Curtains to be Raised for Movie Theater

Curtains to be Raised for Movie Theater

Call it a happy ending to a long -- a really, really long -- Hollywood epic.

Maya Bakersfield 16 Cinemas has been a coming attraction for nearly a decade, but the movie theater will finally open to the public July 15, according to Larry Porricelli, vice president of sales and marketing.

And get this -- for a project plagued with so many stops and starts, it's actually opening a month ahead of schedule, and film distributors are scrambling to supply the state-of-the-art facility with product.

Moctesuma Esparza, Maya's chairman, had hoped to open the theater -- cornerstone of a stalled downtown revitalization project -- as early as 2006. The company and the city have offered a variety of reasons over the years for the delay: the time it took the city to acquire the $500,000 parcel of land, securing financing for the project and improving infrastructure.

The theater, at 1000 California Ave., is only the second in the Maya chain. The first, in Salinas, opened in 2005 and played a part in that city's downtown revitalization, Porricelli said. Two more theaters are being built in San Bernardino and Fresno.

Maya has "an interest in building theaters where people don't build them," Porricelli said. "People like to build in suburbs. Theater owners always wanted the affluent areas, which is a mistake because areas that aren't so affluent go to the movies more, and that's just a fact of the movie business."

Poricelli didn't know how many people have been hired so far, but said hundreds of job seekers showed up for interviews after an ad appeared in the paper. There are still openings, and applicants should head to the site to see what's available, he said.

The 66,000-square-foot theater, which broke ground about a year ago, has plans to reach out to the community by offering discounts to good students and bringing industry types like actors, technicians trades-people and writers to Bakersfield to work with young people interested in film careers.

"To us, a theater is not just someplace where you open a place and make money. It's alive, and it's the people who make it alive," Porricelli said.

Along with amenities like stadium seating, Maya boasts three 3-D theaters to accommodate the increasing number of films shot in that format.