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Downtown Centre Cinemas celebrates a quarter century in SLO 

The way we watch films has drastically changed over the last few years. Aside from movie theaters, there are streaming services, renting services, and, of course, finding movies on demand using a cable TV service. Instant gratification.

While we may have all these tools at our fingertips, nothing is more satisfying than walking up to the ticket kiosk and choosing your seat in a movie theater. And don't forget the welcome smell of freshly made popcorn.

click to enlarge LOST IN FILM The Movie Experience Downtown Centre Cinemas in SLO turns 25 this year. - PHOTO BY KAREN GARCIA
  • Photo By Karen Garcia
  • LOST IN FILM The Movie Experience Downtown Centre Cinemas in SLO turns 25 this year.

The cinema experience is one that everyone should participate in, especially this year, in celebration of The Movie Experience Downtown Centre Cinemas' 25th anniversary.

Kirk Moses, general manager and head projectionist, said it's been a blast to work with the community, and the cinema is appreciative of the local support. But this theater's history goes back more than a quarter of a century.

The Sanborn family that owns the theater has been in the business since as early as 1908. A.L. Sanborn had a management position in an opera house in Maquoketa, Iowa, and in a Pastime Theatre. He made his way to Southern California and worked at Paramount Pictures, first in production and then as an assistant director with business manager duties.

Around 1919, Sanborn acquired a playhouse in Los Angeles and opened the LaSalle Theatre a year later. The rest is history, as Sanborn discovered he had a passion for directing theaters.

"Over 25 years ago, the Sanborn family was invited to SLO to be a part of the French Brother Project, which was going to be a four-story mall, but that was never built. So Copeland Enterprises took it over and turned it into what we see today," Moses said.

At the same time, the Sanborn family was in its 75th year in the theater business—making this year the family's 100th year overall.

Moses said the Centre Cinema's ribbon cutting was in downtown San Luis Obispo on March 29, 1994, which was before the Marsh Street parking lot existed. On the day of the grand opening, the cinema also ran a charity event, where it gave discounted movie tickets for various Western films on the big screen all day and night.

He said the reason the family wanted a theater in SLO was for fun.

"Because we are in downtown, it's been mostly for fun and not for profit. We came here to have fun in this beautiful city, and this is why of all the theaters that the Sanborn family kept over the years, this is the only one that remains," Moses said.

What's so fun about the Downtown Centre is not only grabbing a seat to catch the latest film but taking advantage of all the added perks. For certain films, there are 3D showings, plus the theaters have reclining seats, and if you're 21 and older you have the option of buying beer or wine instead of soda.

The theater also brings back vintage films to the big screen throughout the year. For example, Steel Magnolias will be shown in May and Field of Dreams in June.

The next time you're considering staying home and catching a flick, think about supporting your local theater that just turned 25.

Fast fact

Trust Automation Inc., a supplier of automation and cyber defense systems for industrial and military applications, has moved to a larger facility at 125 Venture Drive, San Luis Obispo. With 96,000 square feet, the new facility has more than double the amount of space for the company's U.S.-based engineering, manufacturing, and business operations. The extra space will be used to expand its established semiconductor, defense, and industrial businesses. The new facility also includes additional room for the company's recently announced Trust Intelligence Systems division, which focuses on cyber defense devices for legacy networks. For more information, visit Δ

Staff writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to

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