The latest movie theater news and updates
November 29, 2016
From the Times-Tribune: The Iron Horse Movie Bistro won’t be open in time for the new “Star Wars” release Dec. 16, but the return of the downtown Scranton movie theater shouldn’t be too far away.
Phoenix Theatres Entertainment expects to reopen the former Marquee Cinemas 8 in the first quarter of 2017, said Joe Gibbons, a spokesman for Marketplace at Steamtown developer John Basalyga.
The timeline for the rebirth of the eight-theater complex into a luxury establishment with bistro-style food, alcohol and squishy red leather recliners moved back a few times from the original target of the first half of 2016 amid engineering and millwork manufacturing delays.
Carl Scartelli, superintendent for Eco Trade Construction overseeing the $4 million renovation, expected the remodeling work to wrap up in the second week of December.
Mr. Scartelli led The Times-Tribune on a brief tour of the building amid a flurry of activity as roughly 20 contractors painted walls, installed carpeting and tiles, worked on finishing ceilings and continued adding curtains and speakers.
Keph Construction crews, who specialize in movie theater projects all over the country, worked on setting up Theater 1, which Project Manager Charlie Harrison described as the facility’s prime auditorium with 22 speakers.
“This would be where their mega-blockbusters play,” Mr. Harrison said. “You’re going to have a much better experience with the surround sound. They’ll have upgraded seating. These are love seats. If you’re on a date, you can raise the arm rest and scoot your honey right next to you. The silver screen is a 3-D screen. Everything is upgraded. They’re making the theater experience like a ride in a theme park.”
Once construction is done, Phoenix Theatres will still need to set up the kitchen, hire staff and train the workers, which is why Mr. Gibbons said the opening of the theaters at the intersection of Penn and Lackawanna avenues will come early next year.
“This is exciting,” Mr. Gibbons said. “We see this as a corner that all of a sudden is going to have an incredible amount of life.”
Mr. Gibbons spoke about the movie complex in the context of Delta Medix and Luzerne County Community College occupying space in the mall, the planned opening of the Scranton Public Market in the near future and more retailers moving in.
Mr. Gibbons highlighted the recent return of eclectic gift boutique La Ti Da to the mall, along with Pink Shades by Kimberly, a women’s clothing store targeting 18- to 35-year-olds, scheduled to open Thursday.
November 28, 2016
From WTOL.com: A theater in northern Ohio has been restored to look like it did when it opened in 1928.
Operators of the Palace Theatre in Lorain hope the restoration will bring more people back to the city’s downtown.
The theater has undergone many restorations over the years and this summer saw another $100,000 spent on improvements.
Operations director Chris Pataky tells The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer (http://bit.ly/2fyO8BM ) the theater was one of the first in Ohio to show films with sound. It also has the largest single floor seating of any theater in Ohio.
Lorain’s mayor says the theater is a gem and he hopes to see even more events there.
The theater hosts live plays, concerts, comedians, holiday events and an occasional film.
November 23, 2016
Los Angeles, CA – Siblings clash over control of L.A.-based movie theater chain Reading International
From The Los Angeles Times: Los Angeles-based movie theater chain Reading International Inc. has dozens of cinemas around the world, major real estate holdings, and a nearly 200-year history with roots in the railroad and coal business.
But the future of the storied company has been clouded by an extraordinary family drama that is playing out in court. The three children of Reading’s late chief executive, James J. Cotter Sr., are waging a battle for control of the company, a feud that is reminiscent of the discord that created chaos at the media giant Viacom Inc. this year. Unlike the Viacom case, however, this dispute has largely gone unnoticed in Hollywood.
The son, James Cotter Jr., sued the company’s directors last year after he was ousted as CEO in what he calls a “massive power grab” by his sisters, Ellen Cotter and Margaret Cotter. The sisters are also dueling with the brother in Los Angeles court over their father’s controlling stake. Both cases are pending.
Compounding matters, the siblings are also clashing over whether to entertain a $400-million offer to buy Reading. James Cotter Jr. has accused the company led by his sisters of giving short shrift to an offer from Paul Heth, the CEO of a major Russian theater chain, to buy the company for $17 a share. The company maintains the price is inadequate.
