Landmark Theaters takes over Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena

Specialty theater chain Landmark Theaters has entered into a long-term lease for the Playhouse 7 movie theater in Pasadena, which many feared would close permanently.

The seven-screen, 1,300-seat venue, located in the 600 block of East Colorado Boulevard, will reopen this summer after upgrades, Los Angeles-based Landmark announced Thursday.

The arthouse theater has been a staple for Los Angeles-area moviegoers since the Laemmle Family Theaters opened in 1999. Laemmle sold the building in 2020 to help ease debt, but continued to manage the venue under a sale-leaseback agreement with owner GD Realty.

Moviegoers feared the cinema could become the latest victim of commercial pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pasadena Design Commission had approved a concept plan to convert Playhouse 7 into a mixed-use commercial building that did not include a theater, prompting a petition from residents in protest.

Greg Laemmle, who runs Laemmle Theaters with his father, Robert, said the transition was “bittersweet” but overall it was a welcome development for the community.

“The positive – and it’s a legitimate positive – is that the movie theater is going to remain a movie theater,” Laemmle told The Times. “I’m happy for the city of Pasadena. They will continue to make this theater do what it does. … It’s bittersweet, but it’s not the first time that one of our sites has been handed over to another operator.

Movie theaters, already struggling with long-term declines in attendance, were closed in March 2020 to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Since the reopening, their recovery has been difficult. This is especially true for smaller companies such as Landmark and Laemmle, which play a mix of Hollywood blockbusters and arthouse fare. Older patrons, the typical audience for international films and critically acclaimed festival selections, have been the slowest to return to auditoriums.

In the United States and Canada, ticket sales are still down 40% so far this year compared to the same period in 2019, according to Comscore.

Earlier this month, Landmark closed its Westside Pavilion location on Pico Boulevard after 15 years, in the latest blow to Los Angeles moviegoers. When the closure was announced, Landmark said it was in active talks to expand its presence in Los Angeles. The theater played its last films last weekend.

The Los Angeles movie theater industry has been through a long period of musical chairs as it tries to recover from the pandemic.

ArcLight Cinemas/Pacific Theaters announced in April 2021 that its locations, including the famed Cinerama Dome and adjoining ArcLight Hollywood theater, would not reopen, sparking an outpouring of emotion from celebrity directors and a public campaign to revive the dome.

Several former ArcLight and Pacific sites have reopened under national chains such as AMC Theaters and Regal Cinemas. But the Hollywood Theater and the Dome remain dark.

The single-screen Vista Theater in Los Feliz was acquired by “Pulp Fiction” director Quentin Tarantino, who also owns the New Beverly Cinema. The Vista is closed for renovations.

Landmark said it will upgrade Playhouse 7’s sound and projection systems and, in the coming months, spruce up the facilities and relocate the auditoriums. Beer and wine will still be available, and the company plans to add alcohol to the bar offerings.

“The acquisition of Playhouse is significant for Landmark as we are able to continue the tradition of bringing quality films to the Pasadena movie community,” Landmark Theaters President Kevin Holloway said in a statement. “This theater has a deep history, which we look forward to honoring and building on in the years to come.”

Landmark Theaters was acquired in 2018 by Cohen Media Group, the film production and distribution company of New York real estate billionaire Charles S. Cohen.

The chain was previously owned by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and his longtime business partner Todd Wagner. They acquired the chain in 2003 from Los Angeles-based asset manager Oaktree Capital, which had rescued the exhibitor from bankruptcy.

Landmark continues to operate two other Los Angeles locations: the soon-to-be-renovated Nuart Theater and the newly renovated Landmark Westwood.

Laemmle’s remaining seven locations include The Royal in West Los Angeles and NoHo 7 in North Hollywood. He sold the buildings for both. His circuit also includes the Monica Film Center in Santa Monica and the Newhall Theater in Santa Clarita. Kurt and Max Laemmle, nephews of Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle, started their theater company in 1938.

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