The Last $1 Picture Show

- December 9, 2011

"The United Artists Regal North 6 is no more"

For many, Wednesday, December 7 marked Pearl's Harbor's 70th anniversary. But for some Santa Feans, it's also the day the discount movies died: The United Artists Regal North 6 is no more.

For a couple of decades, it was the only movie theater on what used to be the far south end of town. But when Regal Entertainment's Stadium 14 opened in April, 2007 in the San Isidro Plaza off Cerrillos Road, the North's bookers unwisely kept it in competition for first-run films. Predictably, than didn't pan out, and the North 6 went second-run two years later, on April 19, 2009. 

Yes--that meant cheaper admissions! Adult tickets were only $3.50, any time, any show. Better yet, Wednesdays were Dollar Day across the board. Okay, no digital shows, no 3-D, but at least all screens had Dolby, and Tuesdays always brought lower-priced--sometimes even free--concessions for Crown Club members.

In its day, Theater #6--the "big one"--was the best screen in town. The Lensic was handsomer by far, but it had terrible audio. As a traditional plex auditorium, #6 couldn't be beat. I recall, for instance, standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a packed lobby, panting to see Jurassic Park. The presentation did not disappoint.

When it morphed into a budget- and family-friendly incarnation, I caught up on so many movies there. Barely five minutes 
from our house, my final foray was a double feature of The Ides of March and Moneyball.

A few days later, they turned out the lights.

The Villa Linda Mall opened in 1985, with Commonwealth's 850-seat Cinema Six in place. Truly a godawful moviehouse, installed with used equipment, it had only two stereo theaters and four monaural, like the DeVargas 6. Unlike it, projection and audio were iffy at best, despite local techs' efforts to conquer the maladies. (The Cinema Six, aka the South, shuttered some time ago, and is currently used as a church by Iglesia de Dios.)

When the 1,767-seat North came in a few years later, occupying the former Beall's space, it was a godsend. It remained so when Commonwealth segued to United Artists out of New York, and then to Knoxville-based Regal Entertainment. It kept treading water amidst a multiplicity of new mall owners. It survived the rebranding of Villa Linda as Santa Fe Place in 2005. It lived through the 2,018-seat Stadium 14 stealing all its business in 2007. 

But this year it was axed at last by Fort Worth's Trademark Property Co., yet another development team trying to reinvent the 26-year-old mall with a reputed $35 million facelift and a new moniker, probably Las Ramblas, echoing Barcelona's famed shopping boulevard.

Simply stated, Trademark chose not to renew the multiplex's lease. 

A box-office dude told me he'd heard the newbies want to upscale everything, from dine-in restaurants to higher-end retailers. "They're trying to keep the teens out," he said, cocking a doubtful eyebrow.

Later I asked a popcorn seller, "Are the mall people or Regal management at least giving you guys a party on closing night?" 

"I wish," she laughed. But it was a sad laugh.