The sale ends months of speculation about Landmark’s fate — the company has been shopped around for months, reportedly drawing interest from Amazon, Netflix, and Byron Allen. Cohen Media Group chairman Charles S. Cohen, a real estate developer whose fortune is estimated to be $3.4 billion, said he will retain the senior management team of Landmark Theatres.
In an interview with Variety, Landmark Theatres president and CEO Ted Mundorff said he was pleased that the sale had been resolved and also said he was optimistic that Cohen, a cinephile, was an ideal owner.
“It’s a great day for the industry,” said Mundorff. “You have a film lover who bought a theater company… and he’s going to keep the ship running the way it has been going.”
The deal was announced Tuesday by Wagner, Cuban, Mundorff, and Cohen, who formed Cohen Media Group in 2008 as an independent theatrical distribution and production company. He executive produced “Frozen River,” bought and remodeled the Quad Cities Cinema in New York City, and has acquired more than 700 classic films. He has made a point of restoring the films of Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, releasing remastered prints of “Howard’s End,” “Heat and Dust,” and other films. His holdings include Los Angeles’ Pacific Design Center, Design Center of the Americas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Decorative Center Houston.
Landmark, which operates 252 screens in 27 markets, has been owned by Wagner-Cuban’s 2929 Entertainment since 2003. Landmark describes itself as the nation’s largest specialized theater chain dedicated to independent cinema. At a time when major theater chains have barred movies from Netflix, Landmark has shown a willingness to exhibit content that premieres on streaming platforms or that avoids traditional theatrical release windows. It is showing “Roma,” for instance. Mundorff indicated that its approach will not change with new ownership.
“I think we’ll continue to curate the films the way we’ve been doing,” he said.
Key locations include the Landmark in Los Angeles and the Landmark at 57 West in New York City, which are often used to host award-season events and screenings, as well as the E Street Cinema and the Landmark Atlantic Plumbing Cinema in Washington D.C., the Landmark at Merrick Park in Coral Gables, Fla., the Landmark at Greenwood Village in Denver and revival specialist the Nuart in West Los Angeles.
Cohen Media Group also restores and re-releases classic films under the label Cohen Film Collection, which includes the Merchant Ivory collection and the Buster Keaton catalog. The company has also released a variety of films nominated for the best foreign language Academy Awards, including “Timbuktu,” “Mustang,” and 2017’s winner “The Salesman.”
Landmark noted Tuesday that it was the first chain to introduce non-conventional seating with the installation of couches and love seats, along with the first to employ DCP digital projectors. Wagner and Cuban bought the chain from Oaktree Capital in 2003.
Cohen said in a statement, “I have been in the arthouse business for a long time as both a distributor and a producer, and I know better than most, that these films need a special home and require the utmost care. Landmark is that home. I have long admired and respected the way Landmark has built and grown its business from the ground up and I love this area of the business.“
Mundorff told Variety he was friends with Cohen and had known him for years, making the transition an easier one.
“Charles is a great guy,” he said. “In this case the phrase ‘the devil you know’ isn’t applicable.”
Stephens Inc. served as exclusive financial adviser to Landmark in the transaction.