Cities seeing movie theaters as economic beacons 

Efforts are under way to give Peninsula cities some nightlife — at the very least, some post-workday life — and the way to do that appears to be with movie theaters.

Banking on the idea that movie watching is as universal as going out for a bite to eat, cities are encouraging movie complexes into their borders. Late evening shows keep the cities vibrant, while such vibrancy translates into more business for surrounding restaurants and retailers open late, officials say.

In San Bruno, Mayor Larry Franzella said he fully expects a similar nighttime surge for the businesses at the mall that would translate into more tax dollars and bustle for the city. Numbers do seem to back up Franzella’s prediction — Daly City economic and community development director Terry Sedik, citing a study performed before the Daly City theater opened up, said 40 percent of people eat out right before or right after their movie.

"You should see the parade of cars to In-n-Out Burger after a show lets out," Sedik said.

Construction started recently on a 20-screen movie theater, expected to open in a year, next to The Shops at Tanforan. Redwood City’s downtown cinema-retail complex opened last year, following the 2003 opening of San Mateo’s 12-screen Century theater and surrounding businesses and the 2002 opening of Daly City’s own 20-screen Century complex.

Sedik recalls cold-calling theaters after a small complex at Serramonte Plaza closed in the late 1990s. City staff didn’t get anywhere until plans were afoot to build Pacific Plaza on Junipero Serra Boulevard, and the City Council encouraged a theater on that site.

"It sure beats staying at home and watching TV," Sedik said.

David Irmer, with Sausalito-based Innisfree Companies, developed Redwood City’s downtown theater complex and said retail shops and restaurants were, in his opinion, essential to the successof the development.

Cities lose energy and developers don’t get as much bang for their buck when too much space — offices and lunch places — is devoted to the 9-to-5 crowd, Irmer said.

For cities uninterested or lacking the space for a movie theater, there are some big-ticket restaurants regarded as area stimulants, such as The Cheesecake Factory, in the business world, Irmer said.

"The primary objective is to create a longer lifespan for the city," Irmer said. "When you’ve got a theater opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 2 a.m. the next day, you get a second level of activity that goes beyond the office workers."

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