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AMC brings life to downtown, again


They cheered the dawning of a new era in downtown Burbank this week.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 people -- depending on whom you ask --

crowded Palm Avenue on Wednesday evening for the grand opening of


AMC’s new 16-screen theater complex. The event included a red carpet,

a host of Hollywood actors and plenty of surgically enhanced women to

go around.

But the real star of the show was AMC, the movie theater chain


that helped breathe life into downtown Burbank in the late 1980s, and

the same group that stuck with the city in the mid-1990s, when it

wasn’t clear if its latest collaboration was ever going to get off

the ground.

“We really didn’t think this was going to happen,” former Mayor

David Laurell said Wednesday night. “This is truly the economic

engine of our downtown.”

A few feet away, former Burbank City Manager Bud Ovrom stood


between the past and the future, munching on a bag of AMC popcorn and

admittedly feeling his age.

“I was here when we opened this one,” Ovrom said, pointing to the

AMC 14 theaters next door that cost $3 million to build 15 years ago.

Back then, high hopes rested on that complex, much like they ride on

its new 16-screen counterpart.

“Movie theaters have always driven downtown Burbank,” Ovrom

continued. “All the shops and restaurants, even the mall, wouldn’t


have happened without the first theater.”

On Wednesday, hundreds of visitors milled around the 4,200-seat

megaplex, which cost more than $30 million to build and features

state-of-the-art digital sound and wall-to-wall screens.

“This marks the new resurgence of downtown,” said Doug Jaquay, the

project developer. “This is a beautiful project. It’s definitely the

definition of an entertainment project.”

City officials are predicting big things from the AMC

Entertainment Village, which will include a retail complex that is

expected to be filled with restaurants and stores by summer’s end.

“I think it’s a new beginning,” Vice Mayor Marsha Ramos said

moments before the theater officially opened. “This brings a certain

amount of vibrancy to downtown, and we need it.”

Of course, Ovrom, the man credited for revitalizing Burbank after

Lockheed left town, didn’t take any credit for the city’s new tenant.

Instead, he credited AMC, referring to the movie theater chain as

“the real heroes,” for moving forward with the project, even after

two of the nation’s three biggest theater chains went bankrupt in

2001 and AMC was forced to close more than 300 of its own screens.

Laurell, meanwhile, credited Community Development Director Sue

Georgino -- whose husband, Vic, developed downtown’s existing AMC

theaters -- with making the AMC 16 “happen.”

Regardless of who gets credit, city officials agree that the

sparkling new megaplex will drive downtown for years to come.

“I’m excited, and I think it’s going to be a huge draw for the

downtown,” said Mayor Stacey Murphy, who has lived in Burbank for 20

years. “I think it’s going to help draw other business along San

Fernando Road.”