The Fine Arts Theatre in Pacific Beach, one of San Diego's few big movie houses, will close March 9.
Landmark Theaters of Los Angeles operates the 500-seat Fine Arts, which specializes in foreign films. In the Pacific Plaza shopping center, the 22-year-old theater has fallen victim to the center's redevelopment plans, which call for more small retail stores. The wing housing the theater building will be demolished and is not likely to be replaced, said Bill Tribolet, vice president of Collins Development Corp.
"There's a greater need for smaller retail stores in the beach area . . . and theaters typically aren't open during the day," Tribolet said. The parking spaces required by movie theaters for lengthy periods also conflict with the short-term parking needs of most retail establishments, Tribolet said.
Bill Richardson, Landmark's San Diego area manager, called the closing "a shame," adding that the theater will shut down when the current run of Akira Kurosawa's Oscar-nominated movie "Ran" ends March 9.
Landmark, which also operates the Ken Cinema in Kensington, the Guild Theatre in Hillcrest and the Cove Theatre in La Jolla, took over the Fine Arts in 1979. The company is looking at other vacant theaters in San Diego, including the downtown Broadway Playhouse.
The immediate effect of the Fine Arts' closing will be a change in programming at the Ken, Richardson said. The Ken normally shows double features that change daily. "You will probably see more one- or two-week runs of foreign films or fine art films. There's a lot of good product available."
Richardson said the chain will try to absorb the Fine Arts' staff at its other theaters. "I feel particularly sorry for our janitor, who's been there 15 or 20 years," he said.
Richardson called the Fine Arts' sound system with its Dolby "surround" configuration one of the best in the city. The sound system and the Fine Arts' projection equipment will be used at the chain's other San Diego theaters.
The Fine Arts opened in 1964, showing art films. In the mid-1970s, the fare shifted to pornography, until the Landmark takeover.
The Fine Arts is the only movie house in Pacific Beach. Based on current retail trends, Tribolet indicated that it may be the beach community's last.