Santa Monica Place (file photo)
COMING ATTRACTION: A movie theater may be coming to the third floor of Santa Monica Place. (Daniel Archuleta
COMING ATTRACTION: A movie theater may be coming to the third floor of Santa Monica Place. (Daniel Archuleta

SANTA MONICA PLACE — A theater proposed for the third level of the Santa Monica Place mall is just the beginning, city officials hope.

Mall owner Macerich Co., one of the largest mall developers in the country, submitted the application to City Hall earlier this week.

“We believe a movie theater could be a great fit for the third level of Santa Monica Place. … We are speaking with several theater operators,” said mall representative Shoshana Puccia, in an e-mail. “Our vision is to bring a state-of-the-art theater that will further enhance the overall retail and entertainment mix in Santa Monica.”

The theater will take the place of L3, a 20,000-square-foot event space, Puccia said.

Currently Downtown has three theaters: Two AMCs and the Laemmle; but Kathleen Rawson, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica Inc., said that the city’s theaters are “aging substantially.”

“The one thing we know for sure is that the theater-going market for residents in Santa Monica and in our area are, for the most part, not coming here,” she said.

Variety is important, Rawson said, and Downtown needs more than just the movie theater proposed by the mall.

“People who live or work in Santa Monica want to go to a local movie theater,” she said. “They’ve told us that again and again in our research, and this a great step in beginning to provide that to them.”

Downtown Santa Monica Inc., the public-private nonprofit that manages and promotes Downtown for City Hall, has been looking into adding new theaters or revitalizing old ones for more than 10 years, she said.

In 2012, AMC rescinded its proposal for a 70,000-square-foot theater at Fourth Street and Arizona Avenue, the site of Parking Structure 3. Negotiations had been going on since 2009.

Since AMC backed out, there were at least five movie theater entities interested in the Parking Structure 3 property, said Andy Agle, director of Planning and Economic Development, but negotiations are on hold because the site is tied-up following the dissolution of the Redevelopment Agency. In 2011, in an effort to plug a budget shortfall, the state shut down every RDA in California.

The on-hold theater groups are a mix of large, small, independent, and mainstream, Agle said.

Most property owners without a lot of land have a hard time underwriting movie theaters, he said.

“One of the challenges we’ve always had is that movie theaters don’t pay the greatest rent, which is why you often see them in shopping malls,” he said. “They are essentially loss leaders. In the same way that malls have department stores that don’t pay a lot of rent but all the other shops like to be there. Movie theaters operate the same way.”

Despite the challenges, one is not enough, Agle said.

“This only addresses part of the need,” he said. “We still need at least one additional movie theater that provides contemporary amenities to meet the needs of Santa Monica.”

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