Boise Stadium 22 and IMAX
7701 W. Overland Road,
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The Edwards Boise 22, which opened in 1997, was Idaho’s first megaplex and still is the largest. It was followed by the IMAX two years later and was the start of the theater boom in the Treasure Valley. James Edwards often traveled through Boise on his way to Sun Valley and being a veteran theater operator for 65 years he could see that the Boise market was underserved. At the time Boise was beginning to grow and people were moving to the area from other states, California included. He had recently opened his 21-screen and IMAX complex in Irvine, California so he simply took the model and tranferred it to Boise, which of course is known for its colder winters. Keeping the geography in mind about the only change would be an enclosed outer lobby and box offices but otherwise this theater could be in Irvine or Ontario, California, where Edwards made news when he went up against AMC. In Ontario he lost out in the competition to build at the Ontario Mills so he bought land 900 feet away and built his own theater, which resulted in 52 screen and an IMAX within a block. His so-called feud with Stanley Durwood, the founder of AMC, may have been made-up. This culminated in a 1997 article in Fortune Magazine called “My Megaplex is bigger than your Megaplex.” The article painted them as rivals, with each claiming to have built the first multiplex. In the article Edwards was perhaps jesting his friend when he said “Stanley Durwood is an even bigger prevaricator than I am.”
James Edwards was interviewed by the Orange County Register on September 25, 1990. He said that he was born in 1906 and opened his first theater in Monterey Park, California on October 9, 1930 when he was nearly 24 years of age. By 1963 he had 10 San Gabriel Valley theaters listed in the Los Angeles Times.
In the early-1960’s, he was in his late fifties and planned to retire to the quiet life in Newport Beach, California. Even in retirement Edwards couldn’t keep out of the movie business so he built the Edwards Cinema in Costa Mesa, which opened in time for Christmas 1963 and from then on there was no stopping. During this second act in his career Edwards became a well known figure in Orange County and Southern California. He fielded many calls to sell out to national chains but more often he was the one to buy out their locations.
His flagship theater was the “Big Newport” in Newport Beach where his general offices were located on the second floor. If one were to go to a matinee there Mr. Edwards would probably be the friendly greeter and ticket taker. For years he kept one of his fully restored antique autos on display in the lobby.
At its peak Edwards Theatres had 50 theaters in Orange County, which isn’t counting the later ones in Los Angeles and all the surrounding counties and beyond, even to Fresno. Having so many smaller venues when multi-stadium theaters, of his and of other chains, were the emerging standard may have been the chain’s downfall. They just had too many smaller theaters with long leases that began to underperform.
Unfortunately Edwards passed on in 1997 before he could see his new Idaho dream come true. But Boiseans overwhemingly welcomed this new theater to the valley. Since then Regal Cinemas, the buyer of Edwards Cinemas after their bankruptcy, have opened in downtown Boise, two complexes in Nampa and one near Idaho Falls in Ammon.
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