An IMAX movie theater could be rolling into downtown San Luis Obispo.
Local developers Rob Rossi and John King want the city to approve plans to build an IMAX theater behind the Fremont theater, where a small parking lot is located.
The Fremont Square Entertainment Complex is a combination of the historic Fremont theater, the renovation of the three adjacent screens known as Mission Cinemas and the addition of the proposed IMAX theater.
Rossi said he came up with the idea for an IMAX theater in the heart of downtown San Luis Obispo about 15 to 20 years ago. He believes now is the time to see the idea come to fruition.
According to Tim Ronda, principal architect with SDG Architects, the plans are to internally connect the proposed IMAX theater to the lobbies of the Fremont and Mission Cinemas so access can be made from either Monterey or Higuera street.
A proposed sawtooth roof design on the new theater would serve two purposes Ronda said: as the foundation for photovoltaic solar panels; and to provide an acoustically enhanced auditorium envelope.
“We think it will be a good thing for entertainment and education,” Rossi said. “A lot of IMAX theaters work with schools, and if we can put this idea together it would be the only IMAX theater around this area.”
Currently, the closest IMAX theater is at the Hearst Castle visitor center.
Rossi and King have teamed up with Bruce Sanborn, chief executive officer of The Movie Experience, a tenant of the Fremont and Mission Cinemas, which is owned by Rossi and King.
Sanborn operates several theaters in the San Luis Obispo area.
Rossi described how the theater would fit into the cityscape that already surrounds its proposed location.
“We’re incorporating an old marquee from the 1940s similar to the Fremont marquee,” Rossi said.
According to Ronda, the reclaimed neon 1942 Warner Bros. marquee was previously on the Granada Theatre in Santa Barbara and replaced that theater’s original 1925 marquee. In renovating the Granada, Rossi decided to recreate the 1925 look and saved the 1942 marquee for future use.
It would be the same size as the Fremont marquee and face Higuera Street.
Plans have not been submitted to the city yet, but the group said it plans to do so in the coming weeks.
Rossi declined to comment about how much the project is estimated to cost.