Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Cinema Graveyard: Mann Rancho Bernardo 6

The first entry in my Cinema Graveyard series, and without a doubt the most frequently visited and most memory-filled of all the cinemas, drive-ins, and movie palaces I’ve ever been to: the Mann Rancho Bernardo 6, a six-screen multiplex located in the small community where I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, about forty minutes north of San Diego, California. The theater opened on June 20, 1980, and it was the only time in my life I’d been to a theater for its grand opening celebration.

The movie-loving citizens of RB were out in full force that evening looking to be a part of the spotlit festivities, but strangely enough, only three of those six screens were open for business that day. The three on the right of the lobby were finished and ready to go, but the three on the left side were still being worked on, and that entire side of the building was sealed off by a clear plastic tarp. And as the ad to the right proves, only three movies were playing that night; my Dad and I went to see The Blues Brothers, while my Mom, my brother Scott, and my sister Kelly opted for the Disney re-release of Mary Poppins.

It would be the first of over 150 movies I’d see at the theater over a twenty-year span, and during its heyday it was the place to be if you lived in Rancho Bernardo, where you could meet up with friends, spot people you knew from the neighborhood, and get to know the theater staff by name…many of whom I already knew from high school. I can think of maybe a hundred wonderful memories from my many days and nights spent at the RB6, but here are just a few that immediately come to mind:

• Of the three times I’ve sat through a movie twice in one day, two of those occurred at the RB6: Xanadu in 1980 and Forbidden World in 1982.

• During a special midnight screening of a Three Stooges marathon in 1981, a riot nearly broke out when a packed house of frustrated fans realized that the Stooges shorts being shown were all featuring Shemp, and not Curly.

• I saw Return of the Jedi there on its first day of release, sitting with my Dad and Scott in the back row of a packed auditorium; if I remember correctly, we were there because the movie wasn’t playing at any of the big single-screen theaters in San Diego.

• For a very short time, the theater tried having employees hawk snacks and candy at the front row of each auditorium prior to the show, holding a tray on a neck strap like cigarette girls of the 1950s. My friend Brent’s brother, who was working at the RB6 on a night we were there, begged us beforehand to buy something from him, so he wouldn’t be embarrassed while standing helpless in front of a potentially hostile or derisive crowd. We complied, and no doubt embarrassed him anyway by enthusiastically waving our hands and shouting loudly for popcorn and drinks.

• I saw Back to the Future for the third time in 1985, on October 26th, and the crowded auditorium reacted with applause when we saw the exact same date on the dashboard of the DeLorean, when Marty McFly returned to 1985 from his trip to the past.

• One of my first dates with my girlfriend Julie was at the RB6, for a nighttime screening of A Few Good Men in 1993.

• And during my two decades of visiting the RB6, I only saw two celebrities ever arrive there to see a movie: former San Diego Padres pitcher Randy Jones and My Three Sons actor William Demerest. Both bypassed the long lines that led from the ticket windows down the steps and into the passenger drop-off zone, and headed straight inside to the lobby instead, apparently not needing tickets to gain admission.

By 1997, the theater had changed ownership, and was being operated by Silver Cinemas as a discount multiplex, at first offering movies and concessions for just a dollar each, then boosting the price of a ticket to two dollars a year later. By this time, the theater was slowly dying, now showing second-run films that were scratched and worn, offering only a handful of snack bar items, and suffering from dwindling attendance thanks to a flood of new multiplexes opening in neighboring cities. I went to quite a few movies there during its last three years, mostly with my friend Joe, who like my brother had once worked at the RB6; there were bigger and more modern theaters in the area, but every now and then it was fun to revisit the past…especially if it only cost two bucks.

The last movie I ever saw at the RB6 was on my birthday in January of 2000, when I went alone on a Monday night to see the latest Bond flick The World is Not Enough. However, my last visit to the theater took place the following month, when Joe and I met there to see October Sky. Not many patrons were at the theater that night, and only a handful were there to see that particular movie. As we all soon found out, the projector was somehow damaged, and the images were so blurred and ‘ghosting’ that we could barely make out what was happening on-screen. After a few minutes with no change, Joe and I got up to leave…oddly, the only ones to get up and leave. We found the manager in the empty lobby and informed him of the problem, which he said he was already aware of (yet he was still selling tickets!), and we chatted with him for a while about the hassles he’d had with the projection and various prints, and the state of the theater in general. Without prompting, he gave us refunds, which looking back makes me feel a little sad, and now I wish I’d told him no, and kept the keepsake ticket for myself instead.

I never made it back to the RB6, and three months later it had quietly closed, along with the Edwards San Marcos 6 in nearby Escondido. I don’t know how long the place remained empty, but a church is there now in the same building, the exterior only slightly modified: windows have been added around the exterior, and for some reason a stone tower has been attached to the front facade. I’ve had a few opportunities since then to step inside and take a look around, but have always chosen not to, knowing the interior has no doubt changed, and wanting instead to keep my memories of my visits there intact.

30 comments on “Cinema Graveyard: Mann Rancho Bernardo 6

  1. Dracula

    2 days after the opening, did you treat me to a showing and maybe a deep fried burrito at Jack in the Box? Also did Bryan have a red glow on his face hawking cigs and cigars?

    • Todd B

      Nope, sorry! Two days later, my brother and I played a couple games of Statis Pro. But seven days later, I joined you on the wildest adventure of our lives as we boarded a Greyhound bus and headed for Ohio and Michigan for the summer. And the first documented movie that you and I saw (along with Reid) at the RB6 was The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, on August 15th, which will be the subject of a later post.

