Amazon.com Inc. is in the running to acquire Landmark Theatres, a move that would vault the e-commerce giant into the brick-and-mortar cinema industry, according to people familiar with the situation.
The company is vying with other suitors to acquire the business from Wagner/Cuban Cos., which is backed by billionaire Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private.
The chain’s owners have been working with investment banker Stephens Inc. on a possible sale, the people said. No final decisions have been made, and talks could still fall apart.
Netflix has explored the idea of buying the chain, which would enable the streaming giant to screen its own growing pipeline of feature films and documentaries. However, a person with knowledge of the talks told The Times in April that it decided not to pursue a deal because executives believed the sale price was too high.
Pushing into movie theaters would follow Amazon’s expansion into myriad other forms of media, including a film and TV studio and music service.
With Landmark, it gets a chain focused on independent and foreign films that was founded in 1974. The company has more than 50 theaters, including high-profile locations in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, with about 250 screens in 27 markets.
Amazon, based in Seattle, declined to comment. Officials at Landmark couldn’t be reached after normal business hours.
The e-commerce company already spends billions each year on movies and TV shows, saying it helps entice shoppers to join its Prime subscription plan and makes existing members more likely to renew.
Rival Netflix has promised to spend as much as $8 billion this year on original and licensed content for its subscribers. The company said in October that it would release 80 original movies this year alone, and has done film deals with such high-profile figures as Adam Sandler, Martin Scorsese and the Duplass brothers.
However, the Los Gatos, Calif., company has been locked out of major theater chains. And it was blocked this year from participating in the Cannes Film Festival, which decided to ban movies from competition that don’t have theatrical distribution in France.
Owning a theatrical outlet would make it more attractive for filmmakers who want to see their movies play on the big screen and be eligible for awards at prestigious festivals.
Though the acquisition price for Landmark would likely be small for Amazon, it would mark a significant new incursion by the online retailer into the physical world. Amazon shocked the supermarket industry last year by acquiring Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, positioning the organic-food chain in the middle of its campaign to sell more groceries.
The U.S. government has previously barred film studios from the theater industry. But the Justice Department said earlier this month that it was considering terminating a 70-year-old Hollywood settlement that halted the vertical integration of studios and theaters. The so-called Paramount decree may have prevented smaller films from getting wider distribution.
Cuban and Wagner also own Magnolia Pictures, the production company 2929 Productions, and the networks AXS TV and HDNet Movies. Cuban, a 60-year-old who also appears on the reality show “Shark Tank,” told the Hollywood Reporter in April that he hired a bank to evaluate offers, but said at the time he was in “no rush to sell.”
Times staff writer Ryan Faughnder contributed to this report.
8:25 a.m. This article was updated with staff reporting on Netflix’s interest in the chain and its plans for original movies.
This article was originally published at 6:35 a.m.