The rooftop level of Parking Structure 6 (PS 6) in Downtown Santa Monica could soon be transformed into an outdoor movie theater complete with two large LED screens, a snack stand, bar and 450 seats.
Rooftop Cinema Club, a company that converts outdoor spaces into movie-viewing venues, submitted a proposal to lease the rooftop space of the parking structure located on 2nd Street last month. Members of the Downtown Santa Monica Inc. (DTSM) Board reviewed two proposals this week at their Business and Community Development meeting and chose to endorse Rooftop Cinema Club.
However, before it can be made a reality, the proposal must be approved by the City Council, an agreement must be reached regarding the lease price and how profits will be shared between the City and DTSM and the company must obtain Coastal Commission approval.
DTSM Board members expressed enthusiasm about the idea, which they said would not only bring new revenue and a unique experience to the City, but also increase usage of the parking structures and encourage people to spend more time downtown.
DTSM officials said they were unconcerned about the loss of spaces in that structure as it would push visitors into other lots and increase foot traffic in the area as shoppers walked to and from their destination.
“I’m totally in favor,” Board Member Eric Sedman said. “I’m totally in favor of that parking structure filling up and causing people to go to another structure and then have to be mobile and walk around.”
While Downtown Santa Monica is already home to two AMC movie theaters and the Laemmle Monica Film center, DTSM Board Vice Chair Julia Ladd said she does not think that the addition of Rooftop Cinema Club would directly compete with these.
“It’s a whole different market,” she said.
While the AMC’s show new releases and Laemmle screens independent and arthouse films, Rooftop Cinema Club generally features a mix of classics and other historically popular movies.
Additionally, instead of sitting in a traditional theater, Rooftop Cinema attendees lounge in Adirondack chairs surrounded by string lights and sweeping city views.
“It is a very different experience, really the only thing in common is you’re sitting there watching a movie,” Deputy City Manager and DTSM Board Member Anuj Gupta said.
City of Santa Monica Economic Development Manager Jennifer Taylor said that Rooftop Cinema Club also tends to appeal to a younger demographic, with the average age of their customers falling between 18 to 34 years of age.
She added that the company already has a track record of success in Santa Monica, having previously operated a drive-in theater at the Santa Monica Airport in recent years.
Rooftop Cinema Club currently has several locations in the Los Angeles area including El Segundo and the Arts District as well as in other states and even a few in London.
The Santa Monica PS 6 location would include 450 seats, which Taylor noted would make it the largest of the company’s locations.
DTSM Business and Community Development Manager Martin Ronzio-Garcia explained that the rooftop would be divided down the middle to create two “theaters.” Guests would be given headphones to listen to the movie, allowing multiple showings at once and eliminating disruptive noise in the area.
If the plan moves forward, he said the company is proposing investing approximately $3 million in tenant improvements to adapt the space to their needs. He said they estimate revenues of about $2,600,000 in the first year and over $3,000,000 by the second year.
It is not yet known when the proposal could go before council, but Ronzio-Garcia said Rooftop Cinema Club expressed interest in beginning operations at PS 6 as early as the fourth quarter of this year. The lease would be for at least five years with the option to extend.