Twenty five years ago, Edwards opened a trio of theatres on the Southern California market, just in time for the holiday season of 1985. All three venues offered the latest in multiplex amenities and met with instant success, but each experienced differing fates, following Edwards’ millennium implosion.
Exemplifying the mid/late 80′s multiplex movement, the Charter Centre 5, Foothill Center 6, and Village Center 6 were a significant step up from the sub par shoe boxes that had dominated the multi screen cinema scene of the previous decade. Offering larger auditoriums and higher quality presentation standards, these venues sought to raise the bar on the multiplex experience, while still taking advantage of the format’s efficient business model. Designed, in what would come to be Edwards’ 80′s through early 90′s signature style, the three venues fell within the company’s two stock layouts of the era; featuring two story glass front lobbies, that were either traditional in-line (Foothill 6 and Village 6) or angled (Charter Centre) floor plans, with auditoriums accessed off of a single hallway. Between these improved facilities, high traffic locations, and a string of 80′s blockbusters, all three sites became top draws for their respective areas, setting the tone for Edwards’ multiplex heyday.
As with most county multiplexes of the time, these three cinemas had a somewhat short run as top tier attractions. By the turn of the decade, theatre standards had been raised further and a host of new, more expansive venues had taken over (often Edwards’ own builds). Additionally, Edwards exercised a problematic pattern of neglecting earlier builds, in favor of their “latest and greatest” creations; frequently allowing “older” theatres to languish in disrepair, further alienating the site’s customer base. By the time the megaplex era hit and Edwards began a quick spiral in to bankruptcy, all three sites had fallen in to near irrelevance.
Fortunately, at least for two of the sites, Regency Theatres stepped in and took over both the Foothill Center and Charter Centre, after Edwards (fresh off of their Regal Entertainment Group takeover) shuddered the sites. The Foothill ultimately garnered a full makeover, expansion, and stadium seating upgrade, as the theatre experienced a rebirth under Regency’s management. The Charter Centre, while never regaining past glories, found a new life, as one of Orange County’s top grossing discount houses. Meanwhile, Stanton’s Village Center never managed to procure a new operator and sat vacant for a number of years, finally surrendering to being gutted and converted in to an auto parts store.
While the full history of the Foothill and Charter Centre has yet to be written, the journey these three theatres have taken over the past twenty five years exemplify the drastic fluctuation and constantly changing fortunes of the modern cinema world.
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