Cinemark theater closes at SF Westfield Mall but expert says it's part of nationwide issue

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Thursday, June 15, 2023
Cinemark theater closes at SF Westfield amid nationwide issue: Expert
The Cinemark theater inside San Francisco's Westfield Mall is shutting down and will have its last showings Thursday afternoon.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Cinemark Century San Francisco, which is the movie theater at the Westfield Mall in the city, will close after Thursday's matinee shows.

An email was sent by Cinemark to its customers announcing the theater's closure after Thursday.

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Westfield said in a statement Monday that it is giving up its San Francisco mall in the wake of Nordstrom's planned closure.

A Cinemark representative provided this statement to ABC7 News:

"Cinemark can confirm it has decided to permanently close the Century San Francisco Centre 9 and XD theater shortly before the conclusion of its lease term following a comprehensive review of local business conditions."

It's the latest blow to the downtown shopping district.

Westfield just announced on Monday its giving up the mall, transferring management to its lender.

There have also been numerous closures of other businesses in the area.

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Cinemark is the latest company to pull out of the mall and while it may look like a black eye for the city, experts ABC7 News talked with said movie theaters nationwide are still struggling when compared to pre-COVID numbers.

"I feel really disappointed, we've been coming here forever and this is one of our favorite places," said Chazz Marie who was leaving the mall when ABC7 News spoke with her.

Marie and her friend Maelauni Amaya might have spent all day Wednesday shopping, but they are movie theater die-hards. They learned that in addition to the Nordstrom closing and Westfield no longer running this San Francisco mall between Market and Mission, Cinemark will stop showing movies after Thursday.

"I was at this movie theater, I noticed that they don't upkeep it," said Amaya. "It was really dirty when I went in there. I went on a Saturday night it was empty like a ghost town."

Some within a long movie line at the theater made references to safety concerns outside the mall but UCLA professor Gabriel Rossman says this is a bigger issue.

"There is a general trend with movie theaters that is nationwide and I would say that has less to do with how many homeless people are pooping on the street outside the movie theater, than it does with just 'I don't need to go to the movies because if I just wait a month and a half I can watch this on Disney Plus,'" said Rossman.

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He says the number of screens in the country is down 5 percent since pre-pandemic peak. He also says streaming services will likely not be as strong going forward as Hollywood tries to rebound.

"The surprising thing is that so few have closed because box office is down much more than the screens and in the long run that is not sustainable," said Rossman.

Marie and Amaya admit that while they love the movies, it's just not as practical.

"Netflix and the convenience of being at home is just much more comfortable right now," said Amaya.

Despite the challenges, Mayor London Breed is looking to what could be coming next.

"These venues are going to still remain open," she said. "But have a conversation with the lenders, the business community and others including our educational institutions. UCSF, Berkeley, Stanford, who have an interest in expanding in our space."

Before the closure of Cinemark, Westfield said the San Francisco Centre's occupancy level had dropped to 55%.

Nationally, Westfield's occupancy rate averages around 93%.

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