When Hesperia's 12-screen movie complex opens its doors it will likely be one of the few in the area to offer restaurant-quality meals, and beer and wine in designated areas.
The project, which is being developed by Northern California-based Cinema West Theatres, was given the green light Thursday night by the Hesperia Planning Commission. The commission unanimously approved the conditional use permit, and the project will next go before the Hesperia City Council for final approval.
The complex will be on the southeast corner of Smoketree Street and Ninth Avenue near city hall and the new police station and county building.
"It ties in nicely with the Civic Plaza Park," said senior planner Stan Liudahl, who gave the staff presentation.
Besides two beer and wine bars located near screening rooms, the 37,168-square-foot facility will have party and game rooms and feature first-run movies. One of the rooms will be designed for live performances and available for rent by community organizations. Major sporting events such as boxing matches are also expected to be shown at the complex. Movie-goers will be able to purchase reserved tickets online.
The commission also allowed a variance for the developer to build taller than the currently allowed 52-foot height limitation to allow for a 60-foot tower. Passage of the variance will pave the way for the construction of two 32-foot-high IMAX screens, which will be the first for the Victor Valley.
"It will be the cutting edge type of cinema," Liudahl said. "The project will further the city's goal of creating a vibrant civic center."
Commissioners expressed a number of concerns, which were addressed by staff and Cinema West Theatres owner Dave Corkill. They included concerns over the possibility of under-aged drinking on or near the premises and police staff needs.
"I can visualize this being happy hour time," said commissioner Bill Muller. "I question whether we're opening up a detrimental activity to the cinema movie goers."
But city staff quelled concerns, saying the theater complex will be bound by the same regulations and scrutiny as restaurants by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Any establishment not complying can be severely fined, the staff member said.
Patricia McLemore, who lives near the planned theater complex, asked about noise issues. City staff answered that the entrance to the facility was directed toward Civic Plaza Park and that normal movie hours were expected.
The last movies will typically be shown between 9 and 10 p.m. with moviegoers leaving around midnight. Occasional special movie events such as the opening of a "Harry Potter" movie will be shown at midnight, Corkill said.
"It looks like we're going to have a new theater in this city," Chairman Chris Elvert said after the 5-0 vote on the project's CUP.