Horton Plaza movie theater closes after 33-year run in downtown San Diego; more closures coming

UA Horton Plaza 8 movie theaters closed in January, leaving few tenants remaining in the more than three decade-old mall.
(Lori Weisberg/San Diego Union-Tribune)

The multiplex theater at Horton Plaza, a fixture at the downtown mall for more than three decades, have closed as the center prepares for its eventual makeover as an office campus.

No announcement of the impending closure was made by the United Artists Horton Plaza 8 theaters other than a note tacked to the window of the 7th floor theater venue advising patrons of the closing on Jan. 27. The operator of the multiplex, the Regal Entertainment Group, did not respond to telephone and email inquiries about the closing.

“It has been our pleasure to serve you at this Regal theatre,” the printed notice reads. It advises patrons to visit the nearby Regal Rancho Del Rey 16 in Chula Vista to redeem gift cards and discounted tickets.

Up until it closed, the movie theater, which opened in December 1985 just a few months after the debut of the downtown mall, was among the last of the high-profile tenants still remaining at the nearly empty center. Macy’s, Jimbo’s and 24 Hour Fitness are still in business, but a number of the smaller retailers that are currently open will be closing shortly.

Employees at Claire’s accessories said the store will be closing this Saturday; a Francesca’s worker said that March 1 would be the boutique’s last day; and an employee at the Brow Spa said it is closing Feb. 28.

Employees at Victoria’s Secret and Banana Republic said they have not been informed of any imminent closing. Several of the center’s previous tenants left when their leases expired.

Real estate investment firm Stockdale Capital Partners purchased the 900,000-square-foot mall last year for an estimated $175 million from the previous owner-operator Westfield. The purchase was made in anticipation of transforming the center into what Stockdale is calling “The Campus at Horton,” which would be geared toward top technology firms.

Executives with Stockdale did not respond to requests Wednesday for information about the closure of the theater or the timetable for the departure of the remaining tenants.

Many of the previous tenants left after their leases expired.

Jim “Jimbo” Someck, owner of specialty grocer Jimbo’s, said Wednesday that when he had last spoken with Stockdale several months ago, he was told that nearly all the tenants, including the movie theater, would be gone. The exceptions, he was told, would be Jimbo’s, 24 Hour Fitness, the Lyceum Theatre and Macy’s.

Jimbo’s has filed suit against both Westfield and Stockdale, claiming they were violating the terms of its lease. The suit requests that the court prevent Stockdale from doing anything further to hurt Jimbo’s business.

“It’s unfortunate that it got to where it is,” he said. “I’m not saying there doesn’t need to be changes, but there’s a total lack of respect for the tenants still there. We’ve been paying rent but traffic is incredibly down. There used to be 150-plus storefronts and a handful are left.”

Last August, Stockdale Managing Director Daniel Michaels talked about plans for the Horton Plaza site, which include eventually gutting the retail center down to its studs and then spending hundreds of millions of dollars reinventing it as an office campus.

At the time of the August interview, Stockdale anticipated about two years of construction with tenants occupying the new tech campus by the end of 2020.

Among the amenities planned for the new center are a luxury cinema, day-care facility and dog-care service.

With the departure of the Horton Plaza cinema, the only movie theaters now downtown are housed in the upscale Theatre Box, which opened in December and replaced the long-shuttered Pacific and Reading cinema building on Fifth Avenue.

When the UA cineplex first opened in December of 1985, it had seven screens and the first movie shown was Steven Spielberg’s “Jewel of the Nile.” Ten years later, the number of screens grew to 14. In 2012, though, the size contracted to eight screens.


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Twitter: @loriweisberg