Reportedly, Amazon.com is one of multiple parties looking to acquire the Landmark theater chain from present owners Wagner/Cuban Cos., which is partially owned by billionaire Mark Cuban and Todd Wagner. These talks are in the early stages and things may eventually lead to nothing, but whoever acquires Landmark will gain 50 theaters, which specialize in independent and foreign films, in 27 markets, including New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
In addition to the highbrow film fare on display (don’t worry, they show popular movies too), the Landmark theaters are luxurious in their accommodations, with plush seating, coffee bars and… um, regular bars.
Owning their own theater chain would make things a lot easier for Amazon to show their original movies in order for them to qualify for the Academy Awards and other honors. As it stands, most theater chains refuse to carry a movie unless they are shown exclusively in theaters for a certain period of time. If a movie is slated to go to VOD or streaming too soon for their liking, theaters refuse to show it at all. In the past, Amazon has agreed to these terms and held off on offering certain movies on Amazon Prime in order to allow them to potentially qualify for these high honors.
While most Landmark theaters are now showing ‘Mission: Impossible – Fallout’ and ‘The Meg’, the majority of their screens are dedicated to more niche fare like ‘BlacKkKlansman’, ‘Eighth Grade’, ‘Blindspotting’ and ‘Cowboy Bepop: The Movie’. The Academy Award and other nominations are a mix of studio films and indies, but those prestige films hew closer to the Landmark norm that what is found at most multiplexes.
You may also remember that Amazon has offered special screenings to its Prime members for Sony’s ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’ and ‘Hotel Transylvania 3’, two weeks before their regular release. They also offered exclusive content for ‘Hotel Transylvania’ accessible through their Alexa device. This purchase could allow them to offer further deals in this manner.
Should Amazon acquire Landmark, it would mark the second major incursion of the e-commerce company into the realm of brick and mortar, following their purchase of Whole Foods last year.
This maneuver comes as the U.S. government is moving toward overturning the 70 year-old Paramount Decree which forbade film studios from owning theaters.
Netflix had previously looked into buying Landmark, for much the same reason, but appears to have backed off.