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SCV still piquing interest of Laemmle Theatres

But the group has no concrete plans to open locally yet

Posted: January 7, 2014 5:43 p.m.
Updated: January 7, 2014 5:43 p.m.

Laemmle Theatres lent its name to a Lancaster theater for a film programming fee in 2011, but the relationship ended in late 2012. The closest theater now is in Encino.

Laemmle Theatres and the city of Santa Clarita are still in talks to open an art house theater locally, but no concrete plans or dates are in place as of yet.

“The city is working as best they can, but they have fewer arrows in their court with Redevelopment out of the mix,” said Greg Laemmle, president of the family-owned theater chain which has operated continuously for 75 years.

When the state of California shut down the community redevelopment agencies, cutting off redevelopment funding to cities, it complicated things, as that was a prime mechanism for cities to help encourage desired commercial uses, Laemmle said in an interview with The Signal earlier last year.

And, last year the Laemmle theater group began moving in a different direction when it began vacating theaters where they leased space in malls.

As its theaters began flourishing, landlords wanted a bigger share of ticket profits from the seven-theater chain — making Laemmle a victim of its own success. As a result, Laemmle began looking at neighborhood centers where it could be in an ownership position of a theater.

“Our core interest is anchoring in neighborhoods, but it’s a multiyear process,” Laemmle said.

The ideal location is one where an older theater already exists, or could be built, in a mixed-use area with shared parking that would help subsidize the heavy cost of theater development, in terms of financing and financial viability, he said.

“We’ve been talking to them for quite a while now and would love to see them open up here,” said Jason Crawford, marketing and economic development manager for the city of Santa Clarita. “Laemmle has been out here many times exploring the Old Town Newhall area.”

The city has often heard from residents expressing an interest in having a Laemmle in Santa Clarita, said Armine Chaparyan for the city.

“They have an interest, need and desire to have an independent movie theater in our community, but the loss of redevelopment took a lot of the tools that we had to help bring them,” Chaparyan said.

Laemmle’s latest project, the Laemmle Lofts, is a 42-unit, mixed-use apartment and theater in Glendale.

“It’s something that started before the dissolution of the redevelopment, but the city worked diligently to keep it alive,” Laemmle said. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

At one point, Laemmle was linked to a theater that opened in Lancaster on The Blvd. The theater group managed the film programming in exchange for a service fee and some branding rights, but that was a deal with an Encino-based developer who was working with the city of Lancaster to build out their older downtown district.

The theater was never owned by Laemmle, and they ceased to be involved with the project toward the end of 2012, Laemmle said.

As for Santa Clarita, Laemmle said he would love to see something happen locally as quickly as possible, but that it’s not within their control. They just have to find an opportunity that makes sense.

“We try to play a blend of films. If the audience is there, we could run art house films,” Laemmle said. “We’d love to have that kind of venue in Santa Clarita.”

If everything were to come together — and the city is doing whatever it can to make that happen — the theater group could look at opening in Santa Clarita, but there is no specific information that it can ‘go on the record’ with right now,” Laemmle said.

“We would like to see something happen as quickly as possible,” he said.


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