For the Deadline record, the Laemmle family will not be selling their 81-year old Los Angeles arthouse chain and will remain in control. We first broke the news that they were looking at suitors back in August.
Today, we also exclusively learned that the Music Hall in Beverly Hills is technically not closing. Laemmle will no longer lease the theater, rather the venue is expected to open sometime soon under the new management of former employees possibly as soon as Next Friday. Laemmle had operated the Music Hall since 1974 on a month-by-month lease. The theater is one of the city’s oldest movie houses having been around since the late 1930s.
Several sources had been telling me over the last month that Laemmle was on the verge of selling to Reading Cinemas out of NY which owns and operates the Angelika Film Center (the Laemmle org, of which son Greg Laemmle is President, preferred to stay mum on their suitors or details of talks). What the Laemmles have that most major theater chains do not, are the property deeds to most of their locations, including the upcoming Newhall venue down the street from me. With property ownership comes the power to reap one’s own profits. Reading Cinema is a circuit that also owns their theaters; taking over leases I hear was not in the cards for them. Then, of course, there was no agreement in regards to the chain’s price. At the end of the day, it was better for the Laemmle family, which employs around 200, to maintain the beloved brand they built and control their own destiny. “Their heart is truly in the business, and they want to make sure this works,” says one major distribution booker who like many adores working with the family.
The indie circuit, based in the film capital of the world, counts the Claremont 5 in Claremont, the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills, the Glendale, the Monica Film Center in Santa Monica, the Noho 7 in North Hollywood, the Playhouse 7 in Pasadena, the Royal in West Los Angeles and the Town Center 5 in Encino. New theaters are being developed in Azusa and Bellflower, and the Newhall location is expected to open in Q1 2020 or hopefully sooner.
The Newhall venue is located on the historic main street not far from Melody Ranch where Quentin Tarantino shot Django Unchained and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and HBO shoots Westworld and Deadwood. The Newhall site remained under construction during the sales talks and will offer Dolby 5.1 sound, digital projection, 7 auditoriums, lots of leg room and possibly beer and wine (an application is being reviewed). Plush seats are still being considered, but the location is expected to be more luxurious than their North Hollywood site, on par with Glendale.
Q4 this year has been a money-maker for Laemmle, another factor for keeping their doors open. Despite the dry spell at the indie B.O. throughout this year, pics like Parasite, The Lighthouse, Jojo Rabbit have bounced it back. And get this, even Netflix is an ample provider of income whether they’re four-walling or providing generous rental terms (which can best other specialty theatrical distributors). Separately, Indie B.O. sources tell us that The Irishman alone is approaching a national B.O. gross of $5M, and most of that cash for the $150M-$200M 3 1/2 hour Martin Scorsese production is in the hands of exhibitors. This weekend, The Irishman goes to 300 runs. Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story we hear is earning around $1M to date. And more Netflix pics are on the way with The Two Popes. The Netflix truncated theatrical pipeline is apparently not bad for business, and Netflix’s decision to crush windows provides more sway to exhibition when haggling over rental terms.
The Laemmle circuit was started in 1938 by Max Laemmle, and it has spanned three generations, including Max’s son Robert, and Robert’s son, Greg, now operating the business. Robert’s father Max and uncle Kurt were cousins of Universal Pictures founder Carl Laemmle. Robert bought his first movie theater in Highland Park of Los Angeles.