Curtain Goes Up on New Oxnard

Times Staff Writer

Despite living in the largest city in Ventura County, Oxnard residents for years have had to travel to neighboring cities to see a first-run movie.

But that changed Friday with the opening of a $17-million multiplex theater that city officials hope will be the centerpiece of a long-awaited downtown revitalization. The 14-screen San Carlos Theaters is part of the Centennial Plaza theater and dining complex that faces historic Plaza Park.

“We wanted a destination-type project rather than just a theater plunked down on a vacant lot,” said Mayor Tom Holden. “From the City Council’s perspective, we’re going to make downtown happen. We’re going to make sure it’s successful, vibrant and revitalized.”

By noon, hundreds of people were lined up for the chance to be among the first to visit the sleek new theater or grab a latte at the Starbucks next door.


George Monterrosas, his wife, Gloria, and their 14-year-old daughter Andrea were among those who turned out for a screening of the Wes Craven thriller “Red Eye.”

“I couldn’t miss it,” George Monterrosas said of the theater’s grand opening. “It’s the best part of being in Oxnard.”

Roberto Lopez, 75, who lives in a senior apartment complex a block away, was among those enjoying free refreshments provided for the celebration. He agreed that the new entertainment complex was a striking improvement over the mostly abandoned storefronts it replaced.

“It was very sad, real ugly before,” Lopez said. “Now I have a nice bench to sit on in the shade and have an ice cream.... I may come here every day. It sure beats sitting alone in my room.”


By year’s end, a Cold Stone Creamery ice cream parlor, a Subway sandwich shop, and restaurants featuring Mexican, Italian and Thai and Peruvian cuisine are expected to open in the complex, which is aimed at reviving what was once Ventura County’s busiest commercial strip.

The city provided land valued at $1 million for the project, constructed a $10.5-million, 450-space parking structure and negotiated a lease agreement with the theater operator that allows the city to assume ownership of the improved site if the rent goes unpaid, said Curtis Cannon, the city’s community development director.

Santa Rosa-based North American Cinemas expects to do well in Oxnard. Corey Tocchini, the firm’s chief operating office, said the company reopened an 11-screen theater in Camarillo last weekend and drew impressive attendance during its first three days.

Oxnard, with a population of 180,000 and no competition from other theaters, represents a great financial opportunity, Tocchini said.


“The demographics are right,” he said. “There’s a drawing area of about 200,000 people and no movie theater. That’s ridiculous.”