SECOND STREET — Laemmle executives want the Monica 4 movie theater to expand and contract.
The Second Street cinema currently has four screens and about 1,100 seats but a proposed makeover would add two screens and drop the seat total to below 500, said Laemmle CEO Greg Laemmle.
The largest theater would hold about 150, which is about the capacity of the current smallest theater. Two mezzanine-level theaters would seat about 35, Laemmle said.
“The row spacing is better and we believe the sight lines will also be better,” Laemmle said. “The added screens provide flexibility to show more movies for longer.”
A 3,000-square-foot restaurant is proposed for the front of the theater where the marquee is currently located. Laemmle is talking with several restaurateurs but they haven’t selected an operator.
A redesign of the facade would wrap the front in a translucent, metal screen.
The proposed redesign comes amidst a rapidly changing theater environment in Santa Monica.
Next week, City Council will consider the approval of a roughly 1,500-seat, 13 screen ArcLight Cinema for the third level of the Santa Monica Place mall. At the same meeting council could approve an agreement that would set a second, larger ArcLight into motion for the land currently occupied by Parking Structure 3. This theater could hold as many 2,500 seats with a large IMAX screen.
“The cinema environment is about to get more competitive in Santa Monica,” Laemmle told the Architectural Review Board (ARB) in February. “And we feel the enhancements that need to be made to our location here will allow us to present a modern and competitive film center which will show the foreign and independent films we’re known for but also allow a flexible space for festivals and screenings.”
The ARB was largely complementary of the designs and asked that they be moved forward with the exception of the metallic screen element, which will come back before the board once it is more defined.
Laemmle is shooting to complete the changes by Nov. 1, before the start of AFM, the world’s largest independent film market.
“We’re also adding some flexible public space, indoor and outdoor,” Laemmle said. “We hope the space will be really great for festivals that need not just auditoriums but gathering spaces as well.”
Its unclear what the next moves will be for AMC, which owns two theaters in the city. In 2012, they dropped a bid to place a large theater on the Parking Structure 3 property, where the second ArcLight is proposed.
Andy Agle, director of economic development for City Hall, has suggested that AMC may opt for an approach similar to Laemmle’s — lowering capacity so that all the seats are good ones.
The AMC Criterion closed last year and the property is being turned into a retail space.
“With all the conversations about theaters in Santa Monica we want people to know the good old Monica’s going to be upgraded as well,” Leammle said.