Cablevision looking to sell Clearview chain

posted by Michael Zoldessy on May 14, 2012 at 7:59 am

Medium

NEW YORK, NY — The stumbling Northeast cable company Cablevision is looking to unload one of its valuable assets, Clearview Cinemas, as it struggles with subscriber numbers dipping. Clearview, a collection of mostly neighborhood cinemas, is home to the world-famous Ziegfeld Theatre in Manhattan.

Read more in the New York Post.

(Thanks to Bill Huelbig for providing the photo.)

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Comments (15)

Mikeoaklandpark
Mikeoaklandpark on May 14, 2012 at 9:58 am

OMG if AMC gets a hold of this they will ruin the Ziegfeld.

cmbussmann
cmbussmann on May 14, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Whoever ends up buying the Ziegfeld had better maintain it and keep using it for high-end premieres, first run showings, and revival screenings. They should keep it classy and clean and well-run with ushers, etc. Basically, they shouldn’t change a thing.

John Fink  (www.johnfinkfilms.com)
John Fink (www.johnfinkfilms.com) on May 14, 2012 at 7:00 pm

The Ziegfeld is a great theatre and I hope it remains a first class showplace (although from what I’ve read it doesn’t turn a profit).

Mike, I don’t think AMC can buy Clearview, that would present (or should present) a huge DOJ conflict especially in Northern New Jersey, where it pretty much is AMC or Clearview. (Kerasotes and National Amusements have one theater each in North Jersey – and there’s a handful of independents – I imagine they’d have to sell off half the Clearview chain for that deal to happen).

Secondly: I don’t know who’d want Clearview. They really haven’t proactively been converting to digital last I’ve seen (a few of their smaller theaters are all-digital, I think Cinema 12 is half digital). Their theaters were cobbled together from smaller operators, many converting downtown theaters or retail space (such as one of the worst theaters in America, the Kinnelon 11). Many were so cheaply converted with awkwardly placed projection booths that you get really awkward keystoning that has gone uncorrected since Clearview acquired the properties (ironic that they offer a less clear-view than any other chain). They’ve gotten better and classed up many of their sites but while they’ve installed new seats, new tiles in the rest rooms, carpets and concession stands, they’ve neglected projection and sound problems (especially sound bleeding from theater to theatre at Cinema 10 and Cinema 12) – and never converted their sites to stadium seating. Cablevision admits the theater assets are under performers (they do well on Free Movie Tuesday which surely will go away when someone acquires them).

There was talk years ago of selling off Clearview with City Cinemas/Reading as a potential buyer. Regal Cinemas once tried a Northern NJ presence (and failed with their “let’s build a multiplex just for the hell of it” business plan in the 90’s that saw a 13 plex and a 12-plex in the same town become discount houses – and then they were eventually saved by Bollywood). These theaters are not good assets: they own two theaters they kind of/sort of have stadium seating in the traditional sense. Perhaps Bow Tie or Frank Theaters might be the right fit in terms of size and operations, but who’d want this mess of a chain?

Let’s rationalize this: it can’t be AMC, probably not Regal, Cinemark probably doesn’t want it (although they did want Loews before AMC took them over), Carmike has never shown an interest in NYC metro, I could see National Amusements taking over a good location like Cinema 12 (but not any of the smaller theaters), Landmark would be a good fit for Montclair and Red Bank, I couldn’t image Rave having any interest, Starplex is again dipping its toe into New Jersey by taking over Mega Movies (Central NJ) which is a little out of market (even though they ran the Columbia Park 12 for a little while)…so, I can see Reading wanting the NYC theaters like the Chelsea 9 (and they do operate another movie palace, The Paris), and of coarse I’d think it’d be very cool if any of them became an Alamo Drafthouse because Tim League is a genus (Morristown would be a cool town for that). Also there is a possibility if sold off individually some of these theaters could become independently owned and operated which I think could be a good thing for lowering prices and creating a better experience.

