Attracting visitors for another dimension
Oxnard’s Plaza Cinemas goes 4-D, downtown hopes to reconnect with visitors
By Chris O'Neal 06/19/2014
Next week, visitors to the downtown Oxnard Plaza Stadium Cinema 14 will have the chance to experience films in a dimension normally reserved for extra-dimensional space-traveling proto-beings: the fourth.
The 4D Motion EFX Theatre will give movie-goers the chance to experience movies as never before. Imagine for a moment the protagonist of Massive Summer Blockbuster III sprinting through a forest, leaves battering his face through the pouring rain. You might not get soaked, but you’ll be shaken gently, feel the wind rushing past and smell the fresh rain from the comfort of your seat.
The technology that makes use of hydraulics and the five senses from scent to sound isn’t just a first for Ventura County; it’s also a first for the United States. No other theater in the U.S. has this technology, according to Heather Blair, cinema sales executive at Torrance-based MediaMation Inc. Cinemagoers may have already experienced the technology at theme parks and museums, but utilization in movie theaters is a natural fit, says Blair.
“They looked at it as a way to differentiate themselves in their community,” said Blair. “It’s the newest thing.”
MediaMation Inc. has installed dozens of 4-D theaters around the world, including in Colombia and Mexico, where Blair says, on opening day for Amazing Spider-Man 2, tickets for the 4-D theaters sold out. The theaters have done so well abroad that orders for more installations have come pouring in.
“Since we’ve done so well in Colombia and so well in Mexico, we thought maybe there’s something to this,” said Blair, who says that the Latino community has taken to the technology. Latino moviegoers make up the largest percentage of ticket sales, relative to their population size, in the United States, according to the Motion Picture Association of America.
The tickets will be $8 more for either a general admission ticket ($10) or a 3-D ticket ($13.25). Not all films played in the 4-D theater will be in 3D. The 4D theatre is a big investment for the Santa Rosa group — at roughly $6,000 per seat, the total to adapt an entire theater to the format can run near $600,000.
Downtown Oxnard has been in search of something to reconnect with visitors that were lost when The Collection at RiverPark opened in 2012. The Collection’s Century RiverPark 16 and XD caused close to a 30 percent drop in traffic for the Plaza Stadium Cinema 14, according to Dan Tocchini, president and CEO of Santa Rosa Entertainment Group, which owns the downtown Oxnard theater as well as the Roxy Stadium 11 in Camarillo.
Tocchini says that the Plaza Stadium Cinema 14 was chosen for the installation for a number of reasons, but drawing audiences back from The Collection was not one of them. Instead, Tocchini says that the decision was made in order to become the first theater in the United States to have such an experience.
“We just thought that it would be a real asset to be the first theater to have this kind of operation,” said Tocchini.
Sales haven’t exactly returned to the way they were before the opening of The Collection, says Tocchini, but they’re getting better.
“It’s rebounded somewhat,” said Tocchini. “It’s still below what it was doing before The Collection. I think that any time a new theater opens it takes a portion of business away and then you have a tendency to recover it again.”
Ramirez Magaña, executive director of the Downtown Oxnard Management District, says that The Collection definitely had an impact on not just downtown Oxnard, but regionally in Ventura and Camarillo as well. To bring visitors back, Magaña says, the district will need to build habitual visitors through special events and promotions.
“We want to make it more of a full moviegoing experience,” said Magaña, referring to not just the theater but the plaza, fountain and adjacent Plaza Park.
For the premiere of Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, the horror film that was set in Oxnard, Magaña says that the district made the area into a theme party featuring fortune tellers and other activities. Theme events like these and community-owned businesses will attract regular visitors, says Magaña.
“What’s going to bring people back here is more of the full social and cultural experience,” he said. “We’re not going away – we just have to play to our strengths, which are history, culture, the arts and a meeting place for the community.”
Unlike Oxnard, downtown Ventura hasn’t felt a significant impact from The Collection, says Downtown Ventura Organization Executive Director Kevin Clerici. The Century 10 Downtown movie theater has had record attendance, says Clerici, a result of the closure of the theater on Johnson Drive and crowds not going to The Collection.
“The good news is that our sales-tax figures for the third and fourth quarter of last year were record highs,” said Clerici. “I’m not denying that there’s been some impact. Clearly The Collection is a shiny new object, but I don’t think that the impact has been as dramatic as feared.”
With the recent closure of some downtown Oxnard restaurants, Magaña says that in order to succeed, the downtown area will need to regroup and cater to the customers that reside in the area.
“There is more of a sense of ownership and connection here,” said Magaña. “They’re The Collection, we’re the connection — I think that’s really it. People and families that have been here for a while have that sense of place in the history and the memories. That’s where we’re best-served.”
The Oxnard Plaza Cinema 14 will premiere its 4D Motion EFX Theatre on June 27.