DOWNTOWN — A proposed movie theater for the third level of Santa Monica Place mall would feature nine screens, 1,239 seats, and 29 feet of added height to the structure, according to plans submitted to City Hall by Macerich Co., the mall’s owner.
The theater is proposed to take up 44,247 square feet and replace what is currently L3, a large event space that has remained relatively vacant since the mall’s multi-million-dollar remodel.
The plan includes two screens with what appears to be lounge seating, city planners said. Those theaters have 114 and 61 seats. The other seven theaters appear to have stadium seating, one of the reasons for the added height. Currently no theatres in Downtown have stadium seating.
“It looks like from the rendering — the color schemes will match — that it’s not that noticeable from the street,” Paul Foley, city planner, said of the added height.
One concession stand and one lobby are shown in the plans.
Downtown has three theaters, two AMCs and the Laemmle, but Downtown Santa Monica Inc., which manages Downtown for City Hall, has been looking to get new theaters for about 10 years.
In 2012, AMC pulled back its proposal for a 70,000-square-foot theater at Fourth Street and Arizona Avenue, the site of Parking Structure 3.
At least five other movie theater entities have been interested in the site since the AMC deal fell through, but negotiations have been on hold because the site is tied-up following the dissolution of the Redevelopment Agency, which denied City Hall redevelopment funds.
At the time of the AMC negotiations, City Council had a stated interest in keeping the number of theater seats Downtown close to the then-total of 5,519. AMC had proposed increasing the Downtown total to 6,089 theater seats.
In March, the 1,500 seat AMC 6 theater on the Third Street Promenade closed so the Macerich theater proposal should keep the total under the discussed cap.
But city and Downtown Santa Monica Inc. officials have said that Downtown needs more than one new theater and it’s unclear if the Macerich proposal, with its 1,200 seats, would hurt the chances to get other theaters approved.
Mayor Pam O’Connor said that it’s too early to talk about the Downtown seat total.
“I think there was discussion about that,” she said. “It’s a different point in time so I just don’t even want to fathom to speculate.”
She did say she would be open to re-examining the cap.
“My personal response would be that it’s a different time and a different era so it may end up being the exact thing we should be doing,” she said. “But maybe we need to adjust.”
Officials proposed a seating cap because of concerns about adding more traffic congestion, and maintaining the proper mix of retail, restaurants and movie theaters in Downtown.
Macerich officials are mum about the project, saying that they’re waiting for approval from City Hall.
“We need to get through planning,” said Shoshana Puccia, senior marketing manager at Santa Monica Place. “Once the city has confirmed everything we’ll be able to talk more about what our goal is.”
Santa Monica Place said last week that they are speaking with several operators.
Greg Asciutto contributed to this report.