KingBiscuits
KingBiscuits on May 14, 2012 at 9:47 pm

Landmark would be an ideal fit for the Ziegfeld. Some of their houses plays mainstream product and the revivals would be a strong incentive for them. The other two Clearview houses in Manhattan (the Chelsea and the First and 62nd) also play similar product to Landmark’s Los Angeles theatres (a mix of mainstream and arthouse) which would make it a great fit for them.

If not Landmark, I see Cinemark picking the chain up.

John Fink  (www.johnfinkfilms.com)
John Fink (www.johnfinkfilms.com) on May 14, 2012 at 11:14 pm

Not so sure about Landmark, if they picked up the whole chain it would double its size and from what I heard Mark Cuban was also thinking about selling it off. They did pick up two from AMC/Kerasotes but they were stadium seating multiplexes that would have added value.

For those not from NJ/NYC: most of Clearview is on par with Cinemark’s discount houses. It must be tough to get a large exhibitor interested in a chain comprised of sites that exhibitors in large part ceased operating (many of their sites were acquired from United Artists, General Cinema, Nelson-Firman, CGM, and AMC) – essentially in a three year period they spread like the plague taking over many independent theaters quickly. While others would have retrofitted their top performing theaters with stadium seating as a strike against a new AMC in the market, Clearview renovated without stadium seating while opening a brand new theater without stadium seating (like SOPAC).

Once positive: after all the complaining I did about their operations, they slightly improved where they could – meaning MOST OF THE TIME if the theater was properly constructed you might get a picture that was in focus. this is the reason I’m pissed every time I buy a ticket at The Clairidge and see they film I want to see that’s only playing there and in NYC is in Auditorium 4 – – oh and the managers were morons who would actually say things like “oh the movie was sent to us that way” and “we don’t have to show the credits, you’ve seen the whole movie”.

markp
markp on May 15, 2012 at 6:05 am

To me John, and I guess Im partial, one of the best theatres they had in Jersey was the Middlebrook Galleria in Ocean Twp. It was built from the ground up, all projectors were line of sight, and the pictures were always sharp, in focus and apertures were cut perfect. Of course it helped that I was the projectionist there from shortly after it opened (it opened in late 94, I got there in early 95) until Clearview got rid of the union in 2004. I do know what your talking about regarding many of their sites. I was the screen cleaner for many years again until 2004 when they ceased doing business with me. The Middlebrook theatre, while not stadium, did not have a problem with sound bleed over. And my partner and I (he was 82 in 2004) kept that booth like a hospital ward. We never had dirt or scratches on the film. Everyone who ever saw the booth and the theatre were amazed. I met my second wife there. But as with other business, upper management always seem to keep the idiots and get rid of the people who cared. I heard from people who went to my old theatre after I left the projection had gone way down hill. They wont go anymore. They all trek up to the AMC in monmouth mall. So yes its gonna be a hard sell to get rid of this chain.

optimist008
optimist008 on May 15, 2012 at 6:38 am

John Fink,

FYI: Clearview’s Bronxville and Central Plaza, Yonkers locations have held on despite the increased presence of National Amusements nearby. In fact, when General Cinema ran Central Plaza Cinema way back, it was their best grossing theater in NY State. However, with the recent opening of Redstone’s Ridge Hill, Yonkers location, this theater and Movieland next store may be slightly affected as time goes on. I do agree with you that Clearview’s presentations stink with poorly lit screens most of the time. Hope these two theaters survive!!! If the chain has no buyers, would Cablevision close these sites????

markp
markp on May 15, 2012 at 9:01 am

Hello optimist008, how are you? You probably know me better as movie534. I cant figure out how to get that to show up instead of markp. Not very computer savvy. It looks as if my theatre will be all digital in the coming weeks, so Im out of a job. 36 years as a full time projectionist gone.

