A sleek theater from Look Dine-In Cinemas opened this weekend in NYC (or reopened at the former Landmark) on West 57th Street. With wood, windows and well-stocked bar, it’s the face of exhibition that wants to grab moviegoers and keep them.
The look is midcentury modern. Each Look location — there are 12 — “is customized. But this is our design aesthetic. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but lot of it … looks like my home,” CEO Brian Schultz told Deadline. “I’m trying to really get a comfortable feeling. You have to sweat these details.”
The theater on the Hudson River in the Durst Organization’s Bjarke Ingels-designed Via 57 West building opens with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3; Super Mario Bros.; Evil Dead Rise; Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret; Love Again; and Polite Society on the marquee. Schultz, founder and former CEO of Studio Movie Grill, aims for films that hit families and the dating crowd, teenagers and seniors. “Then I feel like we’re doing our job, because we’re really servicing the entire community.”
The chain does well with mid-budget films, he said, and he’s looking foward to the return of R-rated comedies (i.e. Universal’s talking, cursing dog movie Strays, previewed at CinemaCon.) “I mean, that’s been missing forever.”
The box office for franchise wide-releases are rebounding. Schultz predicts the slower-to-recover indie market will revive but could “take a little bit longer, maybe because we’re out of the habit. And it takes a few hits. You come back. And then the big question [for any size film], which is my major concern, is what’s the experience that you have when you do?” Look will play indie films, but isn’t an arthouse chain. Independent distributors have been challenged by an ongoing post-Covid trend of arthouse and arthouse-y chains dedicating many screens to wide releases.
The seven auditoriums at West 57th Street, which range in size from 180 sets to 25 for private events, have laser projection, wall-to-wall oversize screens, digital surround sound, luxury recliners and mobile ordering.
Schultz started out in politics as assistant to the late Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter but became entranced at a theater in Dallas while out on the campaign trail in the early 1990s. “Draft beer, bucket seats with a table and frozen chicken tenders. And I literally just fell in love with it. A one-screen, old kind of dumpy theater. The projection was terrible. But it just kind of got my imagination going.” He found a backer and another old Dallas theater and launched Studio Movie Grill. The chain filed for Chapter 11 during Covid (it’s since emerged) and Schultz moved on to start Look Dine-In Cinemas in 2021. It’s got locations in LA (Glendale, Downey, Redlands, Monrovia) and Dallas, Georgia and Arizona and another New York theater in Dobbs Ferry in Westchester County. Reston, Virginia is next, then Riverside, CA. “I select the locations based on areas that really need a good theater,” Schultz said.
Effective exhibitor marketing is also key, and new. The industry talked about it for years, he said, but didn’t have great tools. “We were forced to develop them during Covid. After all these years, we didn’t really have that last mile of how to really talk to our guests. And now we do. We’re not sending Mario Bros. to the people who are going to Beau Is Afraid. It’s a totally different customer.”
New specialty openings: There’s been a rush in recent weeks, fewer this weeked, the widest being cross-cultural romatic comedy What’s Love Got To Do With It? from Shout Studios on 560 screens, mix of arthouse and commercial. The distributor’s widest release yet is directed by Shekar Kapu and written by Jemima Khan. It stars Lily James as Zoe, a documentary filmmaker who’s found that swiping right only delivers an endless stream of Mr. Wrongs — to the dismay of her mother, played by Emma Thompson. Zoe’s childhood friend and neighbor Kaz (Shazad Latif) follows his parents’ example and opts for an arranged marriage to a bright and beautiful bride from Pakistan. As Zoe films his hopeful journey from London to Lahore to marry a stranger, chosen by his parents, she begins to wonder if she might have something learn.
Cohen Media Group presents documentary Slava Ukraini on six screens/six markets. From Bernard-Henri Lévy, co-directed with Marc Roussel. The French intellectual known as BHL is of the leaders of the Nouveaux Philosophes (New Philosophers) movement and made the film as an ode to the people and armed forces of Ukraine and call to action for the West’s continued support. He takes viewers to the heart of the conflict through a war diary made during the second half of 2022. From Kharkiv, in the Donbass, to Kherson, in the aftermath of the city’s liberation, this documentary bears witness to the ravages of war through the testimonies of soldiers, chronicles of the front and portraits of civilians.
Kino Lorber opens Chile ’76 on two screens this weekend, Film at Lincoln Center and the IFC Center. Directed by Manuela Martelli. Set during the early days of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship, it builds from quiet character study to gripping suspense thriller as it explores one woman’s precarious flirtation with political engagement. Carmen (Aline Kuppenheim) leads a sheltered upper middle class existence, supervising her summer house renovation while also performing local charitable works through her church. When the family priest asks her to take care of an injured young man he has been sheltering in secret, Carmen is inadvertently drawn into the world of the Chilean political opposition and must face real-world threats with potentially disastrous consequences. With Nicolas Sepulveda, Hugo Medina, Alejandro Goic.
Greenwhich Entertainment presents The Melt Goes on Forever: The Art & Times of David Hammons at Film Forum, adding LA in a few weeks, directed by Judd Tully and Harold Crooks. In the late ‘60s to mid-‘70s, Hammons captivated the art world with his body prints (using his naked body as a printing plate in meditations on African-American existence), and later works including a snowball-selling performance in the East Village and sculptures made of hair collected from Harlem barbers — all the while sharply defying establishment categories and rules of commerce. An unconventional chronicle of Hammons’s life and work (now 79, he believes “the less they know about me the better”), the doc captures his spirit and conceptual integrity, using archival footage and interviews, dynamic animation and sound art and candid accounts by eminent artists curators and critics (Betye Saar, Suzanne Jackson, Henry Taylor, Lorna Simpson, among others).
The Eight Mountains from Sideshow/Janus Films expands, as does R.M.N from IFC Films.