Los Angeles-based cinema chain Laemmle Theatres is taking down the “for sale” sign after months of seeking a buyer in vain, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The development came as the family-owned company closed down its historic 82-year-old Music Hall location at 9036 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. Greg Laemmle, 54, president of the eight-decade-old exhibitor, broke the news to staff in a 11 a.m. call on Thursday, the last day of operations for the Music Hall, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
The company, which now has seven locations, has been on the sales block since summer. The owners began to pursue options during a steep downturn in box office revenue.
For the first six months of 2019, box office for Laemmle theaters was down as much as 30%, Laemmle said, in a dramatic sign of the struggles of the specialty cinema industry. Business has improved in recent months, but ticket sales for the year are still expected to be down between 10% and 20%, he told the Los Angeles Times.
“We don’t want to react to short-term trends,” Laemmle said in an interview. “But for us, something that goes on for more than six months becomes more than a short-term trend.”
The circuit attracted interest from multiple possible buyers, including other theater chains, Laemmle said. Some speculated that potential suitors would include Regency Theatres and Landmark Theatres. However, the sides ultimately could not come to an agreement on terms, such as price.
“While there are risks to continue owning and operating the business, the reward of continuing was greater than the reward of selling, ultimately,” Laemmle said. “Part of that reward is doing what we do.”
The chain has been family-owned and operated for three generations. Currently, the circuit includes locations in Claremont, Glendale, Santa Monica, North Hollywood, Pasadena, West Los Angeles and Encino. Until recently, the company also operated the Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills.
The firm has about 200 employees, including 60 to 70 full-time staff.
Laemmle had operated the Music Hall theater since 1974. The location first opened in the late 1930s, putting it among the oldest movie houses in Los Angeles. The three-screen theater, which largely played little-known indie titles, has lately fallen into disrepair.
The combination of struggles at the box office and rising rents put increased pressure on the location. Ultimately, it no longer made sense to keep it open, Greg Laemmle said, adding that he expects some of the theater’s staff to be transferred to other locations.
He said he does not anticipate any other theater closures through the end of 2020.