SR Entertainment Group, the Santa Rosa-based theater company with a dozen multiplex cinemas in California and Nevada, will open a new one in the Sacramento suburb of Rocklin later this year.
It's a sign the movie business is thriving despite the recession, said Dan Tocchini, CEO of the family-owned theater chain.
"This recession has not hurt the theater business — it has helped it," he said. "We had a great year last year."
SR Entertainment Group has four theaters in Sonoma County, including Roxy Stadium 14 in Santa Rosa and Airport Stadium 12 near Windsor.
The group doesn't release sales figures, but business is booming, Tocchini said. With consumers cutting back on travel, movies are an affordable escape, he said. New generation 3-D films such as "Avatar" are driving record attendance, Tocchini said.
The group's newest theater, a state-of-the-art 16-screen multiplex, is scheduled to debut in September in a former Mervyn's department store at Blue Oaks Town Center, a regional shopping center in Rocklin near Interstate 80.
The project was approved last month by Rocklin planners.
SR Entertainment Group will invest about $10 million to convert 57,000 square feet of retail space to a multi-theater complex with 2,888 seats.
The company chose Rocklin because of growth in the suburbs northeast of Sacramento, Tocchini said. The theater is expected to draw from neighboring communities including Roseville and Lincoln, he said. Rocklin has about 56,000 residents.
Tocchini's backers in the Rocklin project are Larry Wasem and Richard Coombs, partners in Sonoma County's Airport Business Center. They are also investors in the Roxy and Airport cinemas.
Rocklin welcomes the new multiplex, said Terry Richardson, the city's assistant manager. City leaders were worried when Mervyn's left the retail center last year, he said.
"It's a very good fit," Richardson said. Rocklin, which doesn't have a theater, "has always been interested in seeing one in that area."
The Blue Oaks center, which opened in 2007, has lost several other tenants during the economic downturn.
"It's going to bring a ton of activity," said Michael Smythe, the center's owner.
Blue Oaks Cinema will feature all-digital sound and projection, with equipment to show the latest 3-D releases, Tocchini said. It will have about 100 full- and part-time employees.
It's the first new theater for SR Entertainment Group since the company opened a 16-screen multiplex in Clovis in 2006.
"We've been kind of dormant, but now we're on the move again," said Tocchini, who founded the business in 1972.
The group plans two other multiplex cinemas in the near future, but it's too soon to announce their locations, he said.
The group also has theaters in Healdsburg, Pacific Grove, Oxnard, Camarillo, Lodi, Hanford, Cathedral City and Laughlin, Nev. It has about 1,400 employees.
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