Downtown San Diego cinema now comes with a rooftop bar — and sushi

The rooftop lounge is the latest addition to downtown San Diego's Theatre Box, a luxury cinema complex that includes a variety of dining and drinking options.
(Lori Weisberg/San Diego Union-Tribune)

Theatre Box’s new 5th & Sky lounge and dining venue is open on weekends and available for private parties.


If burgers, pasta, New York strip steak and old-fashioned milkshakes weren’t enough for your cinematic viewing indulgence, Theatre Box in downtown San Diego has added one more splurge — a rooftop bar and lounge serving sushi amid cherry blossom trees.

Open since last December, Theatre Box is still rolling out a few sequels, the first being the 5th & Sky Rooftop Gardens & Lounge, which doesn’t require a movie ticket for entry. The 5,000-square-foot space, which opened this month, is a contemporary take on a Japanese-like garden, embellished with delicate cherry blossoms, soft pink sofas, and views of the downtown skyline and Coronado Bay Bridge.

Open Thursday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, the space can accommodate up to 200 people. On Friday and Saturday nights, the scene will amp up with the help of live DJs and bottle service.

The menu features sushi, as well as burgers, pork sliders and specialty cocktails like a lychee martini and spicy tamarind margarita.

A remake of the former Pacific and Reading cinema building at 701 Fifth Ave., Theatre Box encompasses 73,000 square feet, anchored by a luxury cinema with eight auditoriums upstairs, plus the Sugar Factory Amercian Brasserie and Chocolate Lounge on the ground floor. With the opening of the rooftop venue, 55,000 square feet of the building space is now occupied, with two more projects to come.

Like the rest of Theatre Box, 5th & Sky, while open to the public, also is being marketed for special events, be it birthday parties or corporate and concierge mixers, says Donnie Eversole, general manager of 5th & Sky and also one of the managers of Theatre Box.

“We’re one of the few open air venues downtown, and once people really start seeing it, I think they will want to book special events there,” Eversole said.

Toward that end, the rooftop venue has a screen installed that can be used for special movie viewings or sporting events like the Super Bowl that could be incorporated into private functions. For the Super Bowl earlier this year, Theatre Box held viewing parties for the big game both in the luxury theaters and in the brasserie, shown on a giant screen.

Theatre Box is a joint venture of the 90-year-old TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles and the restaurant and retail chain Sugar Factory. The developer of the project so far has declined to divulge how much it invested in the complex.

While Theatre Box’s predecessor at Fifth Avenue and G Street ultimately struggled to make a go of it as a movie theater, the current management says various promotions, like $5 Tuesdays, are helping fill the individual theaters and the restaurant. With the debut of 5th & Sky, Theatre Box is offering movie-goers a buy-one-drink-get-one-free deal either before they watch a film or after.

Eversole said that the individual theaters, which seat 38 to 72 people each, have generally been fairly full since opening. He pointed out that the overall theater capacity is significantly less than the traditional multiplex cinemas.

By 2020, the next phase of the entertainment complex should be complete, with the anticipated opening of TV personality Nick Cannon’s Wild ‘N Out Sports Bar and Arcade on the Sixth Avenue side of the building and iLov305, a planned steakhouse and nightlife venue owned and operated by rapper and songwriter Pitbull. He has sister restaurants in Miami and Biloxi.