Landmark Theaters acquires the Laemmle Playhouse 7 in Pasadena

Specialty cinema chain Landmark Theaters has secured a long-term lease for the Playhouse 7 cinema in Pasadena, which many feared would be closed for good.

The seven-screen, 1300-seat venue on the 600 block of E. Colorado Blvd. will reopen this summer after improvements, Los Angeles’ Landmark said Thursday.

The art house theater has been a fixture for LA area movie lovers since it opened in 1999 by the family-run Laemmle Theaters. Laemmle sold the building in 2020 to pay off its massive debt burden but continued to operate the site under a leaseback agreement with landlord GD Realty.

Film-loving local residents feared the cinema would become the latest victim of business pressures from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pasadena Design Commission had approved a concept plan to convert Playhouse 7 into a multi-purpose commercial building with no plans for a theater, prompting a protest petition by locals.

“The acquisition of Playhouse is important to Landmark as we are able to continue the tradition of bringing quality films to the Pasadena cinema community,” said Kevin Holloway, president of Landmark Theaters, in a statement. “This theater has a deep history that we want to honor and build on in the years to come.”

Cinemas already struggling from long-term declines in attendance were closed in March 2020 to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Since the reopening, recovery has been difficult. That’s especially true for smaller companies like Landmark and Laemmle, which play a mix of Hollywood blockbusters and art-house cuisine. Older guests, the typical audience for international films and critically acclaimed festival selections, are the slowest to return to the auditoriums.

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In the US 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 LA’s moviegoers. When the closure was announced, Landmark said it was in active discussions to expand its footprint in Los Angeles. The theater played its latest films last weekend.

LA’s cinema business has endured a long period of music while the business tries to recover.

ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theaters announced in April 2021 that their locations, including the iconic Cinerama Dome and attached ArcLight Hollywood theater, would not reopen, sparking an emotional outburst from famous directors and a public campaign to revitalize the Dome.

Several former ArcLight and Pacific locations have reopened under national chains such as AMC Theaters and Regal Cinemas. But the Hollywood Theater and Dome remain dark. The single-screen Vista Theater in Los Feliz was acquired by Pulp Fiction director Quentin Tarantino but is still closed.

Landmark said it will upgrade Playhouse 7’s sound and projection systems and revamp the facilities and re-staff the auditoriums in the coming months. Beer and wine are still available, and the company plans to add spirits to the bar offering.

Landmark Theaters was acquired in 2018 by the 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 wealth manager Oaktree Capital, which had bailed the issuer out of bankruptcy.

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Landmark continues to operate two other Los Angeles locations: the Nuart Theater, which is soon to be renovated, and the recently renovated Landmark Westwood. Laemmle’s remaining locations include the Royal in West Los Angeles and the NoHo 7 in North Hollywood. She sold the buildings for both of them.

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