Laemmle Theaters, the Los Angeles-based family-owned chain of arthouse theaters that was put up for sale in summer 2019, is no longer for sale, company President Greg Laemmle told SCVTV Wednesday.
Instead, the 81-year-old chain will remain all in the family and continue to expand with new theaters, because business turned around since last summer, and a viable buyer did not emerge, Laemmle said.
The specialty exhibitor’s expansion includes the new two-story, seven-screen, 500-seat theater in Newhall, now under construction at the northeast corner of Lyons and Railroad Avenues in Old Town Newhall, just north of the new parking structure owned by the city of Santa Clarita.
The Newhall complex was originally slated to open by the end of 2019 but due to rain delays, it’s now projected to open in spring 2020, Laemmle said.
Additionally, he confirmed the family is on track to open a new four-plex theater in Azusa in 2021, and a new multi-screen theater in Bellflower to be completed in a couple years.
“The (Azusa) project is just breaking ground now — they’re basically starting to move earth,” Laemmle said. “It’s part of a mixed-use development.” The complex in Bellfower, he said, “is moving through the process but hasn’t broken ground yet. And then (we’ll) hopefully open some other theaters beyond that.”
Greg Laemmle, president, Laemmle Theaters
At this writing, Laemmle Theaters is now a 41-screen chain operating in seven locations: the Claremont 5 in Claremont; The Glendale; The Santa Monica Film Center; the Noho 7 in North Hollywood; The Playhouse 7 in Pasadena; the Royal on Santa Monica Boulevard; and the Town Center 5 in Encino.
Renowned for showcasing independent, foreign and art-house films, the chain was established in 1938 by Max Laemmle. Three generations of Laemmles have helmed it, including Max’s son Robert and Robert’s son Greg.
Deadline Hollywood broke the news of the family putting the theaters on the block in early August 2019.
“I can’t comment on any of this at this time,” Greg Laemmle told SCVTV then, not wanting to disrupt pending negotiations, but he did confirm the family was still moving ahead with construction in Newhall and “working hard to get the theater open as quickly as we can.”
The Laemmles decided to sell the chain after the bottom fell out of box office ticket sales revenue industrywide in late 2018, and the company’s business remained weak, off by 30%, in the first half of 2019, Laemmle told Los Angeles Magazine‘s Alex Ben Block in late 2019.
After putting the business up for sale, the family also looked at cutting operating costs, and ended lease agreements for two venues in Beverly Hills — the Ahrya Fine Arts center and the Beverly Hills Music Hall. Unlike many other specialty exhibitors, the Laemmle family owns deeds to the land under its other theaters.
In Newhall, Laemmle owns its complex through the single-purpose entity Laemmle Newhall LLC, which entered into a purchase and sale agreement for the land with the city of Santa Clarita on Feb. 9, 2016.
As Laemmle’s cost-cutting measures were showing positive results and the chain’s business picked up in the third and fourth quarters of 2019, the family received an offer from — and met with — an unnamed potential buyer in the third week of November 2019, but there was no sale, Laemmle said Wednesday.
That sealed the family’s decision to take the chain off the market.
“There was a compelling offer, one we thought was reasonably good for the family and the community, from a (theater) operator that would be a good steward of our name and legacy,” Laemmle said. “It could have been a great partnership, certainly with the new project and new hall they were thinking of doing there.
“But at the end of the day, it’s business, and we just felt (the offer) wasn’t quite good enough,” he said. “There were some potential pitfalls and under the circumstances, we felt, let’s keep it, let’s try and make this work. We like what we do, and I think when you come right down to it, that’s what it’s all about.
“None of us have a crystal ball and certainly the past year has taught us that,” he said. “Things can turn around on a dime. But our intention now is to find a way to make this work, especially as we count down to (opening) the new theater in Newhall,” which he added would hopefully contribute to the chain’s improving financial health.
“We’re still not set on a date — obviously, construction is what it is,” Laemmle said. “But we will definitely want to be open in advance of that great summer play time.
“Once we have a more firm date we look forward to announcing it,” he said. “We are starting to gather names and Facebook friends and all those kinds of things so we’re ready. We’re now on a glide path toward opening. I know it’s been a long time coming, but these things do take time.
“Meanwhile, we’re excited to see that the Newhall Crossings retail-residential complex is getting ready to start bringing in residential and retail tenants, that the Courtyard really has taken shape,” Laemmle said of the other developments on the block. “We think everyone in the Santa Clara Valley will be able to go there and see and enjoy the fruits of their labor, and what the city (of Santa Clarita) has done to really reinvigorate that part of the valley.”
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