Sundance Group Announces Cinema Intention

posted by Ross Melnick on May 20, 2005 at 2:21 pm

PROVO, UT — This just crossed BusinessWire — The Sundance Group has just announced new plans for an art house circuit:

“The Utah-based Sundance Group announced today that it is going forward with long held plans for a Sundance Cinemas movie theatre circuit. The new venture brings together Robert Redford’s Sundance brand, a recognized name in independent film, with the seasoned specialized theatre management team of Paul Richardson and Bert Manzari. Investment funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management are financing the new company.

Richardson will serve as President and CEO, with Manzari taking the reins as President of Film and Marketing. The Cinemas will strive to incorporate the best in independent, documentary, and foreign language film, as well as quality studio films, and original programming, which will include shorts, filmmaker interviews, forums, and other value added features.

“Anything which helps new and interesting voices in the cultural realm reach more people can only enrich the experience of artists, audiences and communities and this makes the effort worth it,” said Robert Redford.

The management team of Richardson and Manzari has been working together since they started a specialized exhibition circuit with one theatre in 1975. Their circuit merged with Landmark Theatres in 1982 and grew to become the largest specialized “art” theatre circuit in the country. Landmark has been through different ownership over the years with Richardson and Manzari exiting the company after the last change of ownership in 2004.

According to Richardson, “We are actively looking for appropriate locations throughout the country which provide opportunities for Sundance Cinemas to integrate into the existing cultural fabric of communities.” Manzari added, “Drawing on our collective long-term relationships in the independent film and festival communities as well as those in the realm of distribution, we feel Sundance Cinemas will be highly successful in crafting a new and different experience for audiences.”

The Sundance Group

Established in 1988, the Sundance Group is a business entity wholly owned by Robert Redford. The Sundance Group oversees Redford’s ownership interests in Sundance Village, Sundance Catalog, Sundance Channel, as well as his involvement in the not-for-profit Sundance Institute, Sundance Film Festival and North Fork Preservation Alliance. In addition, the Sundance Group is responsible for evaluating and launching new business opportunities for Redford and the Sundance brand.

Oaktree Capital Management

Oaktree Capital Management, LLC is a private investment management firm headquartered in Los Angeles with approximately $27 billion of assets. Investment funds managed by Oaktree have had substantial experience investing in both theatrical film exhibition and commercial real estate. In recent years, Oaktree-managed funds have owned significant positions in both “art” (Landmark Theatres) and “first run” circuits (Loews Cineplex and Regal Theatres)."

Comments (16)

David Wodeyla
David Wodeyla on May 20, 2005 at 3:29 pm

I thought I was reading an article out of a time warp. Sundance Film Group was negotiating with General Cinema around 1991 to do the same thing. Guess it fell through.

Ross Melnick
Ross Melnick on May 20, 2005 at 3:44 pm

Yes, that deal fell through years ago. Sounds like this one is going to happen …

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 20, 2005 at 3:46 pm

The last time they proposed this, they left behind a lot of unstarted or unfinished projects. Boston was supposed to get a Sundance Cinema; it never happened. I hope they know what they’re doing this time.

Ross Melnick
Ross Melnick on May 20, 2005 at 4:12 pm

With industry vets Paul Richardson and Bert Manzari on board, this sounds like a done deal.

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 20, 2005 at 4:19 pm

If you look around in Google, you’ll see that both Philadelphia and Portland, Oregon, ended up with unfinished Sundance Cinemas that sat vacant for a long time before they eventually became part of other chains.

savingtheboyd on May 20, 2005 at 6:30 pm

Ours in Philadelphia became a Bridge Deluxe, by National Amusements, featured in the Cinema Treasures book.
Howard B. Haas

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 20, 2005 at 6:41 pm

From the LA Times, January 15, 2004:

Redford’s Sundance success clouded by failed ventures. This article discusses the Portland and Philadelphia projects, and other problems that Sundance ran into.

IanJudge on May 20, 2005 at 7:13 pm

This is good; I have heard nothing but bad things about the new ownership of Landmark (I have heard that Mark Cuban basically bought it as a way to sell DVD’s and show sporting events through digital presentations) and I know locally in the Boston area people are VERY unhappy with the new upper management (both staff and customers).

These guys who founded Landmark obviously have the know-how to do this right. In Boston, if they built an art-house downtown (and boy do we need it!) they would have an instant success. My little company has looked into it, but to build downtown is big $$$$$.

