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Gaslamp 15, we hardly knew ye

Downtown revelers will have to find another bathroom

Gaslamp 15
Gaslamp 15

How an art cinema situated in the land of drunken college kids and raucous conventioneers — who only stopped in to use the theater’s restrooms — lasted eight years is in and of itself a miracle. Still, it is with great sadness that I announce the Gaslamp 15, voted San Diego’s best theater by this reporter, is no more.

News arrived via Facebook: “Reading Cinemas Gaslamp is closed as of February 1, 2016. The management and staff...have enjoyed exhibiting the best movies and events in the heart of the Gaslamp District for the past eight years. Thank you for your support, San Diego!”

From its inception, there was talk of the property being too valuable to house a mere movie theater. Rumors circulated that the chain was going to keep the upstairs cinemas and convert the main floor into retail space. In spite of its central location, state-of-the-art projection (give or take an occasional Blu-ray), stadium seating, and eclectic booking policy, the place was frequently a ghost town. It would take more than three hands to count the number of “private” screenings I attended over the years.

In the end, it all came down to parking — or should I say, patrons too damn lazy to walk the two blocks from Horton Plaza. If only Pacific Theatres, the theater’s original owner, had had the foresight to build an eight-screen house with an adjacent parking structure.

There’s been no discussion as of yet concerning the theater’s future. The Horton Plaza redevelopment project cut that theater’s number of screens in half, making it clear that cinema is not a priority in the Gaslamp. Don’t expect AMC or Edwards to take over the lease, but there may be a Dress Barn in our future.

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Gaslamp 15
Gaslamp 15

How an art cinema situated in the land of drunken college kids and raucous conventioneers — who only stopped in to use the theater’s restrooms — lasted eight years is in and of itself a miracle. Still, it is with great sadness that I announce the Gaslamp 15, voted San Diego’s best theater by this reporter, is no more.

News arrived via Facebook: “Reading Cinemas Gaslamp is closed as of February 1, 2016. The management and staff...have enjoyed exhibiting the best movies and events in the heart of the Gaslamp District for the past eight years. Thank you for your support, San Diego!”

From its inception, there was talk of the property being too valuable to house a mere movie theater. Rumors circulated that the chain was going to keep the upstairs cinemas and convert the main floor into retail space. In spite of its central location, state-of-the-art projection (give or take an occasional Blu-ray), stadium seating, and eclectic booking policy, the place was frequently a ghost town. It would take more than three hands to count the number of “private” screenings I attended over the years.

In the end, it all came down to parking — or should I say, patrons too damn lazy to walk the two blocks from Horton Plaza. If only Pacific Theatres, the theater’s original owner, had had the foresight to build an eight-screen house with an adjacent parking structure.

There’s been no discussion as of yet concerning the theater’s future. The Horton Plaza redevelopment project cut that theater’s number of screens in half, making it clear that cinema is not a priority in the Gaslamp. Don’t expect AMC or Edwards to take over the lease, but there may be a Dress Barn in our future.

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Comments
18

Looks like movie theaters are going the way of newspapers -- out of business. That particular movie house always was an inhospitable site and I am not surprised it has closed, but I'm sorry to hear it. Maybe now Reading will spruce up its Clairemont 14 multiplex. The Gaslamp theater was virtually inaccessible unless you happened to be partying in the area or living in the neighborhood. The interior was multi-level and creepy with long escalators, empty hallways and few staff. Not exactly a social space. You make "two blocks from Horton Plaza" sound like a hop, skip and jump, but getting into the HP parking structure is a hassle, getting out on foot heading in the right direction is problematic and finding your car later in the vegetable/fruit maze is a miracle.

Feb. 3, 2016

How about a little more whine with your beef? "Virtually inaccessible?" What is it? War Zone C? Laying it on a bit thick, aren't we? On one hand, you've complained in the past about the college film club atmosphere of the Digital Gym only to turn around and damn the Gaslamp for not being a "social space." Who cares what goes on in the lobby just so the image is in focus? I suppose you prefer the Arclight's obnoxiously chipper waitstaff that greets you with iPod in hand eager and ready to upsell concessions. You want a social space? Go to The Lot and make sure to yak it up with your ninja drink-carrier in mid-movie. Getting into the Horton Plaza parking structure is a hassle?! You want accessibility hell? Ever wait 3 lights to change before exiting the Mission Valley offramp in order to make it to the AMC? There have been times the Arclight's lot's been so crowded, the shlep from car to theatre's been further than any logistical encumbrance the Gaslamp ever presented. I logged hundreds of movies at the Gaslamp, at all times of the day and night, and with the exception of long exit waits on weekend nights, never experienced a problem parking at HP. And I never forgot where my car was. It helps that I parked in the same spot every time.

Feb. 3, 2016

Normal people don't park in the same space at Horton Plaza every time and if they do, it's on the roof -- far, far from Gaslamp 15. At the end of the night, when you are flummoxed and imagine your car's been stolen, there's always the guy in the electric cart to schlep you from level to level to level until you find it. More embarrassing for guys than gals, but it works.

Feb. 3, 2016

You forget where you park your car and immediately think someone stole it and have the gumption to accuse me of not being normal?! Normalcy has nothing to do with it. It's called logic and/or practicality. Level 6 Onion (one floor below the movie theatres) next to the exit door. That way, the elevator door opens and POOF – there's my car. Works every time. And elevators are your friend. They help to make the far, far journey to the Gaslamp a little shorter. I'll bet you don't gripe about the parking when you go to the opera, but that's a much loftier art form than movies, right? Face it – the reason the Gaslamp closed is because people were too damn lazy to walk two blocks. Period. 'Twas indolence that killed the beauty and as such our so-called "arts community" should hang its collective head in disgrace.