The court battles have weighed on Reading’s stock, which trades at about $15 a share, virtually unchanged from a year ago. A shareholder lawsuit was settled earlier this year, but investors remain anxious about the infighting and uncertainty over Reading’s direction.
“I think a more independent board would be more aggressive in seeking objective advice from knowledgeable bankers, rather than from Cotter’s daughters, who are spending millions against their younger brother fighting to control the entity,” said Andrew Shapiro, an investor whose firm Lawndale Capital Management in Mill Valley, Calif., has long owned Reading stock (it holds about 7% of non-voting shares).
As with Sumner Redstone’s Viacom — in which the company’s CEO was ousted after clashing with the mogul’s daughter, Shari — the infighting at Reading International highlights the perils that sometimes confront family-controlled publicly traded companies. James Cotter Sr. owned 70% of Reading’s Class B voting shares, leaving non-voting Class A shareholders with virtually no say in how the company operates.
“It’s designed to preserve family control in perpetuity, but sometimes the person you pick in perpetuity doesn’t work out or the family doesn’t work out,” said Charles Elson, a corporate governance expert at the University of Delaware. “So the other shareholders are essentially stuck in the middle.”
Billionaire Mark Cuban owns about 12% of the voting shares, but has mostly stayed on the sidelines of the various disputes.
The Cotter siblings and Cuban declined to comment for this story. Reading also would not comment.
Reading operates 57 theaters and 465 screens in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, including numerous locations in San Diego and Hawaii, and employs about 2,300 people. The company also owns live theaters — including the Orpheum and Minetta Lane in Manhattan, and the Royal George in Chicago — and other commercial properties.
Launched in 1833 as the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Co., the business was created to move anthracite coal mined in Pennsylvania. But after World War II, railroad companies and the coal market declined, leading Reading to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1971.
James J. Cotter Sr., a Los Angeles businessman, took control of the Reading name (made famous in the Monopoly board game) in the 1980s. Later, Reading began to acquire and develop real estate, focusing on properties with cinemas and live theater venues.
Cotter Sr. resigned as CEO and chairman in August 2014 because of declining health, leaving son James Cotter Jr. in charge. Cotter Sr. died in September 2014 at age 76.
Shortly thereafter, his two daughters went to court, alleging their brother improperly convinced their father to add him to a trust that would control the voting shares of the company. Ellen and Margaret Cotter said in court papers that James Cotter Jr. unduly influenced their father while he was in the hospital after suffering a fall in his home. The daughters said their father lacked “the knowledge and understanding necessary” to make such financial decisions.
The daughters contend that after their dad was admitted to the hospital, their brother convinced an estate attorney to draft an amendment to the trust that made him a co-trustee. They allege he lied to Margaret by saying the changes were made based on videos he took of their father expressing his wishes.
Distressed over her father’s failing health, Margaret tried to convince her father to sign the amendment, the daughters’ petition said. Cotter Sr. signed the amendment only after Margaret begged and “tears were shed,“ according to the petition.
Cotter Jr. struck back with his own petition, calling the allegations against him “nonsense” and “fictional.” He said his father was “in full control of his faculties” when he signed the amendment to the trust and accused his sisters of “abusing their power… and breaching their duties.” He further contended his sisters tried to prevent him from selling his Reading stock, in order to “choke off” funds and force him to settle. Cotter Jr. owned about 16% of Reading’s shares as of April 2016, according to a regulatory filing.
In June 2015, the company’s board of directors fired Cotter Jr. for undisclosed reasons and put Ellen Cotter in charge. Cotter Jr. quickly sued his sisters and other Reading directors, accusing them of staging a “boardroom coup” to wrest away control of the company. He said in court documents that his sisters, and company directors loyal to them, had him forced out because he refused an ultimatum to give up his claim to the trust.
He also accused the sisters of choosing their own financial interests over the well-being of the company and trying to use Reading resources to pay for personal expenses, including an expensive Thanksgiving dinner for Ellen, the company’s CEO; Margaret, its vice chair; and their mother.
