Atascadero City Council decides not to spend taxpayer dollars on theater study

The Atascadero City Council on Tuesday night amended its May 11 vote agreeing to pay up to $10,000 in city money to fund a study to determine whether two theaters could survive in town.

Their new vote now directs La Plaza Cinemas and Galaxy Theatres to pay for it on their own, without taxpayer dollars. Galaxy Theatres had already offered to pay for half of a study.

The two competing theaters are each offering 10 screens nearly across the street from each other, in a city that currently offers no screens. Galaxy Theatres is now under construction in downtown Atascadero's Colony Square while La Plaza Cinemas is seeking a permit to build another theater up the street.

The City Council is concerned that by allowing La Plaza to build, they are poising both projects to fail. The city also has a $1.5 million backing in the Colony Square project and feels responsible to not create blight - in this case, the potential of two defunct theater buildings - in the downtown, they said.

La Plaza applicants say the city can support both theaters, while officials with Galaxy Theater say the city can only support 10 screens.

Councilman Bob Kelley said some members of the community say the city's financial backing of Colony Square creates a conflict of interest if the city chooses the consultant to do the study.

The city attorney said there wasn’t such a conflict, but the council later agreed that La Plaza and Galaxy could choose one together, if they can agree. If not, it would go back to the council for further discussion.

The specifics that could go in the study and related topics will be discussed during the council’s June 8 meeting, where it’s also slated to make a decision on La Plaza's request for a permit.

-Tonya Strickland