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VALLEY AND VENTURA COUNTY | VENTURA COUNTY REVIEW

Businessman Gets a Second-Run (Movie House) for His Money

July 14, 1998|LEO SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Dale Davison, president of the CinemaCal Enterprises movie theater chain of Northern California, never gave much thought to opening a movie house in Oxnard.

That is, until about four months ago, when Davison learned that the Carriage Square 5 Theaters at Oxnard Boulevard and Gonzales Road were sitting vacant--tenant-less since the February departure of the Pacific Theaters chain.

The location's appeal was not only enough to attract Davison's attention, but to encourage him to sign a multiyear lease with property owner Martin V. Smith Inc.

After two weeks of remodeling--including painting, carpeting and other improvements--the theater opened for business Friday with a lineup of second-run films such as "Titanic," "Deep Impact" and "Quest for Camelot." Discount admission is $3 for general showings, with $1 films also scheduled.

Although opening a Ventura County theater was not on Davison's list of priorities, he said it was an easy decision to make from a business standpoint.

"Basically, if you're in business, you're always looking for opportunities that might be worthwhile to pursue," Davison said. "I investigated the opportunity to operate the [Paseo Camarillo] triplex in Camarillo a few years back, but that didn't work out. This is nothing that I've been waiting to do; it's something that is just the right combination."

That combination, he said, consists of an existing theater that didn't need a great deal of refurbishing or new equipment, and that it was located in an area that doesn't have an abundance of second-run, discount theaters.

Carriage Square is the 12th complex under the CinemaCal name and increases to 58 the total number of screens in the chain. The firm, with headquarters in Concord, operates cinemas mostly in Northern California and in Southern California's Inland Empire.

Most of the CinemaCal multiplexes feature new releases and charge full admission. But Davison said he never considered placing the 1,840-seat Carriage Square theaters in that category.

"The first-run market [in Ventura County] is extremely well-represented by theaters recently built here," Davison said. "That's a real credit to the local industry and a real credit to the real estate market."

During the last few years, Ventura County has added more than half a dozen movie theaters--most of them first-run--including the Santa Paula 7 Theater, Regal Cinemas in Moorpark, Edwards Theatres in Camarillo, the Mann Janss Marketplace and the Mann Westlake Village.

Rather than compete with those theater chains, Davison chose the discount route. It's a strategy, he said, that is particularly timely given the large quantity of motion pictures being released and the speed at which films move in and out of first-run theaters.

"Our theater attracts people who have seen a movie and want to see it again," Davison said. "And there are so many films out simultaneously [that] they spend only a few weeks and they're out of the first-run theaters. We also appeal to a demographic range that may find it more difficult to see as many first-run movies as they would like to."

The presence of new filmmakers, such as DreamWorks SKG and PolyGram, and the growing output of existing producers also increases the demand for second-run theaters.

"You also have a few other major companies releasing more titles, so therefore, there are more titles in the marketplace," Davison said. "Pictures are given a huge marketing and promotional campaign, so companies have a reason to put them in as many theaters as possible."

Linda Hagelis of Capital Commercial Real Estate represented both the landlord and tenant in the theater transaction. As representative for Martin V. Smith, Hagelis was initially responsible for scouting potential tenants for the 30,000-square-foot theater.

"We knew it wouldn't be one of the prime names because they need 15 to 20 screens," Hagelis said. "There are more out there who own just one to three or four--mom and pops--who are a little more independent, but we tried to pursue multiscreen operators that owned several theaters.

"We found a few and we did come close with a couple of others," she said. "This is a good operator and he has the experience. This deal worked out well."

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