Cinemark, the third largest cinema chain in the United States, can add nine more screens this evening to the more than 5,700 it operates throughout the country. This weekend marks the grand opening of the Cinemark Playa Vista and XD, the ninth and latest of the circuit’s NextGen multiplex venues which are geared toward offering high-end amenities. The opening signals Cinemark positioning itself as a ‘premium’ cinema brand and broadening the geographical footprint of upscale theatres in the US centre of moviemaking.
Cinemark now operates 70 theatres in California, comprised of 835 screens, most of which are the result of acquiring Century Theatres in 2006 and Rave Motion Pictures in 2012. Only 18 of these cinemas are in southern California, despite the region’s dense population of over 22 million people. The company plans on changing this over the next year by opening three new southland multiplexes; Carson will be home to a 13 screen complex, 14 screens are being built in Downey and Palm Springs will host a 12-screen facility.
Usually the opening of a new cinema in the United States wouldn’t warrant special attention, even by Celluloid Junkie where it would normally be included in our daily news roundup. However, a number of factors have Cinemark going out of their way to build awareness of the opening through advertising and news media coverage.
Cinemark’s Playa Vista theatre has been long in the planning, having first been announced in July of 2012 for a May 2014 opening. The theatre is one of the anchor tenants of The Runway, a brand new mixed-use development constructed at a cost of USD $260 million by Lincoln Property. The project will ultimately house 420 apartments, 35,000 square feet in three office buildings and 221,00 square of retail space. Cinemark spent USD $9 million on their new 46,000 square foot theatre. A Whole Foods grocery store will be moving in as another anchor tenant later this year.
The development sits on land once owned by the legendary tycoon Howard Hughes for his global aerospace empire, thus it’s name, The Runway. In fact, the two large hangers where Hughes built what became known as the “Spruce Goose” are still standing there today. For decades the land sat unused alongside the Ballona Wetlands, a natural wildlife habitat stretching two miles to the Pacific Ocean. It is the very same property on which DreamWorks SKG hoped to build a movie and television studio in the 1990s, a plan which faced stiff opposition from those wanting to protect the nearby wetlands.
However, environmental groups could only hold off developers for so long. The Hughes land, which sits east of Playa del Rey and Marina del Rey, south of Santa Monica and Venice, west of Culver City and north of Westchester, was officially founded as Playa Vista in 2002. And that’s when things start to get really interesting… and at times, a bit contentious.