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Theater Arts: The new CinéArts brings reels to Santana Row.


New CinéArts complex adds six screens to the San Jose theater scene

By Richard von Busack

NOW OPENING at the end of Santana Row is the new CinéArts, ready for a gala-event benefit for the Tech museum on Thursday. Robert Michalosky, Century Theaters' construction project manager, gave me a tour of the new facility. He's built a lot of theaters, but never one on the intimate scale of the CinéArts.

CinéArts is the boutique-film arm of the San Rafael-based Century chain, which operates 90 theaters and about 1,000 screens in six states. While the chain has restarted local theaters (particularly the old Palo Alto Square), this is the first CinéArts it has built from scratch. The theater is two stories tall, but by the lights of the 16-screen googleplex, it's small.

Michalosky, a compact, energetic gent, pointed out the granite floors in the bathrooms—"understated elegance," he said, "that's how I like to refer to it." Economical construction can make the average multiplex look worn a few years after it opens, but this theater did seem a cut above, with its six auditoriums, all averaging at about 300 seats. The theater looks massive from the outside. In this epoch of cinema, when the physics of sound is as important as the actors, a new movie house can only really be built out of masonry to muffle sound leakage, either from outside or inside the theater.

The CinéArts is cream-colored, with a crescent-shaped cutaway in front, making room for a small parklet with a live oak and a bench for a pre-movie rendezvous. It faces the street with a window of mosaic squares in tinted glass, in shades from lime to cabernet. The window is braced by five columns jacketed in bronze-colored aluminum. At night, it'll glow; in the day, the window will throw colored light on the replica posters of classics on the wall behind it: Amarcord, Blow Up, Carrie and La Ventana Indiscret (Rear Window).

The fully animated blade of the marquee is finished. I ask Michalosky if it's moderne, and he says, "I'm not sure what the buzzword for it is." The front of the theater was alive with construction cranes, tile setters and electrical cords. From the outside, it didn't look like a sure bet that the CinéArts would be ready in 72 hours. "The public always thinks that," Michalosky said. See, we build the auditorium first, and the front is done last."

The project manager, who was enthusiastic for the Jeff Bridges picture The Door in the Floor, explained that a state-of-the-art theater befits movies of quality. "There's no reason why you have to see such a movie in a 50-year-old theater."

Such logic is a little hard on those who naturally prefer tried-and-true theaters. The CinéArts at Santana Row brings the Century Theaters into an already fiercely competitive market bordered by the Camera Cinemas and Landmark Theaters. The serious question is whether there will be films and audiences enough for all the players. In the meantime, Santana Row now looks slightly less like a toy village with the addition of a place to go in the evening.

The Ciné[email protected] Row, 3088 Olsen Dr., San Jose, opens Friday (Aug. 27). A pre-opening benefit for the Tech Museum of Innovation's Education Fund takes place Thursday, with a hosted party at 6pm and a premiere screening at 8pm. Tickets are $65. (408.795.6107 or www.thetech.org)

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From the August 25-31, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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