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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.

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dannybaldwin Dec. 12, 2012 @ 3:28 p.m.

For the record, I'm not sure that Poway's screens have fixed aspect ratios. But it was built by Edwards at right around the same time they built the Del Mar 8, which did have fixed 2.0:1 screens.

Secondly, here's a DigiPlex back East... http://www.cinematour.com/tour/us/7252.html ... Doesn't look to me like there will be any bowling alleys or paintball guns, that's for sure.


Scott Marks Dec. 13, 2012 @ 8:11 a.m.

In all seriousness, Daniel, your knowledge of and passion for presentation never ceases to amaze. Again, I thank you.


Dave Rice Dec. 12, 2012 @ 10:13 p.m.

I guess for us paying customers this spells the end of constant cut-rate UltraStar ticket barrages through those daily deal sites...it wasn't uncommon to see half the line at Hazard cashing them in, so I figure they must have been taking a bath for some time.


Scott Marks Dec. 13, 2012 @ 7:50 a.m.

I asked a source close to the situation who asks that s/he not be named and they seem to think that the pricing policy will pretty much remain the same. Can't say whether or not Digiplex will provide a steady flow of discount coupons. I just did a little snooping around to see if I could find you a deal. Reading used to have an early bird special of $6 for the first show of the day. The bargain shows at the Gaslamp are $9. Yikes! The cheapest ticket in town appears to be $6 for the early bird show at AMC. Danny, anyplace cheaper that you can think of?


Dave Rice Dec. 13, 2012 @ 6:31 p.m.

I'm not too worried...my wife makes most of our movie dates, and she's got a thing for Edwards Mira Mesa...and lately Cinepolis, the precise opposite of "cheap."


Visduh Dec. 12, 2012 @ 10:47 p.m.

Isn't Ultra-Star the chain that shuttered about four movie complexes in No County within the past two years? I think one or two reopened under new ownership, but not all. A couple of those defied good sense. Located in affluent areas, why could they not make a go of it? Or is this business just in its last hurrah, destined to the same fate as newspapers?


Scott Marks Dec. 13, 2012 @ 8:09 a.m.

Flower Hell was an insult to the pezzonovante, let alone the affluent, a toilet with two auditoriums attached. Heaven only knows what ratio they ran their prints in and uniform focus? Please don't make me laugh, my lips are chapped.

I'm not sure about this last gasp stuff as far as movies are concerned. True, philistines are watching films on their phones at an alarming rate, but we remain a gregarious lot. If nothing else, people will always pay to see crappy event pictures. Unless they perfect holographic-TV soon, I highly doubt that we'll see theatrical exhibition pass on into extinction. At least not in our lifetimes.


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