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Is a new movie theater in the future for Citrus Heights?

Studio Movie Grill pulled out of plans for a new location in Citrus Heights, amid bankruptcy during the pandemic. // S. Williams

By Sara Beth Williams–
Going to the movies is a Christmas tradition for many families, but in Citrus Heights that currently means going outside the city limits, as there are no theaters located in the city.

The city’s only theater, a discount cinema inside Sunrise Mall, shut down during the pandemic and never reopened. The next closest theater is on Greenback Lane at Interstate 80, but is located just outside the city limits.

Hope for bringing a new theater to Citrus Heights came with much attention when Studio Movie Grill announced plans to open in the former Kmart building on Auburn Boulevard, but those hopes were crushed during the pandemic, when the theater chain pulled out of plans and filed for bankruptcy.

However, there appears to still be hope on the horizon, as a new theater is shown in a brochure for the old Kmart site, posted by the leasing firm Red Mountain Group, Inc. Additionally, the city is hoping to attract a theater as part of its plan to guide redevelopment at Sunrise Mall.

An updated leasing brochure shows the 34,000-square-foot abandoned movie grill building is not available for lease and has the words “theater coming soon” typed on the location. The wording doesn’t appear to be an outdated reference to the former movie grill, as the date on the brochure shows it was updated Sept. 22, 2022, and also shows the Big Lots location next door as being available for lease, which is a recent development.

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The brochure also depicts future monument signage for the shopping center, including a slot to display the name of a new theater, but no specific theater name has been listed.

Hints of another theater coming to the site were first reported in an August article in The Sentinel, but the property’s management firm and owners have been silent about any specifics.

STORE Capital, which owns the property, told The Sentinel in a phone call that they are not allowed to release any information on lease agreements. A property management advisor also said they were not authorized to speak on the matter of any new possible tenants, and a call to Red Mountain Group was not returned before publishing deadline.

Along with the theater at Sunrise Mall, Citrus Heights also used to have a drive-in theater, which opened more than 70 years ago next to the current Citrus Grove shopping center near the border of Citrus Heights and Roseville on Auburn Boulevard.

The Citrus Heights Drive-in Theater operated for almost 30 years, according to Citrus Heights Historical Society President Larry Fritz, with a giant theater screen backing up to the freeway. Fritz recalled visiting the theater with his family during the 1960s.

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As previously reported, the partially renovated, abandoned building at 8501 Auburn Blvd. has been vacant since 2016, when the Citrus Heights Kmart store liquidated its inventory and closed its doors. Plans for a Studio Movie Grill began to take form in 2017, but later fell through.

City of Citrus Heights Economic Development and Community Engagement Director Meghan Huber said no applications for a new tenant have been filed for the property, as of Dec. 22. She said the city remains “excited” about the potential of the Citrus Grove shopping center, echoing earlier statements made during an Auburn Boulevard Business Association (ABBA) meeting in February.

During the ABBA monthly meeting, with representatives and city officials in attendance, Huber said STORE Capital understands the value of the asset and that the city has been working with them closely to find a new tenant.

The Sentinel reported that Huber told those in attendance that the property along Auburn Boulevard “is our number one priority site,” adding that it’s highly visible from the freeway.

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