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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Ground Level   » Report: Netflix in talks to buy the Egyptian Theatre (Hollywood)

Author Topic: Report: Netflix in talks to buy the Egyptian Theatre (Hollywood)
Leo Enticknap
Film God

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From: Loma Linda, CA
Registered: Jul 2000

 - posted 04-09-2019 06:20 PM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Bloomberg
Netflix Is in Talks to Buy Historic Hollywood Theater

Netflix Inc. is in talks to acquire the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, according to a person familiar with the matter, potentially putting a historic Hollywood venue in the hands of the streaming giant.

The theater would be used to host industry screenings and premieres, and a purchase doesn’t signal that Netflix wants to get in the business of brick-and-mortar locations, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Netflix would acquire the Egyptian from American Cinematheque, a nonprofit that owns two theaters in the Los Angeles area.

Netflix has been deepening its ties with the movie industry. The company joined the major film studios as a member of the Motion Picture Association of America in January.

But Netflix hasn’t been entirely welcomed. It clashed with Hollywood traditionalists over how long award-caliber movies should play in theaters before going online -- an issue that divided the industry when “Roma” was nominated for a best-picture Oscar this year.

The Egyptian, located on Hollywood Boulevard, is steeped in Tinseltown history. It was built by Sid Grauman and hosted the first-ever movie premiere in 1922, a screening of “Robin Hood” starring Douglas Fairbanks. The Egyptian was also the site of Netflix’s Hollywood premiere for “Roma.”

Classic Films

American Cinematheque also owns the circa-1940 Aero theater in Santa Monica, California. They play classic movies such as “A Kiss Before Dying” and “Seven Samurai.”

Netflix has no plans to run the Egyptian like a commercial theater and won’t be selling tickets to casual moviegoers, according to the person familiar with the situation. The deal also doesn’t involve the Aero theater, the first person said.

The Netflix deal would help put the cash-strapped American Cinematheque on firmer footing, according to Deadline, which originally reported on the talks. That could put Netflix in a more favorable light with the film community ahead of a April 23 board of governors meeting of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

The group is expected to weigh rule changes that could require movies to play longer in theaters before streaming in homes -- an idea promoted by directors such as Steven Spielberg. That could be a problem for Netflix, which has only been giving its prestige movies a few weeks exclusively in theaters before showing them online.

This is a shock! That having been said, their only source is someone who wishes to remain anonymous: this, plus the fact that the story contains a significant factual error (the American Cinematheque doesn't own the Aero, they lease it, and as for "circa 1940," even a brief Google search would reveal that it opened in 1941), leads me to question how close the anonymous source actually is to all of this, and if (s)he has an agenda beyond straightforward news reporting.

That having been said, there is no doubt that the Egyptian faces tough times ahead, with the downtown Alamo and the new Academy museum both about to open theaters that will be pretty much direct competitors. The New Bev recently re-opened after a major revamp, and I hear reports that the ex-Cinefamily might be reopened, too.

But, given that the American Cinematheque's board members and prominent supporters are dominated by the traditional Hollywood bigwigs of the sort who have been making anti-Netflix noises recently, I wonder if, assuming that these talks are actually happening, this is actually a warning shot to the effect that something will need to be done about the "cash strapped" situation without Netflix's help, because this is the alternative.

My thoughts are with the people at the Cinematheque I used to work with: this must be an extremely worrying time for them.

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Mike Blakesley
Film God

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 - posted 04-09-2019 08:47 PM      Profile for Mike Blakesley   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Blakesley   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
That could put Netflix in a more favorable light with the film community ahead of a April 23 board of governors meeting of the Academy
Oh sure. Netflix: "Let's take .000001% of our money and buy one historic theater that is in financial trouble, that'll make the whole exhibition industry think we're swell!"

I doubt that's their whole strategy, but it's probably part of it. Anyone who thinks they're suddenly supporting the theatrical industry with this move (and others) is smokin' low-grade weed.

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Leo Enticknap
Film God

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From: Loma Linda, CA
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 - posted 04-10-2019 07:33 AM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I don't think Netflix's motivation for this is to put themselves in a favorable light with AMPAS. More likely, it's to sideline AMPAS. This whole article is a cut-and-paste job based on the rant of one anonymous leaker, and even the speculation that pads it out isn't properly thought through. Netflix wants to say to the Hollywood old guard: "We can buy up one of your most iconic, historic landmarks, and set up shop in it, only three minutes' walk from where you do the Oscars, and there's bugger all that you guys can do about it."

