Santa Fe, NM – DeVargas Center movie theater closing

posted by ThrHistoricalSociety on January 24, 2017 at 4:19 pm

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From the Santa Fe New Mexican: The six-screen UA DeVargas movie theater will shut down this month, leaving a hole in both the north-side DeVargas Center mall and the Santa Fe cinema scene that mall management and theater operators say they hope to see filled quickly. The theater’s manager refused repeated requests for comment about the venue’s demise after four decades, referring all questions to Regal Entertainment Group corporate offices in Knoxville, Tenn., where multiple phone messages seeking comment this week went unreturned. But the mall’s property manager, Katy Fitzgerald, confirmed that the DeVargas Center and Regal will part ways soon. The theater’s final screenings, she said, will be Sunday. The DeVargas Center will redevelop the 14,700-square-foot space — which has housed a movie theater since 1977 — over the next six months as part of a larger overhaul intended to make the mall’s exterior facing North Guadalupe Street more pedestrian-friendly, Fitzgerald said. As important, she added, is how a new tenant — not necessarily a theater — will mesh with the mall’s interior, which has been livelier since a flock of local businesses began migrating from Sanbusco Market Center in late 2015 after the New Mexico School for the Arts purchased that complex next to the Railyard. “We loved our theater customers, and we’ll be sad to see that go,” Fitzgerald said, “but I’m not really that concerned as far as how that affects the direction we’ve been heading in with our Sanbusco tenants and with the inside of the mall.” UA DeVargas is the second long-term tenant to leave the DeVargas Center in recent months: Hastings, part of the entertainment-media and books retail chain, went out of business last fall. But the losses won’t stall the mall’s momentum, Fitzgerald said; rather, in her view, those spaces facing North Guadalupe Street are in dire need of rejuvenation. The aim, she said, is to make that area of the mall as “open and inviting and local” as the section that fronts Paseo de Peralta. In diagnosing the demise of the DeVargas theater, several in the local cinema scene identified Violet Crown as a factor. The 11-screen Railyard venue opened in May 2015 and offers a full restaurant menu as well as an extensive beer and wine list. Peter Grendle, general manager at Violet Crown, said his theater and UA DeVargas “split the field” of film options, operating in a middle ground between a major blockbuster atmosphere and one of art-house chic. But the stakes have been raised: Moviegoers now want and expect more from a night out at the movies than the movie itself, he said, and thriving theaters have taken steps to accommodate the changing appetites of their audience. “The rule used to be, ‘Stay home for dinner, go out for entertainment,’” Grendle said. “Now you go out for dinner, stay home for entertainment. … My goal here is to be a hospitality venue, to make the movie theater an experience.” Far from crowing about a competitor’s closure, Grendle nonetheless sounded an optimistic note. “I think it’s a good thing for the little guys, for sure,” Grendle said, referencing The Screen on the Santa Fe University of Art and Design campus where he booked films for nine years before moving to Violet Crown. “It opens the field a little bit. Pretend you have five boxers in a ring, and one gets taken out. Life will change after that. The question on my mind is what is [Regal’s] next step, if any.” The theater chain’s Regal Santa Fe Stadium 14 on the city’s south side is not far from the Santa Fe Place mall, where the company once operated a pair of theaters when that mall was known as Villa Linda. Recent signage there has advertised Regal as a new tenant. However, messages left for Santa Fe Place management asking about any plans to bring a theater back to the shopping center off Rodeo Road were not immediately returned. Grendle said he would dispute the notion that Santa Fe is oversaturated with movie screens. The City Different, he remembers one film distributor telling him, has one of the best box offices in the nation, a market where films that close in one week elsewhere might run for three. Grendle chalks it up to eclectic tastes of the local moviegoing crowd. Jason Silverman, director of Center for Contemporary Arts Cinematheque, agrees that the DeVargas closure is not indicative of the state of moviegoing in Santa Fe. The CCA Cinematheque, for instance, is entering its 35th year, he said, and this past year was its best ever. The DeVargas theater’s disappearance from the local scene won’t much affect that, he said. “We don’t really think about fighting for titles,” Silverman said. “We play the films that we love.” But, Silverman said, “each time there’s a change, each time a venue arrives or leaves, the algorithm changes a little bit.” Elias Gallegos, who works for George R.R. Martin, the local author and owner of the Jean Cocteau Cinema in the Railyard, said the DeVargas closing is “something that we’re all kind of sad to hear about, and, you know, we wonder what’s next for that space.” He went on, “Who knows? Maybe George will be interested in more screens here in town,” referencing Martin’s 2013 purchase and restoration of the single-screen Cocteau. “We never say never here.” Of the seven films screening at UA DeVargas on Tuesday, four (Collateral Beauty, Jackie, Nocturnal Animals and The Eagle Huntress) were available at no other theater in Santa Fe. Mary Peters, on her way into the theater Tuesday to see The Eagle Huntress, said she drives down from Española specifically for UA DeVargas. The selection of films at the Dreamcatcher 10 doesn’t quite do it for her. “Ah, that’s too bad,” she said of the impending closure. “I’m bummed.” After UA DeVargas is gone, she said, “Violet Crown will probably be the next choice.” Anne Steele, bound for The Eagle Huntress with her grandchildren, was crestfallen when asked about the theater’s closing: “Oh, no, I’m really upset.” The UA DeVargas and CCA are her go-to spots, and she doesn’t like the Regal 14 on the city’s south side because she finds the audio there is too loud. The UA DeVargas, she said, has always been a “more humane experience, as opposed to a sensational experience out there.” David Morrell, a Santa Fe author, said that since he and his wife moved to Santa Fe in 1992, they have frequented the DeVargas theater more than any other. “If there was a unique film that we really wanted to see, we knew it would be at DeVargas,” Morrell wrote in an email. “Sad to see it close.”

Story link: http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/local_news/devargas-center-movie-theater-closing/article_334a05d8-ceb2-5956-95a9-6ac1ee157d23.html

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