Construction of the first Sundance Cinema, a joint venture of Robert Redford’s organization and General Cinemas, has been announced for Portland’s Pioneer Place. Additionally, a press conference to be held Oct. 1 will provide further details and locations for the boutique brand theaters.
Planned as a six- to eight-screen specialized showcase, the Portland site is part of an expansion of the existing shopping complex that will open for business in late 1999.
“Portland has always been a great movie town,” said Sundance Cinema’s Trevor Macy. “Pioneer Place became our first choice when we were scouting locations as an ideal setting to experience the originality and excitement of independent film.”
The Portland venture for Sundance Cinemas arrived like a bolt out of the blue. Redford initially unveiled plans for a specialized circuit with GCC more than a year ago and its seeming lack of progress had led most in the exhibition and distribution community to assume the project was dormant. A Sundance spokesman said details of the Oct. 1 press conference were being finalized with Redford, but the agenda will address questions that have arisen over the course of the past year.
“We were aware of all the buzz about the project’s demise,” said Sundance spokesman Stephen Rivers. “There’s no question that we underestimated the start-up time to line up locations and secure leases. But we weren’t going to be rushed into making announcements prematurely.”
Redford officially revealed the joint venture during the summer of 1997. The broad strokes at that time suggested as many as 70 screens online by December 1998. The extended silence coupled with GCC’s recent business downturns and the shuttering of several sites in the West and southern U.S. cast a pall over the project’s viability.
While Sundance has been reluctant to issue official releases on its progress, several details have leaked in the past that indi-cated that cinemas will pop up in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago. Reports of an agreement to build on property adjacent to and owned by the U of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia prompted a rival exhib — that believed it had an agreement — to file a suit against the institution, which has yet to reach the courts.