The Ritz Theatres, Center City’s beloved movie shrines, are on the brink of acquisition by Landmark Theatres. The nation’s premier chain devoted to indie and art films confirmed yesterday that it was in negotiations to buy the Philadelphia operations of the Ritz.
Although the pact is not final, Landmark may take ownership of the 12 screens at Society Hill’s Ritz Five, Ritz East, and Ritz at the Bourse as early as March 30. Those close to negotiations would not comment on a purchase price. Landmark would buy the Ritz Five at Second and Walnut outright and assume the leases on the two other locations. (The Ritz Sixteen in Voorhees is not part of the deal.)
“Of all the companies out there, Landmark is the best fit,” said Jay Ayrton, director of operations for the Ritz Theatres, one of the last locally owned arthouses outside California. He informed his managers of an impending change in ownership by memo Wednesday night. Because Landmark shows the same mix of movies as the Ritz, the movie menu is unlikely to change.
Landmark, one of the many companies owned by media mavericks Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban, operates 56 theaters in 22 markets including Boston, Los Angeles, New York and Washington. Like the Ritzes, the Landmark venues are meccas for movie geeks who become attached to the moviehouses where they experience their cinematic epiphanies. (Cuban is perhaps most visible as the owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.)
Since the Ritz Three (now the Five) opened in 1976, it has been as dear to the heart of local cinephiles as to distributors of “specialized” (i.e., art and independent) films.
Landmark would not comment as to whether the chain had plans to acquire or build any other theaters in the Philadelphia market. Nor would it answer questions about upgrading the Philadelphia theaters with amenities such as fine food and liquor that are planned for Landmark theaters in Los Angeles and Baltimore.