After two decades of serving buttery popcorn, Milk Duds and screening the latest in movies, closed its doors on Sunday.
The former theater and anchor of the center will make way for , an offshoot of Latin America’s largest movie theater operators. The new tenant will take over the Edwards lease on Oct. 1, said Carlos Wellman, operations director of Cinépolis.
The Laguna Niguel theater will be Cinépolis’ first Orange County location. Wellman expects it to open in early 2012.
Lots of Luxury
Cinépolis will redesign the existing theater to include 684 plush, reclining leather seats, in seven state-of-the-art, digital auditoriums, providing a true luxury movie experience. The theater will also include along with gourmet movie fare with a lobby for lounging pre- and post-movie, patio dining for those wishing to eat outdoors, as well as “restaurant-at-your-seat” service with an on-call waiter button at each seat inside the theater.
Ticket prices will range from $13 to $18, Wellman said.
Cinepolis already has locations in Del Mar and Carlsbad. “We found that Laguna Niguel was the perfect fit for our next location. We love movies; however, we felt the experience of going to the theater lacked a little sparkle,” Wellman said.
Among the many luxury amenities offered by Cinépolis is “Cineticket,” a service that allows patrons to reserve seats online or by calling—similar to reserving your seats on an airplane. Gourmet fare including sushi, cheese boards and wraps will be available from the elevated concession stand as will traditional movie favorites including hotdogs, candies and popcorn in six flavors.
“We looked at many different concepts for theater operators,” said Colm Macken, CEO of Shea Properties, the company that manages , “and Cinépolis was far and away the best choice.”
New Businesses in the Plaza
The theater is the latest in a string of new leaseholders at the center. This year alone, Ocean Ranch has added a , and .
Other retailers include , , , , and .
And while staff at the theater knew the doors were closing on Sunday and a large poster on its main doors thanked patrons for their many years of visiting, most locals had no idea Sunday was the last day for Edwards.
Laguna Niguel resident Karen Smith, 30, said, “I am happy that a new theater is going in. I would love to be able to drink a beer while watching a movie. Reclining chairs and alcohol sounds good to me.”
Albert Navarro, 22, of San Juan Capistrano said, “It’s a bummer that it is closing but it won't be too bad if another theater is going in. It will be more convenient being able to get some decent food and drink at the theater.”
“Sounds very cool. I think they have one in San Juan. I will probably come and check it out,” said Michelle Christopher, 48, of Laguna Niguel.
While most said they were willing to give the new theater a try, others were more skeptical.
“It’s sad to see it close. There are already enough restaurants in the plaza we don't need another one in the theater. I probably won't go to the new one if it is too expensive,” said Nicole Buscemi, 20, of Dana Point.
“I don’t know if I am going to like the change. If it is too expensive I won’t come. Serving alcohol at a movie theater sounds like it could be bad news. People get loud when they drink,” said Yolanda Gonzalez, 78, another Laguna Niguel resident.
Leslie McCabe of Laguna Niguel said, “I am sad to see Edwards go. I am not going to be a fan of high prices and not sure if I will come.”
As for staff, Samantha Ramose, 20, said, “I am sad and disappointed to see it go. We had the choice to either transfer or quit. I choose to take a break from the film industry. Everyone working here is very sad about theater closing down and that we will all be spilt up.”
—Blake Driver contributed to this report.