Theaters screen out competitors

EntertainmentMoviesPeter Dobson

Vintage Cinemas has taken over the former Mann Theatres in the Exchange, entering a market that has become dominated by theatrical giant Pacific Theatres at the Americana at Brand.

A sign of the overpowering competition currently decimating the local theater business can be read on the marquee outside Mann Theaters on Brand Boulevard. The message: the four-screen complex will close Oct. 6.

Vintage leased the theaters in the Exchange on July 1 on a month-to-month basis, said Lance Alspaugh, owner and chief executive of Vintage Cinemas, which also has two theaters in Los Feliz and one in Coronado.

There was talk earlier this year that two nightclubs might occupy much of the 54,000-square-foot space in the Exchange. Greg Astorian, a commercial real estate broker who handles the Exchange’s leasing, said those negotiations are ongoing, as are talks with another theater company and a retailer that sells education products.

To attract more customers, Vintage has lowered ticket prices, Alspaugh said. Children under 12 and seniors now pay $6.50 at all times. General admission is $8.50 before 6 p.m. and goes up to $10.50 after 6 p.m.

At Pacific Theatres, admission for children 2 to 12 years of age is $9.50 and seniors pay $10.50 at all times. General admission is $10.50 before 6 p.m. Monday to Thursday and $12.50 after 6 p.m. General admission prices are the same on Friday through Sunday, except the cut-off time is 4 p.m.

Representatives for Pacific Theatres declined to comment.

Vintage has also closed two theaters in the Exchange complex as a cost-saving measure, bringing the number of screening rooms down to eight.

Alspaugh said teens and movie-goers in their 20s are more inclined to go to the nearby Pacific complex, so he is looking to change up the types of films Vintage shows in Glendale, mixing smaller, independent films with first-run movies aimed at the over-30 crowd.

The complex is currently showing “Sarah’s Key,” the story of a modern-day journalist who meets a girl whose family was torn apart when French police rounded up Jews to be transported to Auschwitz in 1942.

In the past few months, the theater has shown “A Better Life” and “Beginners,” both independent films that did well with older audiences, Alspaugh said.

The number of seats in each theater may also be reduced for more leg room, he added. Vintage took out seats in its single-screen theater on Sunset Boulevard, cutting the number of seats in half, from 800 to 400.

“We would certainly expand the rows if we end up staying,” Alspaugh said.

The dominance of Pacific Theatres at the Americana, which opened in 2008, forced Mann Theatres out of the Exchange, he said.

“In its heyday, that place did $6 million to $7 million a year in box office,” Alspaugh said. “It’s far, far, far below that now.”

Peter Dobson, chief executive of Mann Theatres, said the nearby Pacific Theatres 18-screen complex made is impossible for his company to stay in Glendale. “The area cannot sustain 32 screens,” he said.

Mann still has a lease for its Brand Boulevard location and Dobson said he is not aware that another tenant has been found to take it over.

Alspaugh said Vintage Cinemas is willing to give it a go in the Exchange because the company’s expenses, such as employee costs, are much lower than Mann’s, although he acknowledged the future remained uncertain.

“Right now, we’re just taking it day-to-day,” he said.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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