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Shuttered Theater in Moorpark to Reopen With Fewer Screens

City Council approves a health club and new film house with stadium seating to take the place of the Regal in Mission Bell Plaza.

November 08, 2002|Suzie St. John | Special to The Times

The Moorpark City Council has paved the way for a health club and three-screen movie theater to move into the spot left vacant when Regal Theater shut its doors.

Northern California-based developer Epic Enterprises hopes to open the theater by mid-December and a Mavericks health club by March 1.

"Our goal is to open the theater in time to show the new 'Lord of the Rings' movie, which comes out Dec. 18," said Gene Campbell, general manager of Epic Enterprises. The business also owns three other Mavericks health clubs, including one in Ventura.

Anticipating the council's favorable vote, which came Wednesday night, the company began demolishing the inside of the building earlier this week, Campbell said.

"We kind of jumped the gun but we were pretty confident," he said. "So we're actually halfway through demolition already."

Discussions began in April for Mavericks to move into the Los Angeles Avenue shopping center, which features a variety of restaurants, retail shops and an Albertson's grocery store.

Opened in 1996, Regal's eight-screen theater was expected to be one of the anchors for Mission Bell Plaza, but low ticket sales forced it to close in January 2001. The shopping center suffered a second major blow when discount retailer Kmart closed earlier this year.

Jo-Anne Sheftel, who owns a home decor shop in Mission Bell Plaza, was enthusiastic about her new neighbor.

"I think the last theater owners were overly optimistic with eight screens, but three should work out great," Sheftel said. "With the growth going on in the city, this is a real good time to do this. I know people are thrilled that [Mavericks] is moving in, so hopefully they will support it."

Plans call for the former theater to be converted from eight screens to three and feature stadium seating and digital sound.

The remainder of the 28,000-square-foot building will be redesigned into a health club with group exercise rooms, sauna and steam rooms, locker rooms and a child-care center that can be used by both club members and moviegoers. Outside, a 5,000-square-foot children's play area and a 12,000-square-foot pool are also planned.

"It's unusual to have a theater and health club combination, but we think it will work well," Campbell said. "People can check their kids in at the child-care center; we'll give them a vibrating beeper in case there's an emergency and they can go enjoy a movie."

Campbell, who said the project will cost $2.5 million to $3 million, is shooting for a March 1 opening for the main part of the health club, with completion of the outdoor heated swimming pool slated for 60 days later. Future plans also call for a basketball court and a sand volleyball court.

Moorpark High School athletic director Rob Dearborn said he met recently with Campbell to discuss using the pool for swim and water polo team practices and meets. The squads currently use the pool at Westlake High School.

"Hopefully we can start some kind of negotiations soon," Dearborn said. "[Campbell] is trying very hard to accommodate us, and to go from nothing with traveling and paying rent to having a pool right down the street would be wonderful."

Meanwhile, the city is still dealing with a lawsuit filed by the property owners in March after Regal closed down. The suit contended that a 1995 redevelopment deal forced the city to pay about $30,000 a month until 2006 or as long as the building remained vacant.

Moorpark officials countered that they were exempt from the obligation because the property owners failed to secure the movie theater equipment as collateral after it closed.

Assistant City Manager Hugh Riley said a judgment was issued in favor of the city on July 12. "We won the case, but it's under appeal so I can't comment any further on it," Riley said.

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