  2. Dracula

    RB Mann 6 had a lifespan of 20 years. With you being the movie and theater buff, what would you say is the average lifespan of multiplex theaters? Not counting your old classic downtown single screen theaters. I know a multiplex by us in Goodyear on McDowell and Litchfield is empty.

    • Todd B

      I would guess longer than 20 years, but at the rate things are being replaced these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was less. There’s a theater near us on Bell, the Super Saver Cinema 8, that has the same look and feel of the RB6; apparently it opened in 1990, so it’s been going strong for nearly 30 years. And with a lot of the multiplexes being retrofitted, they could last well beyond 20-30 years. And I’ve been to that closed theater in Goodyear…the Palm Valley 14. I went to one movie, and never went back.

  3. grandrapidsgirl

    Such great memories and your rendition along with graphics is marvelous!! Very heartwarming, yet sad.

    • Todd B

      One of the many fun places from our RB past, now gone. Do you remember what our last movie there was? I had to check: Mars Attacks!, in December of 1996.

      • grandrapidsgirl

        Baaaaaaaa!!! (I knew you would quiz me on a date and film). 😮

      • Todd B

        Don’t worry, I didn’t know it off the top of my head, either!

  4. Awesome story and I kind of wish I could tell a similar story but nothing of the sort though I love to recall the time I got thrown out of 10 to Midnight in 1983 for being underaged. When it’s a Bronson flick, you have to take the chance. Great read and one worthy of a local newspaper, send it in.

    • Todd B

      Thanks for the kind words, Mike! And funny you should say, but when I went to the local library in San Diego last month to do archived newspaper research for this post, I was asked if I wouldn’t mind sharing my memories on local theater history for a project they were working on. So maybe I will send this in!

      And a cool Bronson story…there’s a post right there, about the times you were tossed from theaters! How far had you made it into the film before you were found out?

      • I was turned away at the door, no ID so I talked a guy into buying me a ticket. The chick at the ticket window saw me entering and stormed out of the booth and told the usher I didn’t pay for the ticket. Shown the door. lol

        And yes, you should share this.

      • Todd B

        That once happened to my friends and I as we tried to get into Friday the 13th: turned away at the door. We didn’t think to have someone else buy the tickets for us, though.

  5. Dracula

    How about submitting it to RB News if it still exists?

    • Todd B

      Good lord, I have no idea if the RB News is still around…didn’t it become the RB Journal? How about I get it published in the Black Mountain school newspaper?

      • grandrapidsgirl

        You had to see this coming . . . – the paper now seems to be owned by MainStreet Media – issuu? If the FB page is the hottest action in No. Co. – I’m pleased as punch to be stuck in freezing cold Michigan where we have tons of craft breweries but no theatres to memorialize.

      • Todd B

        Well, I guess that means no more issues of the RB News delivered to the handles of neighborhood garage doors!

  6. Dan BIANCO

    Do more of these!!!

    • Todd B

      Hey, Danny, thanks for checking in! I have nine more of these planned for 2018…hopefully that’s enough to quench your ‘Graveyard’ thirst!

  7. Dracula

    Well if the closing of the movie theater isn’t enough for the RB Journal maybe you can include something on the big fishing days at Von’s Lake!!! And no craft breweries, just the RB Winery where they don’t produce grapes.

    • Todd B

      I wonder if anyone fishes at Vons Lake anymore (or if Vons Lake still exists). I’m sure you’d get arrested or thrown out or something if you tried fishing there now; too many people worried you’d get a hook caught in your eye and sue RB for damages.

      • Julie Dunning

        I envision mutant fish coming from Vons Lake and goodness knows what else!!

      • Todd B

        These days your envisions may be correct…though at the time it was just bluegill that were hauled out of that pond.

  8. Dracula

    Speaking of a hook in the eye, I did put a hook in my brother’s head one time at Von’s lake. Cut the line, went home and to the doctors office for removal. He still can’t eat tuna fish!

    • Todd B

      I remember that story, and in fact, it seems to me I might’ve been there when it happened…but perhaps I wasn’t, and it’s just your story lodged in my memory. Shave his head, and I bet you’d still see the scar!

  9. Dracula

    We need R.P. to jump in on this one to keep the stories going.

    • Todd B

      I expected to see him pipe in on either the RB6 post or my Alien: Covenant review, but no sign of him yet. Maybe he’s in cryo-freeze right now.

  10. Doug

    Awesome story and run down memory lane- I remember coming to this theater a bunch as a kid as it was closer for us in Mira Mesa as we only then had UTC so whomevers mom could drive us would. The MM7 came later and was replaced with an asian store in 1998 when the 18 came to the 15 and Mira Mesa Blvd. I had quite few dates here with my (now ex wife) until the birth of my oldest daughter in 2000. We were broke newlyweds living in Poway, and the $1 price of the movies allowed us to still have fun when we could leave the kiddo with grandma.

    • Todd B

      Hey Doug, that’s cool that you were a frequent visitor to the RB6! I remember the Mira Mesa 7, and I saw quite a few movies there in the 1990s. My friends and brother and I would stop at a small burger restaurant before or after the show called Paul’s Place, which was right across the parking lot from the MM7. Went to the big Edwards 15 many times, and the theater in Poway (I think it was the Edwards 10), where we’d stop at a nearby Boll Weevil for burgers as well! Glad you liked the post, and thanks for the nice comments!

    • That’s a nice memory story. The good ol’ days.

      • Todd B

        Yes, the very good ol’ days. It’s nice to hear from others who had good times at the RB6…and the Mira Mesa 7, for that matter. And speaking of the MM7, you and I saw just one movie there: The Firm, in 1993. It was also the last movie I ever saw there.

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