So Landmark Theatres, owners of the the three Ritz moviehouses in Society Hill, has put its 63 properties up on the auction block. (See second item). What does this mean for art films nationally and locally?
Media entrepreneur Mark Cuban, owner of the nation's premier chain for independent, art and foreign film, says he's just "testing the waters" to see if he can get his price for the Landmark properties.
It's a volatile time for movie exhibition. Viewing habits are changing. Netflix subscribers can see several movies a month for the price of one movie ticket in a theater (and also save on parking fees.) Cuban, who also owns Magnolia Pictures, likewise has tested the waters by making Magnolia films available on video-on-demand the same day and date that they arrive in his theaters. His competitors would say that this practice devalues the exclusivity of the big-screen experience.
Since it acquired the three Philadelphia Ritz properties in 2007, Landmark's ownership of the Ritz Theaters, originally built and programmed by the late Ramon Posel, has been mostly a blessing for local cineastes and movie geeks. On the upside, it retained the local managers and conviviality. On the downside, it programmed significantly fewer foreign-language films and used the Ritz at the Bourse as a venue for churning through titles that generally played only a week. Posel had the luxury of holding over a movie for a second and third and letting word of mouth do the job. (He also programmed far more foreign-language titles than Landmark has.)