Could downtown Hanford have a brand new 12-screen movie theater in its near future?
Former mayor and councilman Dan Chin told the City Council last week that a developer is interested in building such a facility in downtown. Chin said he received a phone call prior to the council’s May 19 meeting to discuss the project.
Reached for comment Tuesday, Chin said his contact is an acquaintance who is a relative of the developer. Chin declined to name the developer, but said they are a current theater operator who has the money to complete the project.
“I’m not an agent [for the developer],” Chin said. "I’m just a messenger."
Chin’s comments coincided with a City Council study session to explore the feasibility of bringing a theater downtown. That discussion proved fruitless after the council learned that it could cost millions of dollars to build a parking structure to support a theater.
Community Development Director Darlene Mata said she spoke to Chin after the meeting, but was not able to get any additional information. She later contacted Lisa Mochizuki, one of the owners of Metro 4 Cinema.
Mata said Mochizuki was not prepared to deal with the city until there were some incentives. She did not confirm whether she or any of her partners had spoken to Chin.
“I do believe it was the same party he was talking to,” Mata said.
Mochizuki could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
John Roush, owner of Lemoore Stadium Cinemas, said he had considered building a 10-screen theater in downtown Hanford several years ago. He said such a project would likely lose money unless Hanford’s existing theaters both closed.
“It just didn’t seem like the market would handle it,” Roush said.
Roush said the rumored 12-screen facility would bring the total number of screens in the Hanford-Lemoore area to 34. The industry standard, he said, is 7,000 people per screen.
Figuring the area draws an audience of about 100,000 people, that would equate to about 3,000 people per screen.
Mata said the council will consider some possible incentives that the city may offer at its June 2 meeting. Those may include buying land for parking, sales tax or property tax rebates, as well as reducing or waiving developer impact fees.
All of those options could cost the city a lot of money. A parking structure for a 12-screen theater with 150 seats per screen would require about 450 parking spaces.
“The council needs to give us direction,” Mata said. “What are they willing to do to get a theater?”
If the council decides to offer incentives, Mata said the city would put out a request to allow multiple firms to submit proposals for a downtown theater.
Roush said that if the council wants to offer monetary incentives that would make a new theater competitive with the existing theaters, he might throw his hat into the ring.
“If the city wants to help, then I’m interested,” Roush said.
Chin said he reached out to Cinemark back in 2010 when he was still on the council to ask the company to consider building a theater downtown. Cinemark, which owns the Cinemark Movies 8 theater at the Hanford Mall, told him they were not interested at that time.
Attempts to reach Cinemark for comment were not successful.