By Ken Williams | Editor
Bring the kids, your loved one, or even your dogs and enjoy a picnic and free outdoor movie in the Egyptian Quarter on the Hillcrest/North Park border.
“Hillcrest Movie Night in the Egyptian Quarter” will return from 6–10 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12 in a pop-up park that will spring up in the parking lot between the Heat Bar and Kitchen restaurant and the Numbers nightclub, at 3811 Park Blvd. just south of University Avenue.
Disney’s 1961 animation classic, “101 Dalmatians,” will entertain young and old with its compelling story about a litter of cute puppies abducted by the mean minions of Cruella de Vil and the desperate search to rescue them from harm’s way.
Movie night, the brainchild of Heat principal Sam Khorish in cooperation with the Hillcrest Business Association, was created altruistically. “We wanted to do something to give back to the community,” Khorish said. “We also wanted to bring attention to the Egyptian Quarter.”
Longtime San Diego residents may recall when the Egyptian Quarter was the heart of Hillcrest and the entertainment capital of the Uptown area. Back in the 1920s, one of the architectural rages of the era was a faux Egyptian motif, inspired by the 1922 discovery of King Tut’s tomb and a growing appetite to learn about all things Egyptian. The Fox Theater and the Garden of Allah nightclub along Park Boulevard were designed in the Egyptian Revival style. Apartment buildings and some businesses in the area also embraced that style, which included pharaoh heads, engraved scarabs and Persian cats.
Both the movie theater and the nightclub are long gone, but examples of Egyptian Revival still exist along Park Boulevard and in other parts of the city. Local historians and folks like Khorish are determined to keep the homage alive.
Megan Gamwell, marketing and communications program manager for the HBA, has worked with Khorish on movie night from the beginning. The two of them have worked diligently to spread the word about the Egyptian Quarter and create a buzz about the area.
Almost five years ago, Khorish took over a rundown coffee shop and transformed it into a hip restaurant and bar. One of the keys to his success was to remind local residents that there is life east of Normal Street in Hillcrest.
“Park Boulevard was the red-headed stepchild of Hillcrest,” Khorish said, with a laugh. “But people forget that this area was the core of Hillcrest from the ’20s through the ’70s.”
Khorish met with the HBA, Councilmember Todd Gloria’s office and other community leaders to inspire a collaborative effort to transform and promote the area. It seems to be working: The Mr. Robinson loft building by architect Jonathan Segal will bring new energy to the intersection of Park Boulevard and Robinson Street with a 2,600-square-feet TRUST Restaurant run by Executive Chef Brad Wise and a coffee shop. That’s across the street from The Whole Hog, an acclaimed barbecue pit that is relatively new to the local dining scene.
“When we started, I said we would turn this block around in five years,” Khorish said. “I was wrong. It’s going to take longer, but in 10 years, this is going to be the best area in Hillcrest.”
Gamwell and Khorish point to the sale of The Flame as another positive development for the block. James Nicholas of Clownfish Partners, who bought the vacant property at 3780 Park Blvd. from seller Donny Duenas for $1.9 million, told San Diego Uptown News in an exclusive interview [read it at bit.ly/1NbhWQ8] that he will be turning the single-story structure into a multi-use project by adding six apartments and a central courtyard. The bar area will be remodeled and reduced in size to about 2,000 square feet and will be leased out.
Both of them marveled that Nicholas also bought the liquor license, which Khorish called the best because it has no restrictions.
So if you attend movie night, make sure to arrive early and walk around the block and notice the Egyptian motif. Look for the Mr. Robinson lofts, The Flame and the Egyptian building. Visit the retro boutiques and vintage stores, as some will be open late and offer special deals.
“We’re going for the ‘town square’ feeling,” Khorish said. “We want you to get to know your neighbors.”
Bring blankets or chairs to the pop-up park, where 1,400 square feet of AstroTurf will cover the asphalt. There will be music, artwork and sidewalk sales by Speakeasy Clothing and Gioia’s Room Boutique. If you don’t want to bring your own food and refreshments, Heat Bar and Kitchen as well as The Whole Hog will offer a $10 to-go box. Then there is the $5 movie box with popcorn, candy and a soda.
“This has been a fun event,” Gamwell said. “A lot of kids — and even their parents — have dressed up in costumes for the movie.”
Wonder how many people will dress as Cruella de Vil?
Visit HBA’s web page at bit.ly/1OdFtDw for more details. Movie night is sponsored by Uptown News and Unleashed by Petco.
—Ken Williams is editor of Uptown News and Mission Valley News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 619-961-1952. Follow him on Twitter at KenSanDiego, Instagram account at KenSD or Facebook at KenWilliamsSanDiego.