K. Mennem 6:15 p.m., May 21
Digiplex agrees to purchase 5 local UltraStar Cinemas
Poway, Bonsall, Temecula, Oceanside, and Mission Valley cinemas soon to be under new ownership
UltraStar Mission Valley at Hazard Center. Has there ever been a less appealing name for a theatre?
Wasn't this digital transformation supposed to make it easier on all of us? The birthplace of "Pure Digital Cinema" housed more focus and illumination problems than all of the other multiplexes in the area combined.
Let the joyous news be spread, as far as Mission Valley and several other locations are concerned, UltraStar Cinemas in San Diego is dead!
Let's hope that Digital Cinema Destinations Corp. (Digiplex) is poised to make life a little easier on San Diego filmgoers. Digiplex is partnering with Start Media, LLC on the proposed acquisition of 7 movie theaters in the Southern California area from UltraStar Cinemas.
Of the 74 screens to be acquired in the deal, 46 of them are close to home. Along with the Hazard Center 7 there's the Temecula 10, Poway Cinema 10, River Village 6 in Bonsall, and Oceanside's Mission Marketplace 13. That leaves only one UltraStar locations in the San Diego area, their 10 screen, third-run house in Chula Vista.
According to their website, Digiplex's "aggregate purchase price for the theaters is anticipated to be approximately $13 million." This "represents a multiple of approximately 5X the annual theater level cash flow of the theaters."
Stop the music! How many years have we heard that Hazard Center was due to hit the wrecking ball? First it was going to be a parking lot. Then came talk of an apartment complex and a new freeway offramp. Rumor #3 involved incorporating the theatre into the new housing complex's lifestyle change.
I was initially told the theatre had two years to live. That was four years ago. When last I heard the number of years left before demolition had jumped to five or six. Digiplex obviously knows something we don't. Why else would they consider shelling out that kind of scratch on a deal that involved a house on it's last legs?
The company promises that "Upon completion of the transaction we plan to quickly integrate these additional screens onto the growing Digiplex platform." The press release promises they will remain "dedicated to transforming movie theaters into digital entertainment centers." If that means bowling alleys and/or paintball guns, count me out.
To my new friends at Digiplex, I extend a big welcome, but watch your step. If I'm not mistaken, the majority of the screens at the Poway location are fixed ratio 1.85:1. Surely a company with the word "Digi" in its name will do their best to ensure their product is beamed in focus and in the proper aspect ratio.
If you are going to keep one 35mm house in town (and you should, just in case), make it the #7 Hazard Center, with one slight modification. Your predecessor couldn't figure out how to take a screwdriver to the seizure-inducing intermittent shutter problem. Either that, or put in a line of Dramamine at the concession stand.
Another rumor that's been making the rounds for years is the existence of a 70mm projector at the Hazard Center location. If this is indeed true, how about importing some of those Hollywood archival prints for a wide gauge retrospective?
Please do your best to keep the Mission Valley outlet film festival friendly by not pricing them out of the game.
Finally, only a d'bag would pay for the privilege of D-Box. Lose the unnecessary technology.
Subject to customary closing conditions, the deal should be sealed on December 14. Here's to a great run.
Thanks to Danny Baldwin for his help on this article. I don't call him the Young Master for nothing.