Silver Cinemas Intl.inks Landmark buy

Silver Cinemas Intl.’s definitive agreement to acquire Landmark Theatres was announced Wednesday. The price of the 140-screen specialized circuit owned by Metromedia was a reported $65 million and the deal is expected to be completed by February.

Discussions with newcomer Silver Cinemas on the sale of Landmark have been ongoing for several months. Silver, headed by former Cinemark execs Steve Holmes and Tom Owens, currently operates about 350 screens, the majority of which have a discount run policy. The company is eyeing an additional small circuit for acquisition that will expand its reach from six to 17 states.

Landmark, which operates upscale houses in eight of the top 10 arthouse markets, has experienced erratic growth during the 1990s. Unquestionably the dominant player in alternative cinema, it was acquired by the Samuel Goldwyn Co. in 1991 and became part of the Metromedia empire two years ago when that company purchased Goldwyn.

The changes in ownership have retarded some of the circuit’s plans for building and acquiring theaters, although it presently has sites under construction in both St. Louis and Waltham, Mass., and has purchased existing theaters in Detroit and Santa Barbara in the past year.

David H. Wong, a general partner at Brentwood Associates — the L.A. investment firm that funded Silver Cinemas last year — said Landmark would exist as a separate division and that several of its senior execs will become part of the overall management team. He indicated that a tentative agreement has been made with Landmark senior VP Bert Manzari, but they have yet to seal a deal with its president Steve Gilula.

Several execs in the exhibition arena characterized the sale price as “good” to “generous.” Landmark is considered one of the best-run small circuits, with credit accorded its top execs for maintaining an enviable profit picture. Wong said that the chain would remain based in Los Angeles, with Silver Cinemas operating out of Dallas.

Although Landmark has been the sole specialized operation with a national presence, both Redding, which owns Manhattan’s Angelika (Landmark does not have a New York City screen), and a startup Sundance franchise through General Cinemas have begun to work toward that end.

Sundance has yet to announce venues and indications are that it will not reach its initial target of 70 screens by December ’98. Redding, which will debut its Angelika Houston on Christ-mas Day, recently acquired a five-screener in Minneapolis and will have sites in place in five additional cities — including Baltimore, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. — within 18 months.

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