By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood April 19, 2011 at 10:41AM
Mogul Mark Cuban, 52, put indie chain Landmark Theatres and specialty distributor Magnolia Pictures up for sale more than a month ago via investment bank Moelis & Co. The first round of auction bids come in next week. The story was first reported by Bloomberg. "Business is great," wrote Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban in an e-mail. "We are just testing the waters. Lets see what market thinks it's worth, then we can decide what to do."
Founded in 1974, Landmark has 296 screens in 63 theatres in 17 states. While theaters are reporting a drop in box office of 20% so far this year, Landmark is up 8 % over last year, thanks to top-five performers The King's Speech, Black Swan, Jane Eyre, Blue Valentine and Win Win. New movie The Conspirator, from Robert Redford, is also doing strong business. Magnolia Pictures releases indie films in theaters (All Good Things, I Saw the Devil) and has led the way, along with IFC Films, on VOD releasing. The companies' owner, holding company 2929 Entertainment, which also owns HDNet cable channel and HDNet Movies, has a mixed record as a film producer.
I hear there is buyer interest in Landmark from potential investors. Cuban originally bought the theater chain from investor Oak Tree, which then acquired Sundance Cinemas. It's hard to imagine any of the other theater chains--AMC, Pacific, Rave, Cinemark or Regal--knowing what to do with Landmark, which gears itself to its own special audiences.
[UPDATE] Here is Carrie Rickey's take. She asks "What are your worries? What do you think of the Ritzes under Landmark's stewardship? What kind of offerings would you like to see at the theaters? Where are you watching art and alt films?