Galaxy Theaters: Movie theater in Atascadero has new operator

Galaxy Theaters in Atascadero will be renamed Colony Cinemas as a new operator takes over.

Galaxy Theaters in Atascadero will be renamed Colony Cinemas as a new operator takes over.

Galaxy Theaters at Atascadero’s downtown Colony Square is changing management effective Thursday.

The movie theater will be renamed Colony Cinemas, with the Sanborn family cinema business taking over as operator, property owner and Cinema Square LLC CEO Jeff Nelson said in a news release.

The lease for the current operator, Los Angeles-based Galaxy Theatres, runs until the end of June but the business opted to depart “abruptly” effective June 23, Nelson said in the release.

Nelson is bringing on Bruce Sanborn, who leads the Sanborn family cinema business, to take over operations at the new Colony Cinemas, Nelson said in the release.

The Sanborn family cinema business has run the Downtown Center 7 San Luis Obispo Theater for 30 years and has more than 100 years of experience running cinemas, according to the release.

“The new team of operators will bring their vast experience and local touches to the theater,” the release said. “They anticipate enhancements over time.”

Sanborn extended employment offers to the workers at Galaxy Theatres, and most of them took him up on the offer, Nelson said in the release.

Workers install the Galaxy Theaters sign in Atascadero in June 2013. The theater will be renamed Colony Cinemas as a new operator takes over.

“We are excited that a seasoned and well capitalized local theater operator stepped up at the last minute so that Atascadero can continue to have a fine theater as the anchor of its downtown release,” Nelson said in the release.

Nelson said the team aims to reopen the movie theater next Thursday.

Local patrons have plenty of questions about the change in management from the movie theater chain run by Galaxy to the Sanborn family business.

A thread in the “Everything Atascadero” Facebook group had more than 40 comments as of Thursday at 1:30 pm

One of the key concerns is whether the new operators will honor unfulfilled gift certificates purchased when the theater was operated by Galaxy.

The Tribune reached out to Jeff Nelson and Bruce Sanborn with these questions but did not hear back ahead of publication.

The VIP auditorium at Galaxy Theaters in Atascadero.

Atascadero’s Galaxy Theaters faced foreclosure during the pandemic

Galaxy Theaters ran the Atascadero-based location for 10 years and struggled financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The rent from Galaxy Theaters covered 80% of the mortgage paid by Nelson, the property owner, to the lenders who held the mortgage, according to past Tribune coverage.

But due to COVID-19 restrictions, the cinema was closed for much of March 2020 through February 2021 and failed to generate the revenue necessary to cover rent and by extension the mortgage on the property at Colony Square owned by Nelson, the Tribune reported.

The lenders threatened foreclosure, something local and state lawmakers sought to prevent. The Atascadero City Council passed a resolution in February 2021 in support of Nelson and the Atascadero movie theater.

Despite the hardships of the coronavirus pandemic and the abrupt change in management announced this week, Nelson said the future of cinema is looking bright.

“Movies have returned in a resounding way, post pandemic, with the studios having a great backlog of movies ready to roll out. ‘Top Gun: Maverick’ is the most recent of these with many great releases scheduled,” Nelson said.

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