More than 200 guests gathered at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza for the grand opening of a multi-million dollar new movie theater, replacing the former Magic Johnson Theater that closed last year.
The new theater, Rave Cinemas 15, is part of a $30 million renovation project to boost economic growth in and around the shopping center. The new operators plan to continue Johnson’s vision of economic development with high-quality facilities and local hiring practices. Councilmen Bernard C. Parks and Herb Wesson and actor Chris Tucker were in among the grand opening’s audience.
The yearlong renovation project employed approximately 800 construction workers. More than 1,000 people had attended a theater-sponsored job fair in May. Of the 100 theater employees hired, 80 are students from Crenshaw High School and Susan Miller Dorsey High School, and six of the 10 managers live nearby.
“It’s a local crew, especially in an area where many people may not have grown up with a localized theater,” said Jeremy Devine, vice president of marketing for Rave Motion Pictures. “Families like to go to the closest theater.”
The theater’s $12 million upgrade includes seven 3D screens, stadium seating and digital projection, and Devine suggested that the new facilities open the possibility to host future events such as the World Cup in 3D and the Pan-African Film Festival. For now, the theater is offering a free medium-sized popcorn to guests who attend a movie before July 4.
In addition to a thriving movie-going crowd, the company behind the project hopes to attract interest surrounding the theater and shopping center as well.
“This project is the anchor to the area in this corridor,” said Ken Lombard, president of Capri Urban Investors, which owns the mall. “As we’re able to take it up to a new level, tenants will begin to have a different attitude toward coming in and actually being part of this neighborhood.”
The company has been reaching out to local business owners, such as Big Man Bakes, a gourmet cupcake shop in downtown that has been featured on the Food Network’s “Throwdown! with Bobby Flay”.
“If we decide to be a part of this, it would be probably one of the first gourmet cupcake stores in an urban area like this,” said company founder and CEO William “Chip” Brown, who is in early talks with Capri to potentially bring his business into the shopping mall, which will begin major construction during July.
“I think what they’re doing here is obviously an economic stimulus, but it’s also making people feel like their neighborhood is valued,” Brown said.
Development for the mall is slated to include such retailers as Wal-Mart and Staples with an opening date in early 2012.
Photos by Lisa Rau
(Grand Opening of Rave Cinemas 15, dance performance by Debbie Allen Dance Academy)