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SLO, to the max

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A trio of businessmen and developers is working on plans to potentially squeeze an IMAX movie theater into downtown San Luis Obispo.

Though the term IMAX actually refers to projection and filming technology, it’s typically associated with building-sized screens and steep, stadium seating—not the type of venue SLO might be used to. But Bruce Sanborn, chief executive officer of The Movie Experience, which operates several theaters in SLO, says it’s possible to fit an IMAX theater on what is currently a small parking lot behind the Fremont Theatre.

LIKE A GLOVE :  If approved, The Movie Experience, John King, and Rob Rossi plan to build an IMAX theater in downtown San Luis Obispo behind the Fremont Theater. - PHOTO COURTESY OF STUDIO DESIGN GROUP ARCHITECTS
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF STUDIO DESIGN GROUP ARCHITECTS
  • LIKE A GLOVE : If approved, The Movie Experience, John King, and Rob Rossi plan to build an IMAX theater in downtown San Luis Obispo behind the Fremont Theater.

Sanborn’s company is a tenant of the building, owned by local developers Rob Rossi and John King. He recently met with the developers to go over proposals for an IMAX screen. Sanborn assured that if such a theater is built, it won’t impact the Fremont Theatre, though there will likely be remodels of the adjoining Mission Cinemas.

Rossi told New Times he plans to submit plans to the city soon, perhaps within a week of this printing.

“I think it’ll be a nice and attractive addition to that block of Higuera [Street] that’s kind of dead,” Rossi said.

The Movie Experience was in litigation with IMAX since 2010. Sanborn said his company now has the rights to build IMAX theaters in its locations throughout the Central Coast and Southern California, but it’s a matter of finding viable locations.

“So we have it and other theaters don’t over here, but we don’t have it for very long,” he said.

If all goes as planned, Sanborn hopes to have a definitive plan for moving forward by summer in order to take advantage of the IMAX rights. Under the early proposal—though nothing has been submitted to the city—the new theater would abut the rear of the Fremont, with the projection booth overhanging the existing sidewalk, Sanborn said.

He added that The Movie Experience spent more than $1 million obtaining the rights from IMAX, and he seemed eager to hear what local residents think about the proposal.

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