If it actually happens, it's more symbolic than anything else. The downside is all the American Cinematheque jobs that may be at risk, and that one of the last remaining theaters that regularly plays nitrate, 70mm, and other legacy media and formats might no longer do so, if Netflix only want to use the place as a showcase for their own productions. Several major festivals may have to look for new homes, Cinecon (the archival movie festival that takes place over Labor Day weekend, separate from Cinemacon) and the LA Greek fest being two that will be hit particularly hard.

Similar battles happened when TV money piled into Hollywood in the '60s, and new media/consumer electronics industry money in the '90s.

Still, at least the Scientologists didn't get the place. It was rumored that they were trying to, while I was working there.

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Marcel Birgelen
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I'm somewhat afraid Netflix is going to "embrace" the exhibition industry in their own approach, with a kind of poisonous sting.

Instead of opening up more of their releases to the exhibition industry, they might want to open more of those "Netflix theaters" on some key locations throughout the country and/or the world and showcase their exclusive new releases there...

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Daniel Schulz
Master Film Handler

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 - posted 04-10-2019 10:17 AM      Profile for Daniel Schulz   Author's Homepage   Email Daniel Schulz   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I've long thought Netflix should buy and refurbish the Hollywood Pacific. They could use it as a venue for their comedy specials. as well as having a space for premieres of their own films.

If they Egyptian rumor turns out to be true, I'll permit myself a little cautious optimism. The funds will do the Cinematheque good, and if the article is to be trusted the Cinematheque will retain use of the venue for their own programming.

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Scott Norwood
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From: Boston, MA. USA (1774.21 miles northeast of Dallas)
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 - posted 04-10-2019 11:55 AM      Profile for Scott Norwood   Author's Homepage   Email Scott Norwood   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I had a great time visiting the Egyptian in 2000 for the Technicolor festival. Aside from a few questionable architectural changes made in the renovation, it was a nice theatre. I haven't been back since, but I do pay attention to their programming, which is always impressive.

I don't really have an opinion as to whether Netflix would help or hurt the place, but it seems like an important venue with worthwhile programming, both of which I hope will continue to exist well into the future.

I have never been to the Aero, but the same comments apply.

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Terry Monohan
Master Film Handler

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 - posted 04-14-2019 09:28 AM      Profile for Terry Monohan   Email Terry Monohan   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Lets hope the Netflix people spend some money at the Egyptian Theatre Hollywood to fix the place up. With mold growing outside the inside needs some color lighting and curtains in front of the screen.
Another cinema they need to buy is the DelMar Theatre in Santa Cruz CA. Place needs curtains fixed and the neon worked on outside. Santa Cruz is a great tourist and college town plus the Netflix owners live nearby.

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Mike Spaeth
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Why would Netflix buy the DelMar in Santa Cruz? They aren't interested in brick and mortar theatre other than for having a home for Academy qualifications for their own product, which needs to be in Los Angeles County.

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Leo Enticknap
Film God

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From: Loma Linda, CA
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 - posted 07-23-2019 06:11 PM      Profile for Leo Enticknap   Author's Homepage   Email Leo Enticknap   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
It would appear that the proposed sale has aroused significant controversy.

quote: Esotouric (blog)
The press release, sent out by a firm not associated with the American Cinematheque, must have gone out first thing on April 9. Deadline broke the story at 9:06am, followed by The Hollywood Reporter (10:31am) and Variety (10:50am).

The articles painted a narrative of a win/win solution for a cash-strapped non-profit rescued by a deep-pocketed corporation. The only person named was Ted Sarandos, the American Cinematheque board member who had recused himself from voting on the sale, since he is also an executive at Netflix.

Because the only information about the proposed theatre sale has come from internal sources, with no independent reporting, the news raises many more questions than it answers.

We love the Egyptian Theatre and care deeply about its long history on Hollywood Boulevard, which since the 1990s has been entwined with the American Cinematheque. We’re are troubled that such a major change would be announced as all but a done deal, at a time when the American Cinematheque lacks an executive director (Barbara Smith retired late last year) to advocate for the non-profit’s mission.

And we’re hearing privately from many people in the film revival and historic preservation communities who are also concerned, and confused that, weeks after the proposed theatre sale was widely reported in the industry press, American Cinematheque members have yet to receive any explanation at all.

