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.