Michael Hanson (right) and friend John Hess buy tickets at the Santa Monica AMC on Third Street Promenade Thursday afternoon. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — In a local market filled with outdated theaters that have long fallen behind the trends of stadium seating and state-of-the-art technology, cinema giant AMC is hoping to enliven the movie-going experience.

The only thing standing in the way is whether the company can guarantee city officials that its current movie house on the Third Street Promenade just off Broadway will be put out of commission once the replacement is constructed just a block north.

Concerned about the potential oversaturation of movie theaters in Downtown, the City Council on Tuesday asked its staff to confirm if AMC will promise that the Broadway 4 will not come back to life as a movie theater, and if so, allowing the negotiations for the development of a 12-screen cinema at 1320 Fourth St. to commence.

If the movie theater company is not able to guarantee the permanent shuttering of Broadway 4 from the local cinema market, the staff will then have to return to the council with a counterproposal from Pacific Theaters.

While the promenade has remained a vibrant shopping and dining destination on the Westside, its cinemas have been considered lacking, particularly compared to other theaters in the area that offer more screens, comfortable seating and improved technology.

Metropolitan Pacific Capital and AMC are proposing to develop a new theater at the current site of Parking Structure 3 that will include 2,167 seats. While a city staff report stated that the plan also includes remodeling the AMC 7 Plex at the 1300 block of the promenade and closing Broadway 4, a representative from AMC told the council that whether the space will continue as a theater will be up to the property owner.

“I can’t offer you any guarantees that someone won’t step in and try their hand at Broadway 4,” Christina Sternberg, who works on development with AMC, said. “Our interest in the property is a leasehold interest and outside of our lease term, we can’t control use of that asset.”

Andy Agle, the director of housing and economic development, said the two proposals from AMC and Pacific Theaters were essentially identical, except the latter offered about 10 percent more in land rent but was not able to make the assurances that an existing theater in the area would be taken offline.

“The other proposal acknowledged they could not be competitive because of that criteria,” Agle said.

The AMC’s proposal was expected to have a modest increase in the number of seats — adding 2,167 with the new theater but losing 1,049 seats from the closure of Broadway 4 and the reduction from remodeling the AMC 7 Plex.

Mayor Ken Genser suggested that the proposal from Pacific Theaters also be considered if the deciding factor in AMC’s offer — taking one cinema offline — can’t be assured.

“If we’re going to give exclusive rights of negotiation to one team and the sole basis for doing that is something they can’t guarantee, it seems to be a rather flimsy recommendation to me,” Genser said.

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