I hope they succeed! (As long as they don’t practice evil booking policies that handicap truly independent theaters!)

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 20, 2005 at 7:18 pm

Sundance originally wanted to build on Lansdowne Street in Boston, across from Fenway Park. It would have been a great contribution to our city’s culture. Unfortunately, after their project failed I believe another developer took over that site, and it will no longer be available to them.

I do very much hope they can try again in Boston, as the city definitely needs an art house.

focus on May 21, 2005 at 4:02 pm

Hmmm Sundance or Regal Cinemas?

Sundance is receiving assistance from Oaktree Capital, which is owned by Denver Billionaire Phillip Anschutz. As you may recall Anschutz is also the Majority owner in Regal Cinema Media Group the largest exhibitor in the US., owning 78% in that company. Some of Anschutz other companies are Quest Communications. As you may recall, Quest was indited by New York attorney general for SEC exchange violation and Anschutz himself had to repay $4.4 million dollars in fines for insider trading.

Quest Communications also had installed the first digital optic fiber cable, under ground that goes from the west coast to the east coast. It is belived that Quest will use this transmission line for digital delivery of digital formated movies when digital projection is rolled out to his Regal Cinema Group theaters, which comprise of Regal, United Artist and Edwards Theaters.

Regal does currently have a Art house format in their theater circut, it would be a natural fit for Regal to partner with Sundance to expand upon that market segment. Sundance is in some difficult financial trouble. Oaktee Capital seeks out that very type of company and buys up their bank debt and in doing so controls the company through it’s balance sheet. This is exactly what Anschutz did when he aquired Regal Cinemas, United Artist and Edward Theaters.

Now it looks as though he will controll Sundance as well.

UAGirl on May 21, 2005 at 4:29 pm

[i] This is exactly what Anschutz did when he aquired Regal Cinemas, United Artist and Edward Theaters.

Now it looks as though he will controll Sundance as well. [/i]

I completely agree with you focus. If you will recall R.E.G recently purchased Charlotte based Eastern Federal cineams, a chain well known in the southeastern states for obtaining smaller and often hard to find prints. This company is going to single handedly take out what few smatterings of film nastolgia are left in the industry.

Even though there have been a number of theatres closed since our merger I would have to think that he is getting close to being a monopoly. In Charlotte alone R.E.G own about 75% of the screens. The only other major contender is AMC with 3 theatres. Of course there is one AMStar theatre and a few discount houses but AMC and REG are now the only tow options. Kinda of like our radio stations: Clear Channel or Infinity.

CinemAFuchs on May 22, 2005 at 12:25 pm

This is exciting news. A great combination of talent, vision and finance.

The history of Sundance Cinemas goes back to the summer of 1997 when the joint venture was first formally announced between Robert Redford and now defunct GC Companies, Inc. The parent company of General Cinema Theatres, Inc. and the esteemed actor, director and friend of independent film were setting out to build a unique, stand-alone national theatre circuit of some “250 to 300 screens at 25 to 30 locations over the next five years.” In the words of General Cinema Theatres president and CEO William Doeren at the time, the new developments could include stand-alone complexes as well as conversions of existing buildings. It was said that while Robert Redford is known to be fond of the movie palace concept, these conversions might also involve buildings that previously had a different use.

For more ‘historic’ information, please go to a November 1998 article in Film Journal International: View link
Interestingly enough, a few months later Landmark Theatres went through another ownership change, this time for some $65 million to Silver Cinemas:
View link

David Wodeyla
David Wodeyla on May 22, 2005 at 1:56 pm

I wonder whatever happened to William Doeren when GC Theatres went bankrupt a couple of years after this announcement?

Ron Newman
Ron Newman on May 22, 2005 at 2:08 pm

This says that he became head of digital cinema at Kodak in 2003.

CJones on June 21, 2005 at 1:36 pm

Sundance Cinemas might want to look at a little gem of a 2-screen movie theater I own in Waitsfield VT, the town that filmmaker and Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner, Eugene Jarecki calls home. The theater is currently known as the Eclipse Theater. It is the perfect venue for destination film festivals, as it is equipped with a full bar, lounge area and prep kitchen. The theater has hosted the last two annual MountainTop Film Festivals(.com), and unless a private sale is arranged beforehand, I will be scheduling a nationally advertised public auction in late September. For more information log onto the website or call me at 8024347650

David Wodeyla
David Wodeyla on October 12, 2009 at 8:15 pm

I guess the Sundance idea fell through again. What happened this time?

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