Regal’s last Santa Cruz County theater, Cinema 9, announced to employees Wednesday that it will permanently close, months after COVID-19 restrictions forced it to suspend operations.
The Santa Cruz Cinema 9, at one time the central attraction in a rebuilt post-earthquake downtown, is closing permanently, according to an e-mail obtained by Lookout that was sent to employees by Regal, the movie theater’s owner.
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The multiplex theater had been closed on a temporary basis since October when Regal’s corporate parent Cineworld announced it was suspending operation of all its 536 theaters across the country. The e-mail announcing the local theater’s closure to employees offered to reassign workers to other Regal theaters.
The Cinema 9 opened in 1995, and was purchased by the Regal chain in 2004. Originally, the theater was built as a primary draw to bring people back to downtown Santa Cruz following the devastation of the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.
Ceil Cirillo was the city’s director of redevelopment at the time and was a primary architect of what the rebuilt downtown would look like. At the time of the quake, the single-screen Del Mar Theater was the only movie theater on Pacific Avenue. Cirillo had seen the positive effects that multi-screen theaters had on other downtown economies in Southern California, hence the lure to attract one to the city.
“I was the champion for it,” said Cirillo on Wednesday of The Cinema 9, which with its Regal sister theater, the Riverfront Twin on Front Street, brought first-run mainstream Hollywood movies to downtown. The Riverfront Twin closed in 2018. They were the only Regal theaters in Santa Cruz County.
“It was one of the elements,” said Cirillo, “that I felt would bring the family back to the downtown. I always said that (the New Year’s Eve celebration) First Night, Marini’s ice cream counter and the movie theater was what would get the families to come back to downtown.”
Calls to Regal were not returned Wednesday. This story will be updated with their response.
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