A movie theater with a full-service restaurant and bar will soon be opening in the former MGN Five Star Cinema space in downtown Glendale, eliminating what some call an eyesore and furthering the city’s push to activate the area with entertainment options.
Set to launch this fall, Studio Movie Grill will feature 10 screens and a menu with a California twist — in addition to unique amenities such as heated seats and cooling cup holders, according to Lynne McQuaker, a spokeswoman for the theater.
For nearly three years, the more than 50,000-square-foot theater space at 128 N. Artsakh Ave. sat empty, said Jennifer Hiramoto, Glendale’s deputy director of community development.
“[The deal] was really thrilling for the city because it does fill such a critical vacancy in the city’s art and entertainment district,” Hiramoto said of the lease that was signed within the last month or so. The arts district encompasses Artsakh, formerly Maryland Avenue, between Wilson Avenue and Harvard Street.
Now the hope is that the theater — part of an expanding, national chain — will draw traffic to the area that the city has been working to develop as a local culture hub.
Hiramoto said the city had been actively helping the property owner, Denley Investment and Management Co., find a tenant that would be a good fit.
“A movie theater can very quickly invigorate a block or a shopping center, just by the number of people that would be coming in, having a cocktail, eating and spending some time in the immediate area,” Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian said.
There are two other theaters operating just a stone’s throw away — the Pacific Theatres at the Americana at Brand and Laemmle Glendale.
Instead of competing for a market share, Hiramoto said she thinks the theaters will “actually really [be] very complementary” to each other because of the distinct experience each offers, with Studio Movie Grill differentiating itself through its dining concept.
However, there is still the looming specter of two failed movie theaters that once occupied the space, including one — Five Star —that had a dining concept. Before Five Star shuttered in 2017, it was a Mann Theatre complex, Najarian said.
That legacy is part of the reason it took so long to find a tenant, according to Justin Rubel, a broker who represented Denley Investment in the deal.
“There was already mistrust ... due to the notion that two theaters hadn’t made it there before,” he said.
Still, Rubel expressed confidence that Studio Movie Grill could succeed where others failed, pointing to its unique concept and ability to effectively market and advertise because of its size.
Established in 1998, the theater chain operates more than 300 screens in 10 states, including the California communities of Monrovia, Simi Valley, Downey, Redlands, Rocklin and Bakersfield.
With the chain receiving an infusion of capital earlier this year, the Glendale location is one of several new locations planned across the country, McQuaker said.
Company founder Brian Schultz has long wanted to launch a location in Glendale, according to McQuaker and Rubel.
Schultz, who has roots in Southern California, wanted to open his first theater in the Alex Theatre on Brand Boulevard, but the deal didn’t go through, Rubel said.
“For him, there was some nostalgia and there was some unmet need also in his personal legacy that he wanted to achieve here in Glendale,” Rubel said of Schultz, adding that was the backdrop of the deal, not the driving factor.
The theater project arrives as the city is contemplating a significant physical overhaul of the arts and entertainment district, Hiramoto said.
On Aug. 27, Glendale City Council members will consider potential conceptual designs for the district that’s book-ended by the Downtown Central Library to the south and the Alex Theatre to the north.
This past year, the city contracted with Studio 111 to bring back possible ideas, which could include designating a one-way street or developing two pedestrian-friendly plazas similar to the Artsakh Paseo the city recently launched as a pilot project, Hiramoto said.
At the meeting, currently set for 3 p.m., preliminary cost estimates and traffic studies for the project will be presented, Hiramoto said.