The company said in a regulatory filing that “numerous of the factual allegations included in the complaint are inaccurate and untrue,” and vowed to “vigorously defend” against the claims. A trial date in the case has not been set.
All the squabbling has created unease among investors. “The biggest issue is who gets to call the shots,” said B. Riley media analyst Eric Wold, the only analyst who covers Reading’s stock. “It’s been a distraction.… I’d love for them to settle this."
Further clouding matters is whether Reading should be sold. In a May 31 letter, Heth offered to buy Reading for $17 a share, a 35% premium above the stock price at the time, but the board rejected the bid.
A rebuffed Heth in September sent another letter saying he was “disappointed” that Ellen Cotter had not engaged him in talks about his all-cash offer, financed by prominent investment firms TPG Capital and the Santo Domingo Group.
Heth, best known as the CEO of Karo Film Group in Russia, told The Times that he wants to buy small theater chains in North America and retrofit them in the image of his high-end cinemas overseas.
“Reading has the footprint I’m looking for,” Heth said. “I respect what the family’s done, but I and my team can take it to the next level. I think there’s a lot I can do with it.”
Ellen Cotter said in a recent earnings call that the board met in June and November to review Heth’s proposal and determined that shareholders would be better off if the company remained independent. “We don’t believe that the pursuit of a short term premium to market through a sales process is the best way to realize the value in our company,” she said.
Investors interviewed by The Times agreed that Heth’s offer was low, but said the board needs to entertain offers.
“I agree with the company that $17 greatly underestimates its value, but I don’t agree with the company not being willing to engage with a serious party interest,” said Jonathan Glaser, whose Los Angeles firm JMG Capital Management owns Reading shares.
JMG was part of an investor group that sued Reading last year for breach of fiduciary duty after Cotter Jr. was fired. The funds later withdrew their complaint and the case was settled.
Notwithstanding the legal skirmishes, Reading’s business has been growing. Revenue in the quarter ended Sept. 30 jumped 23% to $71.3 million compared with the same period a year earlier. Profit was $3.9 million, up from $327,000 in the prior-year quarter.
Reading has had some success renovating its theaters in San Diego and elsewhere by improving food and beverage options, seating and other amenities. The company also expects to generate substantial cash flow from a six-story retail and office development in Manhattan that will replace an off-Broadway theater. The project is projected to open in 2018.
B. Riley analyst Wold, whose price target for Reading is $26, said the company ’s movie theater and real estate businesses are showing signs of strength, despite its relatively small size and ongoing court battles.
“There’s clear indication that there is value,” Wold said. “It does put pressure on management to deliver more value for shareholders.”
Story link: http://www.latimes.com/business/hollywood/la-fi-ct-reading-international-drama-20161109-story.html
From the News Tribune: Comfy seats that help the acoustics. New plaster and paint. An outdoor performance plaza. Seismic safety. Symphony and band concerts in Tacoma’s Armory.
Those are some of the additions the Broadway Center is planning as part of the 2018-19 restoration of the 1918 Pantages Theater.
But first it must raise the final $6.5 million of a $24.5 million budget to pay for it. That campaign will kick off Monday in the Pantages lobby with a presentation, design previews and a sample of the new seats.
“We are setting up the Pantages to serve the South Sound community for the next 100 years,” said Sara Kendall, campaign chairwoman and board member for the Broadway Center, which manages the city-owned Pantages, Rialto and Theater on the Square.
“We want to keep it as a citizens’ asset, but we need to involve the whole community (in fundraising).”
Of the total budget, $15 million has been secured, with $8 million from the city of Tacoma and $7 million from tax credits. Another $3 million from the state is to be confirmed.
Kendall and Broadway Center Executive Director David Fischer say they hope most of the remaining $6.5 million will be raised before construction starts on the historic theater in May 2018.
Any gaps are expected to be filled from money raised through 2019 from donors rewarded with their names noted on their seats.
The Pantages and the adjacent Theater on the Square are to reopen in October 2019, Fischer said.
Exterior work on the building — costing $2 million and completed over the summer — included cleaning, new windows, terra cotta repair and a paint job, including the bright red blade sign.