optimist008
optimist008 on May 15, 2012 at 9:56 am

Hey Mark,

I still read your posts on Facebook and it’s always great hearing from you…really sorry your career ended the way it did and the non IATSE presentations continue to suffer, even in the big chains like Redstone. FYI: Another retail developer wants to include a movie theater in the latest RFP’s submitted for the Kingsbridge Armory in Da' Bronx. National Amusements is the likley chain as they were interested last time around with this project. They are not doing so well on weekdays, but better with attendance on weekends at the new Ridge Hill, Yonkers location. The latest Bronx HUB development plan does not include a theater this time, but did last time when Related Companies was chosen and backed out for reasons unknown. The chain was never identified, but I am betting it was Redstone..

Clearview Bronxville remains a strong arthouse and I predict it will be sold to another small chain. Hopfully, Central Plaza will too…

John Fink  (www.johnfinkfilms.com)
John Fink (www.johnfinkfilms.com) on May 15, 2012 at 10:22 am

Theaters in plazas largely depend on if the plaza needs them – there are some theaters that anchor plazas as loss-leaders under operating agreements. Clearview seems to have not really followed the business model that other regionals do, which is acquiring leases at bargain basement prices as the theatre threatens to go dark. If a theater in a competitive zone goes dark for a few weeks (or years) it’ll have a hard to ever getting first run product, especially if there’s a theater within a mile. There’s also theaters like Phoenix/Big Cinemas that make a business out of managing theaters (taking a percentage of the gross) that could step in.

Sundance Cinemas another firm with money looking to expand in Westchester and Long Island – they do a complete top to bottom redo (in fact the first time Redford attempted a Sundance chain with General Cinema, he considered a General Cinema location in Scarsbrough but reject it on architectural grounds per Biskind’s Down and Dirty Pictures). Any ideas which one that was/what became of it?

optimist008
optimist008 on May 15, 2012 at 11:27 am

John,

It was reported just a few weeks back that Sundance has proposed opening a new multiplex here in Dobbs Ferry, NY, next to the Saw Mill Parkway, as part of a larger mixed use complex that seems to have the pending approval of the local municipality.

moviebuff82
moviebuff82 on May 15, 2012 at 12:11 pm

If Clearview Cinemas is sold, they should sell the Mansfield 14 to a chain like Regal lol, since regal owns the Pohatcong 12-plex in p-burg, or maybe Cinemark, which owns the stroud mall 7. Perhaps Carmike can buy the theater. No one goes to mansfield anymore except the lucky few who live around that theater.

mhvbear
mhvbear on May 15, 2012 at 12:17 pm

The Chelsea 9 would be perfect for Sundance to take over.

markp
markp on May 16, 2012 at 5:21 am

Well optimist008, John Fink, and everyone else, looks like the final nail in my coffin as the remaining digital equipment was delivered yesterday to my theatre. I figure one month from now and that’s it for me. At least I’ll have the projection job at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank where we show old movies once a month. It will be interesting what does end up happening to Clearview, whether it goes as a whole, or in bits and pieces.

zoetmb
zoetmb on May 25, 2012 at 8:21 am

Dont know about the entire chain, but Disney wanted the Ziegfeld some years ago with the intent of turning it into the equivalent of the El Capitan. It would really be a shame to lose the Ziegfeld — it’s one of the few theatres I’ll still attend.

One of the things I’ve noticed at Manhattan AMC theatres (and I don’t know how prevalent this is), but the sound system is wired wrong: the center channel is fed to the left screen channel. I have this bad feeling that when they installed the Sony 4K digital projectors, some idiot tech re-wired the channels incorrectly. I’ve found this at both the AMC Loews 34th street (west) for “Planet of the Apes” and for “Hugo” at the Kips Bay. (Also saw “Hugo” at the Ziegfeld and it was fine.) I’ve complained, but the managers always look at me like I’m from outer space. They always give me passes, but I always say, “I don’t want the passes – I want you to fix it!”

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