News: UltraStar Hazard Theaters
Festivals Worry Over Redevlopment Plan that Calls for Demolition of Multiplex
The San Diego City Council met Tuesday afternoon to vote on a proposal for the revitalization of the Hazard Center. The final decision could have a major impact on some local film festivals.
Development firm Oliver McMillan has big plans for the Hazard Center. Project manager Evan Gerber says it’s the perfect site for a new kind of urban village. But that’s going to require some major changes.
EVAN GERBER: The redevelopment involves addition of 473 residential units and the removal of the existing UltraStar Movie Theater.
DUANE TRAMMELL: The problem with that is that that theater is used as a venue for a lot of local film festivals.
That’s Duane Trammell. He’s the co-producer of the San Diego 48 Hour Film Project. He’s one of a number of film event organizers urging people attend this afternoon’s City Council meeting.
DUANE TRUMELL: We don’t want to stop the development. What we are asking for is a delay on the vote.
Festivals want more time to consider their options and to meet with the city and the developers. Ethan Van Thillo is executive director of the San Diego Latino Film Festival.
ETHAN VAN THILLO: We just hope they postpone the development as currently planned and kind of go back to the drawing board and consider keeping a movie theater and an arts and cultural space there.
Evan Gerber says a theater was never considered part of the redevelopment plan. The UltraStar Theater has had trouble competing with two neighboring movie screens. But Gerber says he has been working to help relocate the film festivals. His choice would be the Reading Gaslamp Theaters. But that’s not the choice film festivals might make says Philip Lorenzo, operations director for the San Diego Asian Film Festival.
PHILIP LORENZO: The idea that we would just move our festival to the Gaslamp is not realistic.
In addition to rental costs festivals have to consider parking, theater projection, and ticketing services -- all of which could mean an additional $100,000 to a festival’s existing bottomline.
PHILIP LORENZO: And for non profits those costs are very substantial and could possibly put us under.
Kathy McCurdy spent fifteen years with the San Diego Film Commission.
KATHY McCURDY: If those theaters change as the venue, there’s going to be a level of frustration and it certainly detracts from what has been some very successful branding from all of the festivals. This was the go-to theater complex.
McCurdy says that the City Council should take an interest because festivals attract tourists, increase revenues, and bring in filmmakers that might consider San Diego as their next shooting location.
KATHY McCURDY: So now we’ve enhanced the festival to be business development on another level so I think the council needs to be reminded of that.
And film festivals don’t want to lose UltraStar as a partner says McCurdy.
KATHY McCURDY: This theater complex has embraced the filmmaking community so we have a partner, a business partner in the Ultrastar at the Hazard Center and I think we’ve been looking for that for a very long time and that would hurt significantly.
The San Diego City Council meets today at 2:00 pm. Festival directors fear that if the proposal is approved, they will be under the gun to find alternate venues and to raise a lot more money. The proposed demolition of the theaters if approved would not actually take place for one to three years but for these festivals that's not much time since they are already planning their events more than a year out.
For more information on what local festivals are asking their supporters to do, visit the Facebook cause page Postpone Demolition of the UltraStar Mission Valley Cinema.
The City Council Meeting takes place May 18 at 2:00 pm at 202 C Street Downtown San Diego, City Council Chambers, 12th Floor.