Other elements of the restoration already announced include:
▪ Seismic refitting in a new design by the Tacoma design-engineering firm AHBL that lowers costs to $8.3 million.
▪ New seats for both theaters that will enhance acoustics, as well as a seat redesign in the Pantages with a center aisle and narrower rows that adds 140 seats to the 1,160 capacity, plus redesign of box seating.
▪ Restoration of plaster and paintwork.
▪ New light fittings for the house.
▪ A 14-foot, two-story extension to the building in the loading zone between the Pantages box office and stage door, allowing for quicker and cheaper set loading.
▪ ADA-friendly drop-off zone.
▪ Custom-built acoustic shell for the Pantages stage, with costs possibly shared by the Symphony Tacoma.
▪ An improved lobby for the Theater on the Square, including a door leading to the park area (which eventually might be redesigned), more restrooms and a permanent exhibit on civic leadership in Tacoma.
New to the restoration plans is $1.1 million for outfitting the Armory for performances during the Pantages’ closure.
Originally dropped as too expensive, work on the historic brick building at 715 S. 11th St. will include modifying its steep loading ramp, plus additions inside to improve the boomy acoustics. These could range from baffles to drapes to spray-on acoustic foam, said Fischer, who doesn’t know the details.
The fund will pay for portable equipment such as seating, risers and lights that can be used in other venues.
It also will offset financial losses for the two resident arts organizations that might use the venue — Symphony Tacoma and the Tacoma Concert Band — and the Broadway Center itself.
The Armory is owned by developer Fred Roberson, but its street-level drill floor is managed by the Broadway Center, and Roberson has promised to donate the building to the nonprofit center in his will.
In addition, he has installed more restrooms on the drill floor level and is working to renovate the northern end into dressing rooms and a green room by 2018.
Yet, as Fischer acknowledges, the building wasn’t built for instrumental acoustics.
“It’s pretty bad right now,” said Robert Musser, director of the Tacoma Concert Band, who held a trial rehearsal there in October. “The acoustics are really poor for any large ensemble: too bright, too loud, too harsh and hard to hear lines.
“I’m sure there’s a way to make it acceptable, with enough money.”
Other arts organizations will use the Rialto or the Theater on the Square, or — as the Tacoma City Ballet is doing – venues outside Tacoma.
Also new to the plans is an outdoor plaza on the grassy slope between the Pantages lobby and the street.
Graded at lobby level and including benches and a small stage, the area will be able to be covered, allowing for outdoor busking and performances. An electronic reader board on the street side will replace the light bulb marquee.
Acoustic amplification initially included in the plans has been dropped due to costs and because it would impinge on historic plasterwork in the Pantages.
About $2 million will go toward the fundraising campaign and other costs.
Finally, $2.3 million initially intended for an endowment fund has been allocated to 10 years of future programming by the Broadway Center, which is a separate producing entity as well as a contracted theater manager.
The programming will include in-house productions, education and community showcases, Fischer said, and free tickets or events. There also will be an annual leadership program in collaboration with the University of Washington Tacoma and the Washington State History Museum.
“The Pantages is a treasure, but I’m particularly interested in the programming fund,” said state Rep. Laurie Jinkins, D-Tacoma, one of the many elected officials headlining the campaign. “The arts in Tacoma are so important for the growth of the city … and the Broadway Center has done a lot to engage really diverse communities.
“I’m very supportive of keeping that going so that the arts are important for every person in our community, not just some.”
Fischer sees the campaign as a continuation of the Broadway Center’s history of bringing government and community together for the arts.
“It was the Broadway Center who started the first private-public partnership (for city development) in 1979, with the saving of the Pantages,” he said. “We’re proud of that.”
For Kendall, the value of the $24.5 million restoration lies in a place for Tacoma to gather.
“The theaters represent the heartbeat of the community, a place where we come to have our minds opened and share experiences,” she said. “This becomes a place for bringing the community together.”
Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article115935283.html#storylink=cpy
From WRTI.org: Since it opened its doors in 1913, the Apollo Theater has survived a series of iterations, closures, renovations, and shifts in direction. Its allure as a venue for jazz began in the 1930s with the debut of Jazz a la Carte, a show with an all-black cast.
