Cinemas reopen today

After earthquake, burglary, Theaters 3-8 now screening

Cinemas reopen todayBy REBECCA NEIPP

News Review Staff Writer

After taking appropriate steps to recover from massive earthquake damage — with a temporary setback to investigate a weekend burglary — Ridgecrest Cinemas reopens today on six of its eight screens.

Just as Ridgecrest Cinemas managers were in the throes of recovery from the 7.1-magnitude earthquake July 5, their original plans to reopen earlier this week were set back by the discovery of a burglary on Friday, July 19.

Following the 6.4 foreshock on July 4, management decided to close the theater in order to conduct a thorough assessment of the damage. The decision turned out to be providential, since the roof over Screen 1 collapsed during the subsequent quake.

Since then, the cinema staff has been engaged in a rigorous recovery effort to reopen Screens 3-8 while Screens 1-2 in the original part of the building have been closed off for repairs.

Just as staff were finalizing the necessary precautions for reopening, an eyewitness reported strange activity at the theater around 10:30 p.m. last Friday. Police contacted General Manager Kelly Walden, who met investigators on the scene.

Once on site, Walden was able to help determine that suspects stole or damaged some $33,000 in equipment.

“We were not able to conclude the work needed to reopen, because we had leave everything exactly as we found it while the investigators and the insurance adjuster came in to evaluate everything,” she said.

Working with detectives at Ridgecrest Police Department, Walden shared with the cinema’s Facebook followers a report of the incident. That led to a tip, which led to the discovery of property the police suspected came from the theater.

On Tuesday morning, Walden was able to confirm that some of the stolen property was discovered, although RPD is continuing to investigate the matter.

“The good news is we have everything back up and running now,” said Walden. “We still have some cleaning to do, and we are awaiting final approval from the city inspector and engineers that we are ready for the public, but we could be open as early as Thursday or Friday.”

She said that the public has been very understanding about the challenges Ridgecrest Cinemas has faced the last few weeks.

“People in our community have been very patient and supportive.”

Fortunately, the new wings that contain Theaters 3-8 include a snack bar and restroom area, so operations should continue with as little disruption as possible during the renovations of Theaters 1 and 2.

“The box office is in the original building, so we are still working out some of the details like how to sell tickets. But I know we’ll come up with something.”

Walden said that when the theater reopens, it will screen the live-action version of Disney’s “The Lion King,” “Spider-Man: Far From Home” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”“For the rest, I’m still waiting to see how the timing works out.”

The popular throw-back will still be incorporated into the summer movie schedule.

The screening of classic movies during the summer is one of many changes Walden has introduced at the theater since taking over management 18 months ago.

“I’m really thankful for all the community outreach we’ve done at Ridgecrest Cinemas,” said Assistant General Manager Amanda Diaz. “I feel like with everything that has happened since the earthquake, and the support we’ve received, everything has come full circle for us.”

For updates see also www.ridgecrestcinemas.com and the Ridgecrest Cinemas Facebook Page.

Pictured: Assistant General Manager Amanda Diaz shows a broken projector discovered after Ridgecrest Cinemas was burglarized — Photo by Rebecca Neipp

Story First Published: 2019-07-23