Construction of Theater Project Stalls


Construction of a 10-screen movie theater and retail complex, touted as a catalyst for a downtown business boom, has stopped, and the project likely will be delayed at least four months.

But “everything is OK,” said theater developer Victor K. Georgino, blaming heavy rain, complicated grading and higher-than-expected construction bids for delaying the opening of the Century Theatres complex until Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Ventura officials said the developer could still meet his obligations under a city contract, which states the $6.5-million theater must be completed by Dec. 31. But council members reached Thursday were unhappy to hear of the delay.


“It’s a disappointment, I’ll say that,” said Councilman Jack Tingstrom. “I thought that they were grading an awful long time.”

Added Councilwoman Donna De Paola: “There is really nothing we can do. We’re encouraging them the best we can to get it done. But if it is an act of God with all the rain, that is something we have to deal with.”

But it is downtown merchants who will suffer from the delay.

And many who have endured the long months of construction expressed frustration Thursday that what was originally a nine-month project has now become a 13- or 14-month project.

“I’m very disappointed,” said Betsy Holt, a co-owner of Main Street Jewelers, located across the street from where the theater will be. “I want it to be over as soon as possible. Spring and summer are when we get tourists.”

Bill Fulton, a Ventura author and urban planner, put it even more strongly.

“Every day that downtown has to wait for this theater is a lost opportunity,” Fulton said. “One of the things we have to learn how to do in this town is to get things done, not delay them.”


He said what really concerns him is the theater is supposed to be the cornerstone for the whole downtown.


“It’s gotten to the point where everybody’s hopes for downtown are riding on the theater,” Fulton said. “If it’s not opened, the entire downtown is in a holding pattern.”

Indeed, many merchants say landlords have held off renewing leases, instead putting them on month-to-month contracts until they can see the effects of the theater on downtown real estate.

“There’s been kind of a frenzy, with buildings being bought and sold, with people speculating on the effects of the theater,” said David Smith, co-owner of the Cigar Exchange on Chestnut Street. “I think this is going to put that process of building owners trying to renegotiate their leases on hold.”

Workers began the theater project last summer by demolishing buildings on the 500 block of Main Street.

But in recent weeks work has stalled.


The site now sits deserted and quiet, covered in plastic to protect it from rain.

Turner Construction of Los Angeles, which was preparing the site, moved out of their office on Chestnut Street earlier this week.

“We are on indefinite hold in terms of starting the theater,” said Don Stevens of Turner Construction.


Stevens said Turner expects to continue the work when it resumes, but an official who manages construction for Century Theatres said a different company will finish the project.

Century is contracting with Los Angeles-based Moorefield Construction to finish the complex, said Ken Defiebre, president of KSD Group Construction Management of Concord, Calif.

Defiebre said Moorefield also will build the retail part of the theater complex under a separate contract with Georgino.

Officials said theaters plan their openings to coincide with the major seasonal releases by the main movie studios. July 4, the original target date, is one of those times. The next time for major releases is just before Thanksgiving, and again before Christmas.

The city began construction on a $4.8-million, five-story parking garage at the corner of Santa Clara and California streets last spring. The parking structure is scheduled to open in late March--slightly ahead of schedule.