A theater for more than films

La Plaza Cinemas in Atascadero

rendering by Uesugi & Associates
La Plaza Cinemas in Atascadero rendering by Uesugi & Associates

The North County businessmen proposing to build a second 10-screen movie theater in downtown Atascadero said they’re open to including a performing arts space in the project.

“I certainly think it’s a great opportunity,” said John Roush, co-developer of La Plaza Cinemas.

Barbie Butz, chairwoman of the Atascadero Performing Arts Center Committee, said the group is excited by the idea and is looking at all the options for creating a new theater in town.

The committee is dedicated to finding a devoted space for music, theater and song in Atascadero, which the town doesn’t have now.

The developers are open to adding an 11th auditorium to the north end of the theater with up to 250 seats, a stage and a dressing room, Roush said.

“And then down the road, when (the performing arts committee) has the money for a full theater,” he said, “I can take over that auditorium as an 11th screen.”

The two groups are in talks about the possibilities.

The stage option, along with the movie theater, was met mostly with support last week when the applicants described it to the Atascadero City Council and Planning Commission.

Officials took questions and comments but made no action on the proposal because it was a study session.

That move will come in April, officials said, when the Planning Commission considers granting co-developers Roush, Larry Wysong and Michael Sherer a conditional use permit allowing them to build the theater if they meet certain conditions.

That’s the most important step, Roush said, because they won’t continue to pursue other building plans if the theater isn’t allowed. Roush said he expects the theater to draw patrons and tenants to the 4,330 square feet of restaurant and 2,350 square feet of retail space they’re also planning to build.

The theater plans allow for the possibility of having a restaurant link internally to the theater lobby for drinks and beverages while theater patrons wait.

The 33,000-square-foot theater would go on a parcel that formerly housed the North County Christian Thrift Store, which was destroyed by a fire.

The developers are in talks with the Hoff Family to buy it.

The shops and eateries planned would cover a three-block span from the north end of Atascadero Creek to Traffic Way. The stretch houses a string of dated buildings the developers want to buy and demolish.

No formal plans for the commercial part have been submitted to the city.

La Plaza Cinemas is also within walking distance of the long-touted Colony Square project’s Galaxy Theatres that’s expected to open by the holidays.

Some people have questioned the need for 20 movie screens, but Roush maintains that it would be successful and make downtown Atascadero a destination.

He also mentioned the possibilities of showing other types of entertainment on the screens, such as football games.