Cinetopia to transform Westfield Vancouver mall

23-screen multiplex to open later this year

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter



Cinetopia owner Rudyard Coltman says everyone should have memories like the ones he made growing up in the 1970s and ’80s in Winnetka, Ill.

The Chicago suburb was just a short bike ride away from side-by-side Edens Theaters. Coltman said he whiled away many an afternoon with his eyes glued to the theaters’ giant movie screens as he munched on Goobers and popcorn.

“It was the only place around to see ‘Star Wars’ on a 70-foot screen. We really loved that place,” said Coltman, 43.

Now, he hopes Vancouver moviegoers will feel a similar childlike love for his latest Cinetopia project.

The $18 million, 23-screen multiplex is under construction at Westfield Vancouver mall, off state Highway 500 near Interstate 205. It will take up the former Mervyns department store site, filling the upper level with nine of Cinetopia’s trend-setting living-room theaters and a brew pub-style restaurant and bar. On the ground floor, 14 movie venues will include three “mega-grand” theaters with 65-foot-wide screens and one with an 80-foot screen that Coltman said could be the largest screen on the West Coast.

Cinetopia Westfield Vancouver

• What: A luxury theater with 23 screens that include 14 ground-floor venues and nine second-floor living-room theaters with a brew-pub restaurant and bar.

Who: Cinetopia Theaters.

When: Opening in November.

Where: 8700 N.E. Vancouver Mall Drive.

Employees: 150.

Owner: Rudyard Coltman.

“To put it into perspective, the commercial IMAX is a 52-foot screen,” said Coltman, who opened his popular eight-screen Vancouver Cinetopia in 2005.

His second project — a Beaverton, Ore., theater complex with 14 screens — will open in May at the Progress Ridge Town Center mall.

Coming attractions

Vancouver’s Westfield Cinetopia is set to make its debut in November, just in time for the holiday blockbuster season. The project also coincides with a multimillion-dollar mall renovation proposed by the center’s owner, The Westfield Group, an Australian company that owns 119 shopping malls in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

Making over the 32-year-old mall could start this month, said Jessica Curtis, Westfield’s marketing manager.

“We are focusing on renovating the common areas,” she said.

Also set to finish in November, mall plans include a new children’s play area, more restrooms, and replacement of the mall’s dated flooring, handrails, bench seating and lighting. It will also improve four outside entrances, including a north-side access that will lead to Cinetopia’s interior, second-floor entrance.

The theater’s exterior “will have a 21st century glow,” Coltman said of designs to light up the theater with the intense colors of LED lighting.

Westfield Vancouver’s billboard on state Highway 500 will also be made over to advertise Cinetopia’s movie billings and previews.

“I don’t think anyone in the community realizes how great this is going to look,” said Coltman.

He said that he agreed not to discuss Cinetopia’s contractual agreement with the Westfield Group.

Westfield officials approached him with the idea of building his third theater at the mall, Coltman said.

“And I was immediately drawn to it,” he said.

Coltman hopes the centrally located mall site will draw patrons from a wide swath of the region, he said, including people unable to get tickets to often sold-out shows at Cinetopia’s flagship Southeast Seventh Street movie house. He estimates that theater complex sometimes loses out on more than 1,000 potential ticket sales during the week of a blockbuster release.

“We turn people away all the time,” he said.

Blockbuster sales

Although Coltman would not disclose his company’s annual sales figures, he said Cinetopia’s eight-screen theater — complete with three living-room venues — continues to exceed revenue expectations. The business sold more than $2 million in tickets to the blockbuster “Avatar,” released in late 2009, Coltman said.

“Our attendance was up 32 percent although the industry was down between 3 (percent) and 6 percent,” he said.

Coltman expects Cinetopia’s sales figures to grow in 2011, with Hollywood studios set to crank out more movies with blockbuster potential than ever before as consumer spending climbs.

Anticipated big films this year include “Thor,” “Captain America: The First Avenger,” “Transformers 3,” “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2,” and “Kung Fu Panda 2.”

“This year has the biggest number of blockbusters I’ve seen in my career,” said Coltman, who expects to hold the new Cinetopia’s ticket prices on par with mega-cinema chains such as Regal Cinemas and AMC Theaters.

“Our pricing is exactly the same,” starting at $8 per matinee ticket. The theater’s 3-D movie tickets sell for $14, he said.

In Cinetopia’s living-room venue, where patrons can order a glass of wine, dinner and see the show in comfortable armchairs, the tickets range from $13.50 to $15.50. Wine starts at $6 per glass, and the typical dinner entree starts at $10.99, Coltman said.

He said he is not worried that the 23-screen mall theater will compete for business with his eight-screen venue. On weekends, the existing site packs in a wide range of baby boomers and 30- and 40-somethings. To appeal to the living-room crowd, two of the nine living-room theaters at the Westfield venue will be called “movie parlors” and will include more space and five-star hotel-like decor, Coltman said.

He expects the mall venue to draw moviegoers from Salem, Ore., north to Longview.

“About 56 percent of our customers are from Portland,” Coltman said. “They love what we do now, but this will be so much better.”