Downtown needs new film theater

Nick Sestanovich
Nick Sestanovich

Why should students have to drive to see movies when they should be able to walk?

Chico is a town that knows how to accommodate the interests of college students. Many nightclubs, bars, live music venues and parks are within walking distance of campus. It’s not a town where you can complain about a lack of things to do, but it would be nice to have a movie theater that shows a variety of movies within walking distance of campus.

Before you say anything, I’m aware that Chico has a few movie theaters. There’s Tinseltown, a Cinemark-owned multiplex on East Avenue, The Pageant Theatre, which specializes in independent and foreign movies and the El Rey Theatre on West Second Street, which hasn’t shown first-run movies since 2005.

All these theaters have their drawbacks though. Tinseltown is too far away, so students who don’t have cars likely won’t visit it. The Pageant Theatre is within walking distance, but its tendency toward art films means only certain students will be interested in it. The El Rey is still primarily a concert hall and it’s hard to find out when certain movies are showing. I guess you just have to show up on the right day to find out.

Not everybody is willing to wait for films to come out on video, and going to see a movie is a good weekend activity for those who don’t have homework to do. Besides, I’ve heard a lot of debate about whether there’s fun things to do in Chico without getting drunk. Having a movie theater with new releases would be a solid, sober outing for them.

Some citizens will probably question whether a small movie theater would be profitable in the age of Netflix and Redbox. To them I say: look around. Chico has many hookah lounges, comic shops and other establishments that primarily exist in cities with large student populations. If those businesses can do well, I don’t see why a movie theater wouldn’t. This is a town that has at least four video rental stores, so there’s clearly a market for movies.

Tinseltown offers a $6 movie discount every Tuesday to attract students, but only about 10 percent of students  on campus own a car, according to U.S. News and World Report. I don’t imagine those without a ride will partake in Tinseltown’s discount special unless they live on East Avenue.

Students shouldn’t have to drive to see the latest Hollywood hits. About 80 percent of students live within two miles of campus, according to the Chico State catalog. Because of this, downtown Chico seems like the perfect place to draw crowds. All that needs to be done is to find an empty building to convert into a theater. Perhaps the El Rey could split its time between live concerts and first-run movie showings.

If either of these things happen, Chico will have every entertainment base covered just a short distance from the university.


Nick Sestanovich can be reached at [email protected] or @Nsestanovich on Twitter.