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Mann Theatres Plunges Into South County Movie Market

Times Staff Writer

Mann Theatres Corp. will triple the number of movie screens it runs in Orange County, and bring a breath of fresh films to Laguna Niguel at the same time, when it opens the community’s first multiscreen movie house June 9.

Numbers are deceiving, however, for “triple” to Mann means increasing from 4 screens countywide to 12, from one theater to two. Still, it is a symbolic move and marks south Orange County as the latest lucrative market for the cinema business.

“Mann’s is a strong player,” said Robert W. Selig, president of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners of California. “They’ve talked of going into San Clemente too. And Edwards (Theatres Circuit Inc.) is going into San Juan Capistrano. That and San Clemente are important little burgs. Growth, development and economics seem to support it.”

Mann will still be a small force in Orange County, a market that is dominated by the Edwards chain, which now runs 88 screens and is planning more. Mann’s existing theater is Mann’s Brea Plaza, a four-plex and one of three theaters in Brea.

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When the new Mann theater opens this summer on the west side of Interstate 5 at Crown Valley Parkway, it will mark the chain’s first expansion in the county in decades. In fact, through the 1970s, the chain actually sold off four theaters with a total of eight screens.

“It really wasn’t a single divestiture,” said Rich Given, Mann director of advertising. “At different times, different interested parties acquired those theaters. Two of those theaters were large, downtown theaters with single screens that are not particularly viable in today’s marketplace.”

When the new Laguna Niguel eight-plex opens, it will embody everything that makes a theater viable in the late 1980s, Given said. It is a time, he said, when amenities are all that keep a theater afloat when faced with home videos, cable and cut-throat competition among cinemas.

“The pendulum has really swung back to a much more technologically advanced, luxury kind of theater,” Given said. “This will be a luxuriously appointed theater with curtains and music playing and plush seats.”

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The new theater complex will be equipped with a Lucasfilm THX sound system, which was designed by George Lucas “to provide dialogue intelligibility and an all-around crisper, cleaner sound,” Given said. It will have curved screens, which cut viewing distortion, and so-called “monster cable,” a form of audio wiring that enhances the clarity of sound reproduction.

“The only way we’re going to stay in business,” Given said, “is to provide luxury and truly state-of-the-art presentation.”

MOVIE SCREENS IN COUNTY

After Mann Theatres Corp. opens its new Laguna Niguel complex in June, the movie screens in the county will be divided by owner as follows:

Chain Number Edwards Theatres Circuit Inc. 88 United Artists 36 AMC Entertainment Inc. 25 Syufy Enterprises 18 Mann Theatres Corp. 12 Pacific Drive-In Theatres 11 Others 15

Source: Los Angeles Times theater listings


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