Indie-friendly South Coast Village Theater to Close

South Coast Metro's loss is about to become Irvine's gain.

A Regal Cinemas executive confirmed for the Weekly what Edwards South Coast Village employees had already been told: their place of employment will close in mid-January.

But the indie/arthouse films that had been the Village's bread and buttered popcorn will find a new home in Irvine, at the Edwards Westpark 8 on Alton Parkway and Culver Drive. Coupled with the cross-town Edwards University Town Center 6 also firmly committed to what Regal bills as Cinema Art—not to mention the steady stream of experimental and independent films screened regularly across the street at UCI—the change makes Irvine Orange County's undisputed champ of non-mainstream moviedom.

Westpark has five more screens than the Village's three, so it could conceivably expand on the number of Cinema Art screenings, although the theater is more likely to present a mix of those films and mainstream Hollywood fare, according to Dick Westerling, Regal Cinemas' senior vice president of advertising and marketing.

It's been a strong year at the box office for mainstream Hollywood films, but Westerling maintained that Regal remains strongly committed to Cinema Art, a program he described as lucrative to his company.

Directly across Sunflower Avenue from South Coast Plaza, within easy walking distance of upscale restaurants like Morton's and Antonello's and within the same South Coast Metro entertainment and business corridor that includes the Orange County Performing Arts Center (OCPAC) and South Coast Repertory, the Village had typically booked films with upscale crowds in mind. Edgier fare with nudity or alternative-lifestyle themes has generally been shuttled over to Edwards University, while the Village stuck mostly with flicks you could watch with your grandmother. So many highfalutin British films have been shown at the Village that you swear Maggie Smith's closeup is permanently burned into the screens. As this story went to press, two of the three Village films came from the U.K.: The Queen and The History Boys. The third, Pedro Almodvar's Volver, is a Spanish chick empowerment flick with English subtitles.

The constantly changing economics of the movie exhibition business in recent years has forced the closure of houses like the Village—which boasts three auditoriums with large screens and hundreds of seats—in favor of multiplexes crammed with several more rooms featuring stacked, stadium seating facing much smaller screens. Another knock company officials cited against extending the Village lease were its terms with its landlords, C.J. Segerstrom and Sons, whose crown jewel is South Coast Plaza.

Segerstrom spokesman Paul Freeman said Regal made the decision to end the lease, not the developer, so any further comment should come from the movie exhibitor.

Once it is shuttered, the Village will join other closed movie theaters on surrounding Segerstrom land, the Edwards South Coast and Edwards Town Center, both near OCPAC. All three movie houses were part of the Newport Beach-based Edwards theater chain that Tennessee-based Regal plucked out of bankruptcy. The theaters remain intact, leaving the door open for new exhibitors.

Recently asked about expanding into Orange County, Peter Laemmle of Los Angeles-based Laemmle Theatres, which specializes in artsy/indie films like Regal's Cinema Arts program, said his company is always looking for new opportunities. However, Long Beach is the market closest to Orange County that's currently on his company's radar, Laemmle said.

Segerstrom officials could not be reached to talk about future plans for the closed theaters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *