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Cinema Firm Hopes to Start Work on Complex : Thousand Oaks: Edwards Theater Circuit envisions multiplex and retail center, calling county 'a new frontier.'

March 11, 1995|PAUL ELIAS and DUNCAN MARTELL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A company that builds giant movie theaters is banking that there is no show business in Thousand Oaks. Or not enough of it.

Edwards Theater Circuit hopes to build a 12-screen movie complex and retail center in the city's downtown by Christmas--a sequel to the giant venue the firm just opened in Camarillo.

"We find Ventura County to be a new frontier for us," said Michael Tiemeyer, operations director for Edwards.

Company officials approached the city about six months ago with plans to build a 50,000-square-foot, 12-screen theater at the corner of Thousand Oaks Boulevard and Hodencamp Road. But they ran into several planning hurdles, including a study of the project's effect on traffic. That report was submitted last week.

"That was a major holdup," said Michael Sangster, Thousand Oaks' deputy director of planning. "Now we are reaching the point where we are picking up steam."

Edwards officials said they hope to begin construction in two months, but Sangster said that may be too optimistic. The plan has yet to go before the city's Planning Commission and Sangster estimated that in itself will take two months.

Still, Edwards officials are eager to open as soon as possible and dismiss the notion that Ventura County is already glutted with screens.

"Ventura (County) is a hot market," Tiemeyer said. "There's a lot of growth potential in the area."

His firm is not the only one to try to cash in on the county's movie fans. Developers have tentative plans to build multiscreen theaters in Oxnard, Ventura, Simi Valley and even Thousand Oaks. Ventura planners are seriously discussing a 20-screen theater for its downtown.

Edwards recently opened a 12-screen complex in Camarillo and owns two theaters in Simi Valley. Thousand Oaks already has one multiplex, the six-screen United Artists theater in The Oaks shopping mall. In addition, there are two screens at the Conejo Mann Theater in the Janss Mall and two screens at the independently owned Melody on Moorpark Road.

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"I'm a believer in the free-market system," Thousand Oaks Councilwoman Judy Lazar said. "It's their business and they obviously have done marketing studies."

Tiemeyer said no architectural plans have been drawn up for the proposal. But a tentative scheme calls for a multistory building with retail stores on the bottom floor and theaters seating between 280 and 350 people.

The design is in keeping with the increasingly popular trend among theater builders to construct "destination centers" that offer more than popcorn and movies.

"We build destination theaters," Tiemeyer said. "We don't build neighborhood theaters."

Elias is a Times correspondent and Martell is a staff writer.

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