Amazon.com Inc. is reportedly working on a bid to acquire Landmark Theaters, the cinema chain that owns the Ritz cinemas in Philadelphia, as it continues to cultivate an offline presence designed to appeal to educated, affluent consumers with cash to spare.
Bloomberg reported on its website Wednesday that the Seattle-based e-commerce giant is one of the potential buyers in the running to acquire the theater chain from Wagner/Cuban Cos., which is backed by billionaires Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban. The business news site's reporting was based on unidentified people familiar with the situation.
Landmark, which specializes in independent and foreign films, counts Center City's Ritz Five, Ritz at the Bourse and Ritz East theaters among the 52 cinemas it owns in 27 markets nationwide, which also include New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Buying the chain would give Amazon another link to the upscale, urban demographic that it was already seen to be targeting with its $13.7 billion acquisition last year of high-end grocer Whole Foods, Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, said in an interview with the Inquirer and Daily News.
"When you're going to go into physical retail, it makes sense to get that elite aesthetic because the rest of the stuff you can buy online," she said. "The special, high-end stuff: That's when the physical place matters."
Having a theater chain in its arsenal, meanwhile, also would give Amazon an outlet for movies produced by its in-house film and television studio, which has turned out shows such as Transparent and Man in the High Castle for its Amazon Video streaming service, as well as wide-release movies including Manchester by the Sea.
"This is probably a move to get broader distribution of film content," Leo Kulp, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets LLC, told Bloomberg. "Netflix had been discussed as a potential buyer of Landmark for a similar reason."
Wagner/Cuban's potential sale of the chain is being worked on with investment bank Stephens Inc., Bloomberg reported, adding that no final decisions have been made, and talks could still fall apart.