The historic Laemmle theater chain could be placed on the market, according to several reports.
The venerable chain started in 1938 and currently operates 43 screens at nine movie houses in Pasadena, Glendale, North Hollywood, Encino, Santa Monica, Claremont, West LA and Beverly Hills, which has two.
“We are considering our options, but that’s all I can comment on at this time,” said owner Greg Laemmle, grandson of founder Max Laemmle.
Last year, independent films like those screening at Laemmle theaters grossed about $120 million, This year, they are far behind, grossing just $45 million with just four months left the in the year.
“We are looking to finish work on our Newhall location as soon as possible, and are in discussions about Reseda, but that’s all I can say,” Laemmle said. “We are status quo through all of this.”
Laemmle would not comment on potential buyers or the ongoing negotiations.
Last week, the swanky iPic movie chain, which also has a theater in Pasadena’s One Colorado entertainment center, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Officials with that company said they planned keep the theaters open while they try and sell their theaters in nine states
The Laemmle chain was started by brothers Max and Kurt Laemmle, who were among the many relatives of Universal Studios founder Carl Laemmle helped emigrate from Germany to the US during the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Carl Laemmle, regarded as a pioneer in the film industry, immigrated to the US in 1884 and worked in Chicago for 20 years before buying nickelodeons, eventually expanding into a film distribution service, the Laemmle Film Service. He founded Universal Studios in 1912. Nearly 20 years later, his son, Carl Laemmle Jr., produced such classic horror films as Dracula (1931) and Frankenstein (1931). Both men were forced out of the company in 1936 during the Great Depression.
In an article in the Los Angeles Daily News, box office expert Paul Dergarabedian, who works for Sherman Oaks-based box office analysis firm Comscore, called the Laemmle chain “iconic in the world of film.”
Laemmle theaters have been in Pasadena for nearly seven decades. In 1964, the Laemmle chain opened the Esquire Theater on Colorado Boulevard near San Gabriel Boulevard. They also owned another single-screen theater just west of there, The Colorado, near the corner of Colorado and Vinedo Avenue.
The two theaters closed in 2000, but before that, in February 1999, Laemmle Playhouse 7 opened on Colorado Boulevard, right next to Vroman’s Bookstore.
The Laemmle chain has offered area cinephiles the opportunity to see foreign films with far greater frequency than any other theater chain in the Los Angeles area. The chain also specializes in highly independent and art-house films, giving an average of a million patrons each year the chance to see “quality film without regard to genre or provenance,” as expressed in the company’s mission statement on its website.
Laemmle also appealed to the local community with lower prices for tickets and concessions than other major chains, and by regularly presenting one-night screenings of classic films and its willingness to rent out screens for independent-film premieres and Academy qualification screenings for the Oscars. In addition, its Sneaks Club gives over 23,000 members access to movies prior to their release.