threatened to sue Haagen last month when he sold the mall and cut them out of potential profits, an agreement was reached in which profits will be split evenly. A Community Redevelopment Agency official said the multiplex deal, which Johnson had proposed funding last year, hinged on a satisfactory resolution of the conflict.

The deal caps a two-year effort to bring a multiplex to the plaza.

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