Soon after, the famous talent contest Amateur Night took off, with Ella Fitzgerald as an early winner on November 21, 1934. She was just 17.
He sought relief in the shade near a stage door of the theater on 125th Street. Then the owner spotted him.
The man who first opened the door for Apollo historian and tour guide Billy Mitchell was Frank Schiffman. Starting in the ‘30s, Schiffman played a key role in transforming the theater from its first life as an all-white (performers and audience, alike) burlesque house, to the renowned venue for jazz and popular African American performers.
Billy Mitchell leads tours of the Apollo for hundreds of thousands of people who come to get closer to its remarkable past and present. He was recently in Philadelphia to speak at the University of Pennsylvania. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston sat down with him at Penn to learn about his fascinating start, his take on amateur night, and his backstage experiences.
From the News-Review: A theater in Sault Ste. Marie is preparing to be restored to its 1930s glory through a $7 million capital campaign.
The Soo Theatre Project is receiving support from the Sault Ste. Marie Downtown Development Authority, which pledged their resources and connections Wednesday to help complete the project in conjunction with the Sault’s 350th anniversary in 2018, the Evening News of Sault Ste. Marie (http://bit.ly/2fS4VTK ) reported.
The authority’s director, Justin Knepper, said the project is getting closer to launching a capital campaign. Through grant matching and money raised from a summer concert series, there’s $70,000 in an account that can be used only for repairing the theater’s failing roof.
“People are excited and there’s people talking about it,” said Knepper. “With our movie theater being gone, the Soo Theatre has been playing movies. There’s a lot more people going in there saying, ‘What the heck? Why isn’t this thing fixed?’”
An architectural rendering in 2014 estimated it would cost nearly $7 million to restore the theatre to its original Spanish castle theme. A further estimate indicated the exterior and roof would be $650,000.
“We pretty much have the entire detailed package ready to go in terms of starting a fundraiser process from a scientific standpoint,” said Knepper.
He said 2018 could be the year the Soo Theatre restoration is made possible.
“Maybe construction starts or we hit our goal with the fundraiser,” said Knepper.
November 21, 2016
Milwaukee, WI – Marcus Theatres® to Acquire All 14 Wehrenberg Theatres Locations in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, with 197 Screens
From Business Wire: Marcus Theatres®, a division of The Marcus Corporation (NYSE:MCS), today announced it has signed an agreement to acquire the assets of Wehrenberg Theatres®, based in St. Louis, Missouri. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Wehrenberg Theatres is the oldest family-owned and operated theatre circuit in the United States, with 197 screens at 14 locations in Missouri, Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota. Upon completion of the transaction, Marcus Theatres will increase its number of screens by 29%, operating 885 screens at 68 locations in eight states.
The transaction is targeted to be completed in December 2016, subject to customary closing conditions, consents and approvals.
“Acquisitions are an important component of our growth strategy and we are pleased to add the Wehrenberg Theatres locations to our circuit. The acquisition demonstrates our continued confidence in our theatre business. It will expand our presence in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota and extends our footprint into Missouri,” said Gregory S. Marcus, president and chief executive officer of The Marcus Corporation. “We anticipate a smooth integration of Wehrenberg Theatres into our circuit and expect the acquisition will be accretive to both earnings and cash flow.”
Rolando B. Rodriguez, president and chief executive officer of Marcus Theatres, said, “Wehrenberg Theatres is highly respected in the industry, having served generations of moviegoers in four states with its premium service and strong family values. We will retain the Wehrenberg name on the acquired theatres. In addition, we look forward to working with the company’s associates to continue the tradition of excellence built by the Wehrenberg family. Once the transaction is completed, we plan to enhance the moviegoing experience at select theatres with features and amenities including our DreamLoungerSM recliner seating, premium large-format screens and signature food and beverage concepts.”
The late Ronald P. Krueger inherited Wehrenberg Theatres in 1963 at the age of 22. Ron and his wife, Midge, operated the chain for many years and were very active in the St. Louis community. They strongly supported charities such as Will Rogers Foundation, Variety – The Children’s Charity of St. Louis, The Salvation Army, Shriners Hospital for Children and many others.
