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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

April 20, 2011 at 9:38 AM

Landmark Theatres chain up for sale

A bit of business news this morning: the Landmark Theatres chain, which operates 55 arthouse cinemas nationwide (including seven in Seattle: Egyptian, Harvard Exit, Guild 45th, Metro, Seven Gables, Varsity and Crest), has been put up for sale by owner Mark Cuban. Magnolia Pictures, a distribution company for independent film also owned by Cuban, is also for sale. (Recent Magnolia releases include “All Good Things,” “Rubber,” and “Vanishing on 7th Street.) Cuban, who’s owned the chain since 2003, told Bloomberg News that he is “just testing the waters” and that he won’t sell unless the offer is “very, very compelling.”
Are you a patron of Seattle’s Landmark Theatres? I’ve been going to the local Landmark theaters since college — that would be, um, a while — and love the nostalgic feel of the theaters’ historic buildings. (Except the Metro, which is not historic — opened in 1989 — and which I’ve never warmed up to.) Is there a prettier lobby in town than the Harvard Exit’s? A more charming mural than that covering the Seven Gables’ screen? Better popcorn anywhere? That said, new owners willing to inject some money into the cinemas might be a great thing for Landmark — many of the theaters’ facilities, particularly the seats and the restrooms, have been looking shabbier and shabbier of late, and the sound problems at the Egyptian have been an issue for some time. There’s a certain kind of moviegoer who goes to Landmark — those who want everything shiny and pristine will always prefer the multiplexes (and nothing wrong with that; I love the Lincoln Square too) — and a new owner would have to understand that moviegoer.
Whether anybody wants to buy the chain remains to be seen, as the current box-office slump (down 20 percent this year) does make buying a chain of theaters seem a questionable investment. Bidders are expected to file their offers next week; stay tuned.

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