First-run movies have returned to the former site of the Laemmle Playhouse 7, as Landmark Theatres, the California-based movie theater chain which signed a lease agreement to take over the Playhouse 7 movie theater venue in May of 2022, held its official grand opening Thursday evening.
The original Laemmle Playhouse 7 opened on February 5, 1999 with seating for 1,300 in seven separate theaters, and showing an eclectic mix of mainstream films and independent art films. It was built from the ground up by Laemmle Theatres, the Southern California family-run art house chain founded by Carl Laemmle in 1938.
“The Playhouse acquisition is important for Landmark, as we’re able to continue the tradition of showcasing quality film to Pasadena’s moviegoing community,” Landmark Theatres president Kevin Holloway said in a statement. “This theatre has a deep history, which we look forward to honoring and building upon in the years ahead.”
A series of financial maneuvers to prop up the pandemic-crippled Laemmle Playhouse 7 failed after Laemmle sold the 22,897 square-foot location to GD Realty Group of Los Angeles, owner and developer of urban commercial real estate in prime Southern California locations, including Pasadena.
On Thursday, the mood was ebullient as happy moviegoers packed the lobby before showings of “M3gan” or “A Man Called Otto.”
The renovated theater features online ticketing, oversized reclining seats, and a full restaurant and bar for patrons, and is also looking at more interactive film experiences, such as live Q&A sessions with noted and new filmmakers.
‘Whenever we open a location,” said Holloway Thursday, “We ask ourselves, ‘Is this a community where we can make an impact, a positive impact on the community, and Pasadena was really a no-brainer for us. We know that this is a community that is devoted to the arts, that values cinema and the cinematic experience, so we jumped at the opportunity to be a part of that, and to hopefully be able to serve the community for many years to come.”
Given Laemmle’s reputation for independent and diverse content and programming, at least one local film observer was thrilled with the opening of the new theater and its assurances of diverse film content.
Ross LaManna, chair of the graduate and undergraduate film program at Art Center said at the opening, “This is incredibly good news because after we lost the Arclight Theatre, which we would use for graduate film showings, now seeing these new theaters, with new projection and great seats, it completely restores our ability to see great movies here, in a great environment.”
For his part, Mayor Victor Gordo saw the new movie theatre opening as a parent and as the Mayor, saying that he was happy that his 15-year-old daughter and 17-year-old son would no longer have to be ferried “all over the San Gabriel Valley to see a movie.”
“They can come here and watch a movie and take advantage of all the nearby restaurants as well,” he said, “so I am very happy about that.”