A labor dispute at the Galaxy Luxury+ Theatres in Riverbank brought a dramatic figure to the sidewalk area in front of the theatre complex this past week. A very tall ‘Grim Reaper’ stood alongside a couple of union representatives greeting those driving on Highway 108/Patterson Road on Friday.
Signage and handbills they handed out claimed that the theatre chain was harming families and the community by not hiring union carpenters to work on construction of the new IMAX facility to be built at the complex. The handbill insisted the chain was “financing downward pressure on wages and benefits,” since it had “failed to require their prospective general contractor to pay” at a level that would provide training and apprenticeships for carpenters on the project.
The flyer went on to urge the public to contact the general manager at his Sherman Oaks office, providing an address and phone number to do so.
Local theater manager Nathan Paul noted that, as far as he knew, a general contractor hadn’t been chosen yet.
He said on Friday that the protest had not impacted theater attendance so far, and a nearly packed parking lot that afternoon indicated that the protest action did not have much effect on opening day audiences for the movies Ant Man and Trainwreck.
Paul, added that, ironically, contracting and hiring decisions were being made at the corporate office in Southern California and were out of local hands.
The pair of protesters on the street Friday said they were out of work carpenters paid by the union to be here and didn’t know who was doing the hiring. One said he was going back to work the next day, so he wouldn’t be back in Riverbank. The other said the union pays their protesters, usually people who are not working at the time. He said he expected different people to be here the next day. Neither knew how long the protest was expected to last.
The IMAX project will bring a $3.5 million construction project to Riverbank, on the west end of the theater complex. When permits and fees were being discussed, it was expected ground breaking to occur sometime in August. A spokesman has said that, although it would be nice to have it finished in time for the December release of the newest installment in the Star Wars saga, it is more likely to open in the spring, maybe March.
Presently, the nearest IMAX screens are in Stockton, Brentwood, Dublin and Emeryville, with two in the Sacramento area. Galaxy has said an IMAX in Riverbank would prevent others from being built in Manteca, Merced or Modesto. The building will be restricted to 48 feet high and will use the existing entrance and concession areas. Other IMAX theaters are said to be as tall as 70 feet.
Other theaters in the Galaxy chain include sites at Atascadero, Mission Grove in Riverside, Porterville and a new improved Luxury+ in Tulare. Upgrades there are under way, which include the improved seating and alcohol service that Riverbank patrons now enjoy.