Perhaps Netflix really is uniquely positioned to help a treasured non-profit that is in dire straits. But before a landmark theatre that was gifted to the non-profit and the city by L.A.’s redevelopment agency is sold, the board owes American Cinematheque’s members and the community an open and honest conversation about how and why it’s come to this.

Questions for the American Cinematheque board:

1. What are the board’s reasons for considering a sale of the Egyptian Theatre?

2. When did the board begin to discuss selling the theatre, and what motions were put forward?

3. Have any alternatives to a property sale been explored?

4. Have any potential theatre buyers other than Netflix been approached?

5. Are costly improvements that were funded by donations, like the 2016 state-of-the-art enclosed nitrate-stock projection booth, being included in the proposed sale? If so, what are the potential tax ramifications to donors including The Film Foundation, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, TCM, and the Academy Film Archive? Have donors been notified?

6. What are the conditions of the Community Redevelopment Agency’s $1 sale of the Egyptian Theatre to the American Cinematheque, and is it actually legal to sell the theatre to anything other than a non-profit organization that shares its mission?*

7. Why has the non-profit failed to file its required tax forms dating back to 2015, resulting in a “Notice of Intent to Suspend or Revoke Registration” being issued in April 2018, and why is it currently listed on the State of California Attorney General’s website as “Delinquent”? What actions are being taken to resolve these issues?

8. Is the board conducting an active search for a new Executive Director, and if so what is the status of this effort?

So, what could possibly go wrong? Here are some things to consider:

• A new owner of the Egyptian Theatre could seek permits to do major interior improvements. While historic elements of the structure are protected under the city’s landmark ordinance, public access and use as a movie theatre are not protected. It could become a corporate media VIP lounge, restaurant, private club, nightclub, co-working space or even a private residence.

• The news stories based on the press release suggest there would be an agreement from Netflix to allow the American Cinemetheque to continue using the theatre on weekends. Even if entered into in good will, such an agreement could break down for many reasons. Netflix might sell the theatre to another entity. Rental costs might become too high. The owner might decide that other weekend uses are too profitable to miss.

• Assuming the weekend schedule did work out, the American Cinematheque would have to focus on more commercial programming during its limited screening times. Membership would certainly decline among patrons who frequent the Egyptian Theatre and enjoy less commercial programs. Without the caché of the flagship Hollywood Boulevard theatre and high profile Cinematheque-associated festivals, fundraising for the non-profit could become more difficult.

• The American Cinematheque has business relationships with independent festival programmers like TCM, Cinecon and Noir City and industry unions like the Art Directors Guild. Could these entities continue to book the theatre, for the necessary dates and at a reasonable cost, if it was sold to a corporation?

• There are a number of historic businesses in Hollywood that benefit from a symbiotic relationship with the American Cinematheque, and would see reduced revenues if the Egyptian Theatre ceased to be a repertory house. These include The Larry Edmunds Book Shop, Miceli’s and Musso & Frank.

• The American Cinematheque through its non-profit mission provides some of the most affordable and eclectic cultural programming in Hollywood, not just on Friday and Saturday nights, but all week long. This is highly valued by residents, visitors and the local businesses that they patronize.

• How many jobs would be lost if the theatre was sold and the American Cinematheque scaled back its programming?

• And finally, there’s the matter of the Egyptian Theatre’s loading dock. Access to the historic loading dock is currently threatened by potential redevelopment of the parking lots behind the theatre. Commercial developers interested in the space have expressed a willingness to design any project so that the loading dock remains functional, as a courtesy to a non-profit providing a treasured service to the community. Just down Hollywood Boulevard at the Fonda Theatre, that commercial entity is not getting such courteous treatment from the developer next door, and there’s no reason to think that Netflix would. Without access to its loading dock, the Egyptian Theatre would no longer be a viable performance space able to accommodate the type of productions that it has hosted since Sid Grauman opened the theatre in 1922. It would be effectively neutered.

We believe that the American Cinematheque board owes the community a transparent conversation about why such a drastic change in operation is being proposed for the non-profit. We call on them to halt discussions of selling the Egyptian Theatre until such a time that the community is better informed, and the concerns of membership and preservationists are heard. We’ve asked for a meeting with board member Ted Sarandos, who recused himself due to his Netflix ties, but have not heard back.

There was also a piece published in the LA Business Journal last Friday, further speculating whether the proposed sale is allowed under the deal reached between the City of LA and the Cinematheque that enabled the late 1990s repair and refurb of the Egyptian.

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