skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Movie Palaces Up The Ante In Carmel Valley

Above: Cinepolis' first entry into the U.S. market is an 8-plex in Carmel Valley.

I guarantee that a visit to the brand-new Cinepolis multi-plex in Carmel Valley (Del Mar Highlands Town Center on Del Mar Heights Road) will cause you to use the term “Taj Mahal.”

There’s a full bar in the lobby listing more wines (18 red; 16 white; two sparkling, including Dom Perignon) than most restaurants; theater seats more luxurious than on a transcontinental first-class flight; the “concierge,” where you choose which recliner you want when you plunk down your $19.50; and a bunch of other luxuries (fresh sushi, seven kinds of popcorn, barrista-made cappuccino, Angus beef sliders, waiter service in the theaters, Clase Azul Reposado tequila). “Taj Mahal” is, in this case, not much of an exaggeration .

Two of the eight theaters are equipped for 3D. The movies during my visit were regular summer fare: “Captain America,” “Horrible Bosses,” “Cars 2,” “Transformers,” “Harry Potter” and “Friends with Benefits.” At 11 a.m., the least-costly time, a family of 4 would pay $58.00 ($15.50 for adults; $13.50 for kids) to watch one of these stellar studio productions and that’s without even a $4.75 box of Junior Mints -- which you can get, by the way.

So who thought up this idea? Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas is the largest chain of movie theaters in Latin America. It also has theaters in India, and, as of Friday, July 22, 2011, in San Diego. The company’s website says it will open theaters in La Costa and Laguna Niguel soon.

General Manager Antonio Garcia said Cinepolis chose Carmel Valley because it had the right demographics. Since neighboring communities include Rancho Santa Fe and Fairbanks Ranch, I suppose that’s true.

In this country, we are not strangers to the idea of seeing films in plush surroundings. Hundreds of huge, ornate, faux-baroque movie houses were built in the U.S. in the teens and 1920s. They had air-conditioning, plush seats, and live entertainment along with the feature films, cartoons, newsreels, previews and serials. The average ticket price in 1926, for, say, Graumann’s Chinese Theatre, was $.25, about $3.10 today, according to the Consumer Price Index. $3.10 is a cost many could -- and perhaps would -- bear for “Captain America.”

I can picture the rich of Columbia, Mexico or India, where the wealth-gap is enormous, heading off to a theater that 99% of their country couldn’t afford. But I have more trouble seeing the Cinepolis version of the palatial cinema concept catching on here long-term, even though our own gap is growing daily. The rich may be getting richer, but do enough of them go to the movies?

True, once American movie theaters are built, they are rarely renovated or even thoroughly cleaned, so I can appreciate the wonderful lack of sticky floors, and the utter niceness of the whole experience. But would I make it a habit? I doubt it.

I’ll probably pay the already-outrageous $12.00 somewhere else, grit my teeth at the conversation going on next to me, nosh on my $5 “buttered” popcorn and keep my purse on my lap.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.


Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | July 31, 2011 at 10:41 p.m. ― 5 years, 8 months ago

Pat, you forgot to mention that the chain is owned by Carlos Slim, one of the world's wealthiest men.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'alain_j_perez'

alain_j_perez | August 1, 2011 at 12:32 p.m. ― 5 years, 8 months ago

Actually, he is the world's richest man, number one according to The Telegraph..."according to Forbes, he overtook Bill Gates (with a fortune of $53 billion) to become the world’s richest man..." (

Also, if you still want to check Cinepolis luxury cinemas but don't want to shell out your weekly gas money then head to Tijuana's Plaza del Rio, where you will find Cinepolis VIP, Mexico's version of the same. You can still have your drinks, sushi, large leather two seater couches and your personal waiter all without the large price tag. I've been there a couple of times and is just as good as this one....and cheaper than the regular AMC tickets here in SD. However, for those who live up north county I'm not sure it will be worth the drive.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Pat Finn'

Pat Finn, KPBS Staff | August 1, 2011 at 1:07 p.m. ― 5 years, 8 months ago

Thanks for the reminder. I also learned that the Del Mar Highlands Town Center, which has been frantically upscaling everything from the parking lots to the types of stores, approached Cinepolis, not vice versa.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Rizbee'

Rizbee | August 1, 2011 at 2:16 p.m. ― 5 years, 8 months ago

Cinepolis is also opening a theater in La Costa (Carlsbad), at the site of the former Edwards theater.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | August 2, 2011 at 8:46 a.m. ― 5 years, 7 months ago

@ALAIN, I thought Slim had dropped down a notch. (lol) Actually, I believe a powerful family be the name of Ramirez are the actual owners of Cienpolis and Slim is not the owner owner. I think he just owns sttock. Maybe someone out there can correct me. He is however, the owner of Volaris, which is now running flights out of San Diego to Mexico City.

I do know there is a chapter on slim in the 2008 book LOS AMOS DE MEXICO (The Owners of Mexico), for those who read Spanish.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'alain_j_perez'

alain_j_perez | August 2, 2011 at noon ― 5 years, 7 months ago

I'm not sure if Slim is the owner of the Cinepolis franchise, I was just pointing out that he was considered to be the world's richest man back in 2010.

Yes, he owns Volaris, which is the Mexican version of Southwest, and yes, Volaris has flights out of San Diego, also out LA, Houston and Phoenix if I'm not mistaken. You can also buy airline tickets in the Southwest Airlines website to Mexico, and once you show up at the airport you'll be surprise it is a Volaris flight...I guess they have some sort of partnership deal.

I just checked and you are correct Missionaccomplished, Cinepolis is owned by the Ramirez family. Slim probably has some deal with them though, as he likes to have his hands in every successful business. No stocks though, as Cinepolis is a private company.

( | suggest removal )