By Luke Netzley
Pasadena Weekly Deputy Editor
In the heart of Playhouse Village sits a renowned cinema that has been a home for Pasadena moviegoers since 1999. Laemmle Theatres’ Playhouse 7 is one of the company’s most popular locations and was the first arthouse movie theater in Los Angeles built with stadium seating.
This historic venue has regularly attracted hundreds of guests to its seven screens, and its towering movie sign has become an iconic symbol of the Playhouse Village.
The property at 673 E. Colorado Boulevard was purchased from Laemmle Theatres by Arash Danialifar of the GD Realty Group. A newly proposed development plan could see the famous theater close its doors by the end of 2022. According to the project description, the remodel of the 25,000-square-foot commercial building occupied by Playhouse 7 would convert the building into a “multitenant space for restaurants, office, retail and other service uses.”
“The future is still to be determined,” said Greg Laemmle, president of Laemmle Theatres.
“We did have to sell the property during the pandemic. It’s not something we wanted to do but under the circumstances of the time something we had to do.”
The entertainment industry has been one of the hardest-hit industries during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially after March 2020 saw all cinemas in the United States closed due to social gathering restrictions. However, given the successful rate of nationwide vaccine administration, movie theaters across the country have begun to open their doors again.
As of this moment, the theater will remain in Pasadena until the end of its lease, but after that date the future of Playhouse 7 will lie in the hands of the new property owners.
“We do have a lease-back which is allowing us to operate without question into early 2022, but at some point we will need to have an agreement with the new property owners about whether we can stay and under what terms,” Laemmle said.
Laemmle explained the difficulty of predicting the future of the theater comes from a difficulty in predicting the future of moviegoing.
“The public is going to return to public activities on their schedule and according to what their comfort levels are,” Laemmle said. “The reality is that it is a to-be-determined situation.”
Despite the strains of the pandemic and new development plans, Laemmle is still hopeful that the theater will remain open after ongoing discussions with the property owners.
“While they have submitted plans and have ideas about what they might do with the property, they are still open and recognize the important role that the theater plays for the entire Playhouse District,” Laemmle said.
Still, there is no doubt that the theater is a beloved part of the Pasadena community and one that has served as a visual archetype of the Playhouse Village for decades. Laemmle will push for the survival of the theater.
“The property did sell, and the theater could be closing — I’m not going to deny that — but right now the conversations are still about how do we keep it open. And if people want to encourage that, going to a movie would be a good start.”