Clark County consumers get mixed news from mall

Renovations are still on schedule, but Cinetopia opening has been delayed

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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Clark County consumers will have to wait a little longer to unwrap one of two gifts originally promised for the holiday season.

They are the multimillion-dollar makeover of Westfield Vancouver mall, the area’s largest shopping center, and the grand opening of its adjoining 23-screen Cinetopia, expected to be the most impressive new movie theater in the Portland-Vancouver metro area. It’s just too bad the venues aren’t going to open at the same time, as originally planned.

Construction delays have pushed back the opening date of the $18 million multiplex to February, about three months behind original plans for a November debut, said Paige Moreau, the mall’s general manager. However, she expects to see holiday shoppers enjoying the mall’s interior renovations and new exterior entrances by November.

“We’re going to have a brand-new mall for everyone to experience,” Moreau said. “We don’t want that to be overshadowed by Cinetopia’s delay.”

Commercial real estate experts speculate the postponed theater won’t affect holiday sales at Westfield, a 940,230-square-foot shopping center west of Interstate 205 at state Highway 500.

However, movie buffs likely will be disappointed by the delay of the two-story movie theater under construction in the vacant Mervyn’s department store. The venue was scheduled to open in November with 14 downstairs theaters and nine of Cinetopia’s concept “living room” venues upstairs.

Plans for the complex include an 80-foot screen (by comparison, the commercial IMAX is a 52-foot screen) and a brewpub-style restaurant.

“The theater is going to experience far more pain than the mall,” because of lost ticket sales, said Pam Lindloff, an associate vice president and retail specialist with NAI Norris Beggs and Simpson in Vancouver.

Vancouver-based Cinetopia, which pioneered the living room theater concept with armchair seating and a dinner and wine menu, will lose sales during the holiday blockbuster season, Lindloff said.

Cinetopia owner Rudyard Coltman did not return calls and emails seeking comment for this story. However, he previously said Hollywood’s holiday and summer blockbusters are his company’s bread and butter.

Cinetopia’s flagship eight-screen movie theater opened in Vancouver nearly six years ago at 11700 S.E. Seventh St. The company recently opened its second venue, a 12-screen complex in the Progress Ridge shopping center in Beaverton, Ore. Coltman previously said he expects the new Vancouver theater to employ 150 people.

“Whenever a theater is timed to open before Christmas, it makes sense,” said Deborah Ewing, a broker and vice president with Eric Fuller & Associates commercial real estate firm. “People can do their shopping at the same time.”

Cinetopia’s delayed opening won’t make a lot of difference to the 115 stores, restaurants and kiosks at Westfield Vancouver, said Jan Teague, president and chief executive officer of the Washington Retail Association in Olympia.

“People are already motivated to shop at that time of year and the makeover will create a lot of excitement,” she said. “It’s like going into a new house and looking around.”

The mall renovation will include improvements to mall entrances and a complete interior remodel with new flooring, glass handrails and recessed lighting. Soft seating will replace the mall’s hard wooden benches. Children who visit the mall will have a new play area and new restrooms will be available for all patrons.

Moreau said she expects Cinetopia’s arrival to attract a wider selection of trend-setting retailers, including a couple of stores slated to open this year.

“And in the spring and fall, it will really ramp up,” she said

The mall originally opened in 1978 as Vancouver Mall. It was purchased by the Australia-based Westfield Group in 1996 and called Westfield Shoppingtown until 2004. The Westfield Group operates a global portfolio of 119 shopping malls in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.