“We are pleased Marcus Theatres will carry on the dedication to our customers and communities that has been a hallmark of Wehrenberg Theatres since 1906. Our two companies share the same philosophy – providing customers with the best entertainment experience possible. We were fortunate to find another family-led circuit which also understands the extra commitment it takes to serve our neighborhoods,” said William E. (Bill) Menke, president of Wehrenberg Theatres.
The 14 Wehrenberg Theatres locations include nine in the Greater St. Louis area; one each in Cape Girardeau and Lake Ozark, Missouri; one in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; one in Rochester, Minnesota; and one in Bloomington, Illinois. In conjunction with the acquisition, Marcus Theatres will acquire the underlying real estate for six of the theatre locations, as well as Ronnie’s Plaza, an 84,000 square foot retail center located at 5320 S. Lindbergh Blvd. in St. Louis.
From kivitv.com: A key piece of downtown Nampa’s revitalization is still ahead with a new effort to restore the historic Pix Theatre. With the brand new public library right across the street, the foundation’s new executive director says the timing is right.
But, let’s rewind for a moment. Imagine life without tv and radio on its way out. Seeing movies on the big screen was a part of people’s lives.
Plus, there were plenty of perks.
“A bag of popcorn, pop, a movie, it was all for less than a dollar,” said Debbie Lasher-Hardy, executive director for the Pix Anew foundation.
Lasher-Hardy is the Pix Theatre foundation’s new executive director. It’s called Pix Anew. She wants to bring the historic movie house back to life.
The last movie played on the big screen in 1999. Amid an effort to restore the theatre, the roof collapsed in 2003. All funds raised to date were poured into replacing the roof and removing asbestos from the premise.
Looking at it today, you’d never know it was one of three theaters that were frequented in downtown Nampa back in the day.
From wbbjtv.com: The sound of applause will sound ring out again at the historic downtown Bells Theatre. “It’s been closed for 20 years, but the wallpaper, the lights, the seating, the velvet curtains — it’s all right there,” said Mildred Brimm, who says she grew up in the theatre.
Brimm’s grandfather had a store beside the theatre. Now there’s an effort to make Bells Theatre the main attraction again, and it all started over a conversation at lunch.
“We started looking at different places in our cities that maybe we’d forgotten but could be a great tourist attraction or something hidden, we need to bring attention to,” Charlie Moore with the Crockett County Chamber of Commerce said.
That same day, they got the key and unlocked the door to the theatre and saw the work that needed to be done, but Brimm said it brought back so many memories.
“When I walked in, it looked just like it did when I was a child growing up in this town. I could almost smell the popcorn,” Brimm said.
Friday morning, state officials presented a round of grants to the city to make these efforts possible. A $380,000 grant from Tennessee Parks and Recreation, a clean energies grant for $350,000, and a $50,000 check from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Department of Rural Development.
“The mayor referred to us as some bulldogs, and he’s right,” Sarah Conley with Crockett County’s Arts Council said. “We got a hold of this project and we’re not going to let it go until it is completed.”
“They’re determined to do it, and I think they will,” Bells Mayor Joe Williams said.
There is no word yet on when the $1.2 million project will reopen for its second act.
“We’ve got to do it now. If we don’t, small-town America and the feeling of growing up in a small town is going to be lost,” Brimm said.
The project still needs $185,000. If you would like to donate, visit the Facebook Page for the project, Save the Bells Theatre.
From abc30.com: Police are looking for the suspects who vandalized the historic Warnors Theatre in downtown Fresno.
Owners arrived Sunday to find broken glass in front of the theatre and box office. The glass is virtually irreplaceable because of its original etching that dates back to the 1920s.
It’s the second time that the booth’s glass has been shattered in the theatre’s history.
“That’s what’s so heartbreaking it’s just no respect or care for other people’s property or of anything that’s of significance or historic value,” Sally Caglia with the theatre said. “To some people, it just doesn’t mean anything, and that just breaks my heart.”