Summer is here and that can only mean one thing: Blockbuster movie time. Highly anticipated movies like "Spider-Man 3," "Shrek The Third" and "Pirates of the Caribbean 3" (trilogies are big this year) have already been released and there's still more to come. While this influx of big, money-making films is nothing new, residents of the Tri-Valley do have something new to look forward to when it comes to their movie-watching options: Livermore Cinemas. This 10-screen movie theater opened in December 2006 and three more screens are scheduled to open by the end of June.
Located at 2490 First St., Livermore Cinemas is the last stop before leaving the newly revitalized Livermore downtown. In fact, the theater is a major component to the downtown revitalization, said Kevin Roberts, economic development director of Livermore.
"Part of Livermore's plan is to revitalize the downtown to make it a pedestrian-friendly destination for entertainment and cultural arts," Roberts said. "The movie theater is a key component to that because movie theaters attract a lot of people, and what you want in your downtown is a lot of people."
The expectation is that the theater will feed off the other businesses in the downtown as well, with people making a night of going to one of the new restaurants and then catching a film, for example.
"We do know that the shops and restaurants under construction are coming to a close," said Dave Korkill, owner of Cinema West, a Petaluma-based company that runs movie theaters across the state, including Livermore Cinemas. "Fire and Ice just opened and there are another half dozen planned on that block and a community performing art center. It's becoming an exciting entertainment district and these are other developments that we know will help the theater."
When plans for the theater were made in 2000, it was originally placed by Station Square Sales Office on Railroad Avenue, one block north of First Street, but city staff realized this planning missed a great opportunity for the downtown.
"We said that's not the best location for a movie theater; it really should be an anchor for part of our downtown revitalization efforts," Roberts said. This decision was made in 2003 and Roberts said Cinema West was "tickled" by this change.
Of course, the main question on most Pleasanton residents' minds is how does this new theater stack up to the Regal Hacienda Crossings 20 multiplex at the Hacienda Crossings Shopping Center in Dublin? Since its opening in 1999, this theater with 15 screens and an IMAX theater has been the dominant movie center for the Tri-Valley.
It's unclear so far how many Pleasanton residents will actually make the trek over to Livermore Cinemas. Many people at Livermore Cinemas on an average Friday night were from Livermore and said, while they liked Hacienda, they preferred Livermore Cinemas because it was closer to home, something that wouldn't be a factor for most Pleasanton residents as they are equal distance from both theaters.
"I like Hacienda because of the shopping center, but this is better because it's easier to get to," said Livermore resident Brenden Hanan, 19.
Korkill said the majority of theater patrons are from Livermore, but there is also a large number coming from communities east of Livermore, such as Tracy.
Price may be another factor when deciding which theater to choose, with an adult ticket at Livermore Cinemas costing $9.50 compared to $10.50 Sunday through Thursday and $11 Friday and Saturday at Hacienda. For seniors and children, Livermore charges $7, while Hacienda charges $7.50.
With fewer screens and a less established reputation, Livermore Cinemas tends to be slower than Hacienda, however as more summer movies premiere that is likely to change.
"This is the busiest I've ever seen it," said Susanne Gilbert, who was at the theater the opening night of "Spider-Man 3" with her two sons. "Compared to Hacienda, it's usually pretty quiet."
Bob Throckmorton brought his son and his son's friends to the theater for a birthday party to see "Spider-Man 3," but found the large crowds and disorganized line into the theater a bit confusing.
While it's obvious to compare Livermore Cinemas, now the second largest movie theater in the Tri-Valley, to Hacienda, most patrons were more likely to compare it to the Vine Cinemas, located at First and South O streets in Livermore, due both theaters smaller size and Livermore location.
"I like the Vine--it's a nostalgic thing," Gilbert said, as Michael, her 16-year-old son, chimed in, "The Vine has been there for so long that it has sentimental value."
However, not all had a soft spot for the Vine.
"The new theater is better than the Vine because the screens are bigger, the popcorn tastes better and they've got a lot more variety in movies," said Livermore resident Eric Martin.
Movie theaters are known for mostly drawing in teenagers, especially on weekend nights, and Livermore Cinemas is no exception. Just driving down First Street, anyone would notice the large crowds of teenagers standing in front of the theater. Inside, teens were the majority, and it seemed the staff may have its hands full controlling who is going in and out of the different films, making sure people are only going to the movies they bought tickets for.
However, Korkill said the theater has found its demographics to be diverse, ranging from young couples to families to senior citizens. Roberts agreed, saying that while the city expected teens to be the main customers, it has been surprised by the number of senior citizens who are going to the theater.
As the summer goes on, residents can decide for themselves which theater they like best, but of course Korkill hopes Livermore Cinemas will come out on top. The theater is projected to have 5,000 visits by the end of the year, Korkill said.
For more information on Livermore Cinemas or movie times, visit www.cinemawest.com or call 443-7469.