A ‘Lot’ To Offer: Long anticipated movie theater to open Sept. 30 in La Jolla

That’s a wrap! Almost.

In what seems like record time for a project of its magnitude, only 16 months after Jonathan’s Market sold its last salmon filet and it was announced a movie theater would take its place, popcorn machines and movie screens are in place at 7611 Fay Ave.

But there’s more — a whole ‘Lot’ more, in fact, to entertain patrons of The Lot. The business offers seven intimate movie theaters, each with between 55 and 70 comfy, leather seats and in-theatre food and drink service. In front, and independent of the cinemas, The Lot includes a breakfast café, lounge with a full bar and a family-style restaurant.

The venue takes its name from the movie industry term “backlot,” explains owner and chief executive officer Adolfo Fastlicht, of La Jolla. It’s a fitting title, given the potential for an equal measure of bustling activity here.

“A lot of things happen at The Lot,” Fastlicht said. “Production happens at the lot, meetings are held at the lot, people eat at the lot, people drink at the lot … and people do things they shouldn’t do at the lot,” he added, with a playfully mischievous grin. “We thought it was a wonderful name that sort of encompasses everything and is easy to remember. We think it’s pretty cool.”

Fastlicht got started in the luxury cinema business more than 20 years ago, launching the Cinemex luxury multiplex chains in Mexico, with several classmates from Harvard Business School. It was major competitor of Cinépolis, the local U.S. launch of which Fastlicht was also a partner.

Fastlicht and his partners sold Cinemex in 2002. This is the first venture for his new theater empire, Backlot Hospitality, which includes business partner Carlos Wellman. They plan to open another location of The Lot at Liberty Station in Point Loma in November, converting a 20,000-square-foot auditorium that opened on the former military base in 1941.

Places everyone!

There was a flurry of activity last week on Fay Avenue, as workers put the finishing touches on The Lot and training was underway for some of its roughly 150 employees, including kitchen and waitstaff, ticket takers and guest service professionals.

“The patrons need to be indulged,” Fastlicht stressed. “They expect a very high level of quality in both the service and the food. The whole Lot experience is a curated experience. Everything we’ve done we’ve really put a lot of thought into it.”

Executive chef Matt Sramek, who most recently served as chef de cuisine at Amaya restaurant at the The Grand Del Mar resort, has created a menu that includes everything from burgers and oven-fired pizzas to a charcuterie board of prosciutto, salametto picante (similar to Spanish dry chorizo) Humboldt Fog and P’tit Basque cheeses, fig jam, whole grain mustard and pickled veggies; a togarashi-seared albacore rice bowl with Asian vegetables; warm pretzel buns with pale ale queso sauce; and roasted Mexican street corn with jalapeno-cilantro aioli, grated Parmesan cheese and charred lime. There’s also full selection of craft beers on tap and wines by the bottle or glass.

Out front, much of Jonathan’s parking spaces have been replaced with a spacious patio, tables, umbrellas, magnolia trees, vine-covered trellis and fire pits, for pre- and post-movie mingling on nippy nights. There’s also valet parking and seating along Fay Avenue (with a view across to what will eventually be La Jolla Music Society’s opulent new performing arts center).

Fastlicht said he considers The Lot a “lifestyle destination.” “It’s a community hub that we’ve designed to take advantage of the fabulous weather in La Jolla,” he said, noting roughly 12-foot-tall glass doors around the periphery of the restaurant, café and theater entrance. “All these doors that you see open up completely, so the distinction between in and out really gets blurred. We’ve built a world-class facility that allows us to have an indoor-outdoor feel.”

Fastlicht and his business partner Carlos Wellman, and a group of U.S. and Mexican investors, are planning a VIP opening reception Tuesday, Sept. 29 and will be open to the public Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2015.

The inaugural roster of films will be announced a few days before the opening, said Fastlicht, who signed a 20-year lease on the space with Dallo Enterprises, which operated Jonathan’s.

“We have an idea of the films, but we have to finalize our agreements with the studios and the studios end up changing things,” he said, noting that, though The Lot also plans to screen foreign and independent films, it will likely feature more mainstream, “blockbuster” films during its first few weeks of operation.

The space was designed by interior designer and architect Ezequiel Farca, who earned a master’s degree in large scale architecture from the Universidad Politécnica de Cataluña, in Barcelona, Spain, and his master of fine arts at UCLA. The builder was La Jolla-based Dempsey Construction, whose projects include La Plaza La Jolla shopping complex at Wall Street and Girard Avenue.

Site superintendent Charlie D’Amato, of Dempsey Construction, said conversion from market to movie theater was a challenge, especially given the existing condition of the building, which involved removal of hidden asbestos and structural reinforcements to bear the added load of theater seating. Given delays in construction from winter rains, D’Amato said at any given time his worker safety sheets showed as many as 150 people per day working on the project. “It looks like a big site, but when you start pulling everything in, we ran out of space quickly,” he noted.

About The Lot

• Address: 7611 Fay Ave., La Jolla

• Opening date: Sept. 30, 2015

• Hours: Cafe opens 6 a.m. for breakfast and coffee/pastry service. First film screens around 11 a.m./last film 11:30 p.m. most nights

• Ticket prices: $22-$24

• Cost to construct: About $18 million

• Parking: 110 spaces

• Phone: (858) 777-0069

• Website: thelotent.com

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