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With the recently announced closing of UltraStar Cinemas' Flower Hill four-plex in Del Mar, North County residents between south Carlsbad and Carmel Valley will be without a multiplex movie theater. The Flower Hill theater will close in July and be replaced by a Whole Foods grocery store.

Earlier this month, the UltraStar chain closed its Carlsbad six-plex in La Costa and announced it will not reopen the Del Mar Highlands eight-screen, which was participating in a multimillion-dollar makeover of the Highlands shopping center on the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real in Carmel Valley.

The closings of the three multiplexes amount to one third of the theater chain's San Diego County locations. UltraStar claims they are closing their chain's underperforming screens mainly because of the end of long-term leases assumed from the bankrupt Edwards Cinema in the late 1990s, a time that saw failed rapid expansion followed by financial reorganization by big chains.

Others in the industry claim high ticket prices have led to the theaters’ demise. At $13 a ticket for a 3-D movie, many believe that a movie night out has been made unaffordable for most families.

Along the coast, the iconic La Paloma Theatre in downtown Encinitas remains. In the same week UltraStar announced the closings, the 1920s-built single-screen La Paloma premiered Soul Surfer — a first-run film that normally would have opened at the multiplexes.

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Visduh May 24, 2011 @ 9:35 p.m.

The closure of the Flower Hill facility is understandable. It is small and there's likely going to be greater profit for the mall in having a "Whole Paycheck" store in there. Having Ultra-Star pull the plug on both the Dal Mar Highlands complex and the La Costa six-plex is harder to understand. Those are both in affluent areas where high ticket prices should not be a real barrier to attendance. Neither is very old either. The La Costa complex isn't even twenty years old. One or the other of those two should have remained viable with closing of the other two. Where those coastal moviegoers will go now is not clear. Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos, Escondido?

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