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An architectural rendering of the new Century Theatres 16-screen movie complex in Fremont. (City of Fremont)

Century Theatres will become the centerpiece of a new entertainment complex in Fremont, a city without a downtown that hungers for a focal point for new kinds of nightlife -- and for what city officials said Tuesday would be a place for "date night."

"We are very excited about the theaters," said Lori Taylor, Fremont's economic development director. "Our hope is that with the final buildout, this would be a chance for Fremont to be an entertainment district."

The movie company has signed a deal to open a 16-screen theater complex in the Pacific Commons retail center near Interstate 880 and Auto Mall Parkway. Once built, this would become the largest cluster of movie theaters along I-880 between Union City, which has a 25-screen complex, and Milpitas, which offers a 20-screen facility at the Great Mall.

"This is a very important project for us," said Sam Whiskeman, first vice president of Catellus Development, the principal developer of the project. "It's great to have them. They will anchor the entertainment district with Pacific Commons."

Century Theatres signed a 60,000-square-foot lease to become the primary anchor of the entertainment district that Fremont envisions, one that could be vital to Fremont's economic evolution.

Although Fremont is one of the largest cities by population in the Bay Area, it doesn't have a real downtown. This new entertainment district may help fill that gap.

"It will be a great place for people to take your family for a weekend, or for a day, to shop and dine, or go out on a date," Taylor said. "We really need a place for date night in Fremont."

Construction is under way for the new theater complex. The movie center will be part of a 320,000-square-foot entertainment and retail project that will also feature a 140,000-square-foot Target store as a co-anchor and 120,000 square feet of smaller spaces.

"We will have a variety of restaurant and food services, some quick service and some full-service restaurants," Whiskeman said. "We will also have apparel, home furnishings, electronics, and other retail."

We believe that all the tenants we want to bring in are compatible with the entertainment district that we are creating," Whiskeman added. "They will work together to energize each other."

The entertainment district will feature more than traditional retailers.

"In-between the theaters and Target, there will be small boutique stores, a plaza area and a children's playground," Taylor said.

That will give visitors an experience beyond just movies, dining and shopping. "People can hang out in addition to the movies and shopping," Taylor said. "We're really excited about it."

Contact George Avalos at 925-977-8477. Follow him at twitter.com/george_avalos.