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Downtown Merced Is a Step Closer to Getting an IMAX Theater
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By The Merced Focus
Published 2 months ago on
February 28, 2024

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BB Architects submits plans for an IMAX theater in downtown Merced.

The project is still in early stages and must undergo city review.

An IMAX theater would be the latest in a series of downtown developments.


Plans to bring an IMAX Theater to downtown Merced have taken a significant step forward, as an application for a tenant improvement permit and other documents for the project have been filed with the city.

Victor Patton

The Merced Focus

The application for the permit was filed by Laguna Beach-based BB Architects on Feb. 12 to upgrade the existing Regal Hollywood theater at 403 W. Main Street to include a 4,053 square-foot IMAX theater auditorium.

“We’re looking forward to doing the work in the community, hopefully it goes quickly,” Kathy Lovell, architect with BB Architects, told The Merced FOCUS.

According to BB Architects’ website, the firm has been involved in several similar theater remodel projects for Regal, as well as the historic TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood.

While the submittal of the application is an important step, the plan still isn’t final. It must first undergo a plan check review with the city, which can take several weeks or months.

Lovell also said it’s too early to say what the timeline looks like for the IMAX project. “It’s just slated this year, as far as I know,” she said.

Merced Mayor Matt Serratto said the idea of an IMAX coming to downtown would be “super cool,” adding it would be “an incredible addition to our downtown and a magnet that’s going to elevate the experience for our residents and what we can offer our community.”

IMAX theaters use massive screens and special projectors to create a high resolution visual experience for audiences. Ticket prices for the enhanced experience can be double that of regular admission.

Latest Big Downtown Project

Dan Del Real, CCIM, owner of Del Real Commercial, is the leasing agent for Encina Investment Group, which owns the building in downtown Merced where Regal Hollywood Theater is located.

Del Real said he’ll likely drive to Riverbank in Stanislaus County or River Park in Fresno to watch “Dune: Part Two” with his son when the film opens March 1 on IMAX screens.

Del Real would like to have that option locally. “The entire community would be excited to be able to feature IMAX movies in Merced without having to drive out of town,” Del Real said. He says the IMAX would be “just another feather in the cap for downtown Merced.”

Regal, based in Knoxville, Tenn., did not respond to calls made by The Merced FOCUS seeking comment from the company as of Tuesday morning.

An IMAX theater would be the latest in a series of big developments that have transformed downtown Merced in recent years.

The Hotel El Capitan and Hotel Tioga, both of which had been aging and dilapidated, recently underwent multi-million dollar renovations.

The Roaring ‘20s-era, art deco-style Mainzer Theater also was given a multi-million makeover recently. Plus, Fresno-based Tioga-Sequoia Brewing Company opened a downtown Merced taproom.

About the Author

Victor Patton is editor-in-chief of The Merced FOCUS, a nonprofit newsroom covering the San Joaquin Valley.

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