[KHTS] – Laemmle Theatres is eyeing Santa Clarita as a possible destination for a new art house-style cinema, according to the owner of the regional chain and city officials.
However, the theater chain moves slowly and deliberately, which is why it’s been able to thrive for decades as a smaller family-owned business that competes in a major market, according to the company’s president.
“We’ve been talking to Laemmle’s for years to hopefully get a movie theater to open up here in Santa Clarita, specifically in the Newhall area,” said Jason Crawford, business development director for the city. “We know that’s something we’ve heard from our residents over and over again.”
The family-owned and -operated chain is in the “early stages” as far as finding a location for their next theater, said Laemmle President Greg Laemmle. He didn’t have a specific timeline for when the company might be expanding into Santa Clarita.
“That’s an area that’s of high interest,” said Laemmle, discussing the chain’s philosophy and plans with KHTS on Monday. “As much as we want to expand, we have to do it in a conservative fashion.”
Laemmle described his theaters’ appeal as providing a venue geared toward the adult experience.
“It’s not that we want to exclude any audience, but we tend to not cater to teens in terms of larger, more graphic shock and horror movies,” he said. “It’s film-going for adults in terms of subject matter and ambience that we encourage.”
Laemmle moviegoers expect to see more of a selection of foreign language films, documentaries and independent films, he said. They also enjoy the theaters’ efforts to be more competitive with their pricing.
“We want to encourage regular moviegoing,” Laemmle said. “We want it to be a regular habit, not a special event – that’s just part of the philosophy that one gets with a Laemmle theater in the community.”
He lamented the loss of community redevelopment agencies, which both Crawford and Laemmle mentioned as providing for tax and property incentives, as well as potential subsidies, which would have made opening a new theater easier.
The company has a few projects that are under way, which would need to be farther along before the company can begin the process of expansion again, he said, noting recently approved plans in Glendale, and a renovation project for the chain’s Santa Monica location.
The theater operator recently worked with Lancaster to open a location at the BLVD, however, that was operated under a separate operating agreement than other Laemmle locations.
The Laemmles are no longer affiliated with the cinema, which is now billed as BLVD Cinemas, Laemmle said.
“It definitely seems (the situation is) positive for a future theater (in Santa Clarita),” Crawford said. “Over the years, we’ve had conversations about a lot of different opportunities, whether it’s helping them to find a privately owned property or whether it was city-owned property. … We’ve talked with them about a month ago and they know how supportive the city is and how much we’d love to see them move here.”
Laemmle Theatres operate eight locations, the most recent being a theater in Lancaster that was opened in the area’s recently built-up BLVD business district
The company was established in 1938 by Kurt and Max Laemmle, nephews of legendary Universal Pictures founder, Carl Laemmle. The company is currently run by Robert Laemmle, who is the son of Max Laemmle, and Robert’s son, Greg Laemmle.