Landmark Theatres chain takes over Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena
Specialty cinema chain Landmark Theatres has entered into a long-term lease agreement for the Playhouse 7 movie house in Pasadena, which many people had worried would close for good.
The seven-screen, 1,300-seat venue, located in the 600 block of East Colorado Boulevard, will reopen this summer following improvements, Los Angeles-based Landmark said Thursday.
The art-house theater has been a fixture for L.A.-area cinephiles since family-run Laemmle Theatres opened it in 1999. Laemmle sold the building in 2020 to help relieve its debt load but continued to run the location under a lease-back agreement with landlord GD Realty.
Film lovers feared that the cinema would become the latest victim of business pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic. Pasadena’s Design Commission had approved a concept plan to convert the Playhouse 7 into a multiuse commercial building that did not include a theater, which sparked a petition from locals in protest.
Greg Laemmle, who runs Laemmle Theatres with his father, Robert, said the transition was “bittersweet” but overall was a welcome development for the community.
“The positive — and it’s a legit positive — is that the movie theater is going to stay a movie theater,” Laemmle told The Times. “I’m happy for the city of Pasadena. They’re gonna continue to have this theater doing what it does. ... It is bittersweet, but it’s not the first time that we’ve seen one of our locations turned over to another operator.”
Movie theaters, already struggling with long-term attendance declines, were shuttered in March 2020 to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Since reopening, their recovery has been difficult. That is especially true for smaller companies such as Landmark and Laemmle, which play a mix of Hollywood blockbusters and art-house fare. Older patrons, the typical audience for international films and critically acclaimed festival selections, have been the slowest to return to auditoriums.
In the U.S. and Canada, ticket sales are still down 40% so far this year compared to the same period of 2019, according to Comscore.
Earlier this month, Landmark closed its Westside Pavilion location on Pico Boulevard after 15 years, in the latest blow to L.A. filmgoers. When the closure was announced, Landmark said it was in active discussions to expand its footprint in Los Angeles. The theater played its final movies last weekend.
L.A.’s movie theater business has been through a long period of musical chairs as it tries to recover from the pandemic.
ArcLight Cinemas/Pacific Theatres announced in April 2021 that its locations, including the famed Cinerama Dome and attached ArcLight Hollywood theater, would not reopen, sparking an emotional outpouring from famous directors and a public campaign to revive the Dome.
Several former ArcLight and Pacific locations have reopened under national chains such as AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas. But the Hollywood theater and the Dome remain dark.
The single-screen Vista Theatre 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 the Playhouse 7’s sound and projection systems and, in the coming months, spruce up the facilities and reseat auditoriums. Beer and wine will still be available, and the company plans to add liquor to the bar offerings.
“The Playhouse acquisition is important for Landmark, as we’re able to continue the tradition of showcasing quality film to Pasadena’s moviegoing community,” Landmark Theatres President Kevin Holloway said in a statement. “This theater has a deep history, which we look forward to honoring and building upon in the years ahead.”
Landmark Theatres 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 previously was 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 taken the exhibitor out of bankruptcy.
Landmark continues to operate two other Los Angeles locations: the Nuart Theatre, which will soon undergo renovations, and the recently refurbished Landmark Westwood.
Laemmle’s seven remaining locations include the Royal in West Los Angeles and the NoHo 7 in North Hollywood. It has sold the buildings for both. Its circuit also includes Monica Film Center in Santa Monica and the Newhall theater in Santa Clarita. Kurt and Max Laemmle, nephews of Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle, founded their theater business in 1938.
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