It Takes a Village
For the past 10 years the Village Theater in Coronado has sat dark, although not for lack of interest. “The very first call that I made to the Village Theater was in 2000,” says Lance Alspaugh, CEO of Vintage Cinemas. He owns two theaters in Los Angeles and spent a decade trying to secure the Village. He finally began renovations on the property last October and hopes to have it open before this summer.
“We’re trying to create something that is very rare these days,” says Alspaugh. “We want to give people a classic movie-theater experience with the curtains, the music, the lights and no on-screen advertising. It won’t be like the multiplexes, with 15 to 20 screens. This is a lot more intimate.”
When the Village reopens, there will be three auditoriums: a main house that will seat about 200 and two screening rooms of 45 seats each. Alspaugh brags that there will be 5 feet of space between each row in the main auditorium, because he wants to emphasize “comfort and presentation.” He plans to run first-run movies but also experiment a little with independent and art house films, and maybe Saturday-morning classics.
Part of the classic moviegoing experience will come from the design concepts of the late Joseph Musil, a former Disney artist and designer who was responsible for the restoration of Disney’s El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, the Fine Arts in Beverly Hills and the Majestic Crest Theatre in Westwood. His designs will endow each auditorium with its own personality.
At a time when people are building home theaters and downloading movies on their iPods, Alspaugh is committed to the moviegoing experience. He started working in the industry at the age of 16 as a doorman for a cavernous 900-seat Kansas City movie theater in 1976.
“You cannot top the experience of watching a great movie with an audience,” he says, “and having that communal experience with other people watching and reacting to something at the same time on the screen. I don’t see theaters ever going away.”
Rita Sarich, director of Coronado MainStreet Ltd., is thrilled that the theater is reopening. “It’s like welcoming an old friend back to town,” she says.
Tami Sandke, chairman of the board for the Coronado Chamber of Commerce, recalls that the theater was a favorite place to go when she and her husband were dating because of its dollar Mondays. “The sense of community is huge in terms of having the theater come back,” she says. “There’s this sense of history. Lamb’s Theatre [Coronado’s live-theater venue] has done a lot to change the nightlife here, and hopefully the movie theater will do the same.”
Alspaugh hopes the theater will make people want to cross the bridge to see a movie. The last film to play at the Village 10 years ago was How the Grinch Stole Christmas! He hopes to reopen with something better, perhaps the classic Some Like It Hot that was shot just down the street at the Hotel del Coronado.