Hollywood is moving closer to downtown Los Angeles.
Phil Anschutz’s sports and entertainment conglomerate AEG on Tuesday will unveil a 14-screen Regal Cinemas multiplex adjacent to Staples Center that seats 3,772 customers, making it one of the largest movie theaters in Los Angeles.
The theater will debut with typical showbiz flair: The Michael Jackson movie “This Is It” will play simultaneously on all screens.
At a cost of nearly $100 million, Regal Cinemas L.A. Live Stadium 14, with its three-story Art Deco-style atrium, is also one of the most expensive new movie theater complexes in the country.
It represents a high-stakes gamble for AEG, which is opening the theaters in the face of a severe recession and a long-term flattening of movie theater attendance.
The new Regal complex, roped by jammed freeways and situated in the entertainment and sports district known as LA Live next to the L.A. Convention Center, nonetheless is expected to draw heavily from downtown residents, who have relatively few nearby theaters.
The only remaining theater downtown (apart from a small venue showing independent films near Little Tokyo), the Laemmle Grande 4-Plex on South Figueroa Street, is closing Sunday, said Greg Laemmle, president of Laemmle Theatres, citing the pending competition from Regal.
“With the opening of the new theater, it was apparent that the impact on revenue would be such that we could no longer operate profitably,” said Laemmle, whose family started the chain in 1938. It has eight remaining theaters in L.A.
“It’s a sad little footnote, but we’re certainly hopeful for downtown that the new theater is quite successful,” he said.
Downtown L.A.'s population climbed to nearly 40,000 residents last year, up from 28,878 in 2006, according to the Downtown Los Angeles Center Business Improvement District.
“That alone will be a huge core business for us,” said AEG Chief Executive Tim Leiweke.
AEG and Regal also are counting on the glam factor to help spur ticket sales.
The most distinctive feature is an 806-seat theater known as Regal Premiere House that AEG hopes will capture the lucrative business of movie premieres, which traditionally have been held at such theaters as the ArcLight and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
Like the 13 other screens, the premiere theater includes the latest digital projection and sound systems and high-back reclining seats. It has its own private entrance and lobby in addition to a grand spiral staircase leading to the theater’s balcony level.
An adjoining hotel ballroom with built-in kitchens will be used to host premiere parties, and a street can be closed for red-carpet events.
“We want to make sure that big premieres take place in L.A. and not New York or elsewhere in the world,” Leiweke said.
Regal Cinemas LA Live will be the West Coast flagship for Regal, the nation’s largest theater chain, which already operates 54 theaters in Los Angeles.
“This is going to transform movie-going in L.A.,” said Greg Dunn, president of Regal Entertainment Group. “It’s going to be the place to be to both exhibit and premiere your films.”
The first movie premiere for Premiere House will be for the Sony Pictures sci-fi drama “2012" on Nov. 3.
Opening Regal Cinemas LA Live is part of an overall strategy by AEG to build an entertainment hub downtown that would draw not only local residents but also patrons from all over the area who come to watch concerts or sporting events.
The complex also contains the 7,100-seat Nokia Theatre, Staples Center, 14 restaurants and a 54-story hotel-convention center that includes Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels and 224 luxury condos.
The hotels are expected to open in February.
AEG executives predict the theater will draw visitors to the complex, including those attending conventions and students from nearby USC.
The theater will begin offering a free shuttle service to bring students from the campus.
“We have a wide net here,” Leiweke said.