University Village Cinema Gets New Management

December 16, 2011

The movie theater in Riverside's University Village shopping center is under new management, and renovation plans are in the works.

UltraStar Cinemas, the Vista-based company that has run the University Village theater for a decade, pulled out of the shopping center Thursday, according to representatives for NewMark Merrill Cos., the Woodland Hills-based firm that manages the shopping center.

Calabasas-based Regency Theatres, which runs theaters across Southern California and in Las Vegas, took over operations Friday.

Brad Pearl, vice president of leasing and development for NewMark, said Ultra- Star's lease was expiring, and NewMark Merrill wanted to find a tenant that would invest in the property. Regency is planning a 12-month renovation project that will include upgraded projection equipment, new carpet and paint, some new seating, concession upgrades and a spruced-up lobby, he said.

Regency operates five other Inland theaters, including the Towngate 8 in Moreno Valley, a second-run cinema that had formerly been operated by UltraStar.

Pearl said the University Village 10 will remain first-run and is expected to remain open through the renovation. UC Riverside, which has been using some of the theaters as classroom space, will retain use of the facility.

UltraStar continues to operate the Tower 10 in Temecula, along with theaters in Apple Valley and Cathedral City.

"UltraStar was a very good operator," Pearl said. "We were very happy with them, but we just felt a capital investment needed to be made."

Efforts to reach Regency and UltraStar executives Friday were unsuccessful.

The 15-year-old University Village, envisioned as an entertainment and shopping hub catering to university students, has struggled since its debut with vacancies and parking issues. Pearl said leasing activity has picked up over the last six months, and upgrades to the theater could create additional momentum.

"We've been a little more aggressive on the management side in investing in the property, and the economy has also helped us," he said.

The center has brought in Sushiya, a 3,600-square-foot sushi restaurant, in recent months, along with a smaller Yoshinoya fast-food restaurant and Lollicup, a shaved ice and specialty drink shop. The Air National Guard recently celebrated the grand opening of a recruiting office at the site.

University Village is the latest of a string of management changes at Inland cinemas. Tennessee-based Regal Entertainment Group closed its Edwards-branded theater in the Jurupa Valley Spectrum in October. A handful of screens reopened at the shopping center last week under the management of Temecula-based Tristone Cinemas, and the theater is nearing full capacity, according to Linda Thompson, property manager for the shopping center.

UltraStar took over the Temecula Tower 10 from The Movie Experience about a year ago, and Corona's Krikorian Theatres 15 in Dos Lagos closed in summer 2010. That cinema was later reopened by Tennessee-based Phoenix Big Cinemas Management.