Feb. 4, 2016

Scott, I NEVER take public parking garage elevators. Public parking garage elevators are so NOT anybody's friend -- unless you are traveling in a big posse of Gaslamp revelers. You're right, I don't gripe about parking at Opera (matinees) because I always park on the street within one block of the Civic Auditorium. And even then I pass an array of homeless people that is surpassed only when leaving the Civic -- hundreds of poor people plastered up against the walls of buildings along Third Avenue. This town doesn't rank third in the nation for its homeless for no reason.

Feb. 6, 2016

Not to mention that Reading Gastramp didn't validate parking tickets! With me, I just took it as coming along with the territory as Miller would say--parking east near the trolley tracks. On non-football Sundays, I would park near the old library, walk over to Karina's for some good food and talk to the ladies, then walk over to the Gastramp theater. The walk really isn't that bad, but I guess some people like Monogram aren't accustomed to walking in these Uber days, or maybe afraid of the homeless??? Either way, sad to see it go as I didn't get a chance to go in January. It was a good spot to catch some movies that already made the Landmark rounds. The last movie I watched there was STEVE JOBS and I was ALONE. Where will the festivals be held now??? More importantly, WHAT ABOUT HITCHCOCKTOBER??? That said, I don't mind driving to Town Square as they have some great Indian food in that plaza and in many ways, I prefer that to downtown pain-in-the-derrier parking.

One final note, change your parking routine, you will be less likely to have your car broken into or stolen.

Feb. 4, 2016

This theater was used quite often for advanced screenings, especially during Comic-Con, so it'll be interesting to see if the Comic-Con screenings all get moved to Horton Plaza.

Feb. 3, 2016

I cannot tell you how disappointed I was to hear the news about this theater closing. I was just there last week. I'm really getting concerned that SD is going to go backwards and become the cultural wasteland that my friends in LA say it is.

I thought parking at Horton was easy breezy. Just remember your apples and oranges or whatever. I say Netflix, Schmetflix! We need more large screens in this town. The Gym is okay, but I wish the crew would stop running in and out the door, which is right next to the screen.

Feb. 3, 2016

I could deal with the design flaw if there was enough light on the screen to compensate. They really need a DCP.

Feb. 3, 2016

Completely agree with you,Javascript, but isn't it a cultural wasteland already???

Surfing and beer is what's important in Sin Diego, not cinema, theater, or even pro football.

Feb. 4, 2016

Buses, planes, and trains are leaving every day. There are no walls or armed Stasi keeping you here.

Feb. 6, 2016

These theaters had so much potential, but was completely mismanaged for years. No one at the ticket counter, no one to greet guests, zero energy, and while I always went to the snack bar to buy my ticket (even at what should have been an hour busy enough to have at least one person at the ticket booth, for f's sake) - they made it easy and almost seamless to just walk in. It was treated like a desolate landscape rather than fresh, fertile soil by its past two owners, setting the tone for what it was to become. Sucks. It could be an amazing and multi-faceted venue.

Feb. 5, 2016

It's become standard practice for just about every theatre in the land to use their concession stand as a ticket booth during off hours. The reason no one was ever at the Gaslamp ticket window was simple: there was never anyone to sell tickets to! And if your picture of an ideal venue includes hollow-eyed drones repeating the same upsell mantra to everyone who walks through the door, count me out. "Hi, may I help you" and "Theatre #10, upstairs" is conversation enough for me. It was an amazing venue, with a booking policy that left the competition in the dust. I'm sorry for you that the circuses took top spot over the bread.

If only San Diego felt the same way about film as it does sports. The city would be rebuilding the Cinema 21 instead of making plans for a surplus stadium in which a bunch of head injury cases can play catch.

Feb. 6, 2016

Any theater that is not at least comparable to Cinépolis luxury theaters is doomed.

Feb. 6, 2016

To what? Mediocrity? Cinépolis isn't a movie theatre. It's a restaurant that shows movies.

Feb. 10, 2016

Shame. I liked the eclectic programming like the 40 Foot Films. Last year we saw at Gaslamp 15 both "Before We Go", Chris Evans' take on my wife's beloved "Before Sunrise", and also the special screening of "Cosplay Dreams".

Like others have mentioned, access to Gaslamp 15 was easy for a 7pm Saturday show. I could rip down the 94 and park for free in the East Village near the old library and walk over. 15-20 minutes from my house in La Mesa to get there, much faster than getting into Mission Valley or Fashion Valley's movie houses (although I give major props to FV18 for their Korean film programming this last year! Scott, do you know who AMC's programming director is for that theater, I want to thank them).

One thing that always disturbed me was, the almost empty theater when I saw a film. I was never alone, but sometimes the previews were rolling when patron #2 came in! That's no way to pay the rent..

Feb. 7, 2016

No I don't, Dave, because it's very difficult to get advance word of what Korean films play AMC. Otherwise there'd be weekly reviews. If you should find out the person's name, please point him/her in my direction.

Feb. 10, 2016

Was very sorry to see that the theatre had closed, as it diminishes by over half the number of new films available for me to view . Being sans automobile and residing in Pacific Beach, downtown San Diego was a cinch for me to get to in order to pick a flick from both the Gaslamp and Horton Plaza Theatres. I had, in effect, seen dozens of films at the Gaslamp, to my good fortune. The pickings are slimmer for downtown first runs now, and the effort to get to other venues via public transportation amounts to too much time getting too and from and too little time watching a film. What Reading could have done better is beyond my expertise, but a long with the absence of bookstores, music stores and now a precipitous decline in dedicated movie screens, downtown has become increasingly a place where you don't hang out but merely pass through to where you need to be.

Sept. 30, 2016

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