THIRD STREET PROMENADE — Cinema buffs have one less option in Downtown.
AMC Criterion 6, one of three movie theaters on the Third Street Promenade, screened films for the last time on Thursday, an official from AMC said.
“We continually strive to upgrade the quality of our theater circuit by adding new screens and by disposing of older and under-performing screens through closures and sales,” said Ryan Noonan, director of public relations for AMC Theaters.
The plan is to convert the 1,500-seat theater into a retail space that will continue to house eclectic gift store Brookstone, as well as another unidentified tenant.
John Warfel of Metropolitan Pacific Capital, one of the owners of the property, would not disclose who the new tenant will be. He said the closure was part of a mutual agreement between the theater company and the owners of the building.
AMC was purchased in May of 2012 for $2.6 billion by the Dalian Wanda Group, a Chinese conglomerate. At the time of the sale, AMC had 5,034 screens in 346 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, including all three theaters on the promenade.
At that time AMC was close to finalizing a deal to build a new, state-of-the-art theater on City Hall-owned land at the corner of Arizona Avenue and Fourth Street. That deal ultimately fell through following the sale. Officials with AMC said at the time that building the new cinema would not be financially beneficial for the company.
The closure of the Criterion, which AMC purchased in 2010, represents a 27 percent reduction in the number of cinema seats Downtown, said Jason Harris, economic development manager for City Hall, opening the door for other theater operators to submit bids to build a new cinema where Parking Structure 3 currently stands.
The City Council, concerned about increased traffic Downtown, wants to make sure that any new theater development will not increase the number of cinema seats, which gave AMC an advantage since it was the only operator on the promenade and theoretically could reduce seats, whereas others could not.
Warfel, who was involved in the negotiations with City Hall and AMC, said the closure of the Criterion was not related to that development.
Harris said City Hall is “diligently working” on bringing a new theater to Downtown, but had nothing substantive to report.
Business leaders have been calling on City Hall to help bring in a new theater with the latest features like stadium seating and larger screens to help the promenade compete with other destinations in the region, such as The Grove in Los Angeles.
The original 1924-built Criterion Theater, which was once part of the Fox West Coast Theaters circuit, was razed around 1983 to make way for this newer 6-plex, according to the website cinematreasures.org.