Landmark Decision

Pipers Alley is holding fast at $8.50, the Fine Arts is $8.25, and the Music Box is only $8. But when the Landmark Theatres multiplex opens March 24 at the top of Century Shopping Centre, it will become the city’s first art house to charge $9 for a first-run feature. (City North 14, General Cinemas’ new mainstream multiplex at 2600 N. Western, broke the city’s $9 barrier when it opened last December.) Los Angeles-based Landmark Theatres Corporation is betting that its well-appointed facility can get away with the higher ticket price. According to Brian Ross, general manager of the new multiplex, the seven screening rooms will range in size from just over 100 to 275 seats and will feature stadium seating, rocking seats, and Dolby sound. Concession stand offerings will include hot dogs, ice cream, and fresh-baked pastries. A box office on the ground floor will allow patrons to purchase tickets ahead of show time without ascending to the theater, and two new escalators will lead from the mall’s atrium to a second box office in the theater’s fourth-floor lobby.

The debut of the new multiplex, located midway between the Music Box and Pipers Alley, is sure to initiate a slugfest for the dollars of north-side cinephiles. Unlike the Music Box, which is programmed in-house, the Landmark theaters will be booked from Los Angeles, but according to Cary Jones, Landmark’s vice president of marketing, they’ll go head-to-head with their nearby competitors, offering some of the same features on the same weekends. Jones says the majority of Landmark’s 155 screens across the country are devoted to art movies rather than mainstream films, though he admitted that the dividing line is becoming thinner all the time. “Would you call Shakespeare in Love an art-house picture or a commercial film?” he asks. Over the next year the circuit is planning an aggressive expansion that will increase its number of screens to nearly 200. This summer Landmark will open a new multiplex in Highland Park, though Jones says ticket prices for that facility have yet to be determined.

It’s a Small World After All

Robert Fitzpatrick, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, came to Chicago after serving as the first president and CEO of EuroDisney in Paris. Now Hubbard Street Dance Chicago has replaced retiring director Lou Conte with 42-year-old James F. Vincent, director of corporate entertainment and special events for the theme park, now called Disneyland Paris. Vincent has lived in Europe for more than two decades and speaks four languages; his 20-person team at Disneyland Paris oversees creative concepts, music, choreography, and special effects for a variety of corporate presentations. And Columbia College is considering yet another Disney alumnus to replace retiring president John B. Duff in September. Warrick Carter, who would be the college’s first African-American president, is currently director of entertainment arts for Walt Disney Entertainment. He has a PhD in music education, and his connections to the entertainment industry would be a big plus for the arts-oriented school. The other favored candidate, Catherine A. Davy, would be the college’s first female president; she’s now senior vice president and provost at Adelphi University in New York. Carter and Davy have each visited the campus, and the board of directors will choose between them in about a month.

The Royal George’s Suitors

New York producer Mitchell Maxwell sent a representative to Chicago last week to inspect the Royal George Theatre Center, which he might buy from Alan Schuster and Reading Entertainment Group. But Victory Gardens Theater has also requested financial data about the complex. A source familiar with developments says that some members of the theater’s board of directors want to compete more aggressively with high-profile companies like Steppenwolf by moving from the Victory Gardens facility near Lincoln and Webster to a larger space. A Victory Gardens staffer confirms the company’s interest in the Royal George but doubts it will be able to beat Maxwell to the punch. Meanwhile, Maxwell is thinking about mounting his off-Broadway hit, Donald Margulies’s Dinner With Friends, as a coproduction with the nonprofit Northlight Theatre. The play would premiere this fall at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie and then transfer to the Royal George as a commercial production presented by Maxwell. Sources at Northlight say it’s lost interest in producing commercial runs since its production of Visiting Mr. Green performed poorly at the Royal George last year.

The Fox Food Chain

Clear Channel Communications, Inc., a San Antonio company that owns scores of radio and television stations across the nation, last week bought out SFX Entertainment, Inc., which owns the Oriental Theatre and co-owns the Cadillac Palace Theatre with the Chicago-based Fox Theatricals. But SFX itself may be eyeing Fox Theatricals’ parent company, Fox Associates, which also owns the Fox Theatre in Saint Louis. Michael Leavitt, an executive producer at Fox Theatricals, confirms that SFX has approached Fox Associates in the past. And last month David Fay was axed as president of Fox Associates after 14 years with the company; Fox issued a terse press release saying “there were certain matters that Mr. Fay and the partners of Fox Associates could not agree upon, making it untenable to continue the association.” Harvey Harris, one of the controlling partners at Fox, declined to elaborate, but a source familiar with developments says that Fay had always opposed a buyout of Fox Associates by SFX.

Major League Salaries

The League of Chicago Theatres has downsized its ten-person staff by two to help make up an alleged embezzlement of at least $200,000. But according to the league’s Illinois 990 form, a financial statement submitted to the state’s attorney general by nonprofit organizations, in 1998 the salary of executive director Marj Halperin constituted a substantial percentage of the league’s operating budget. The latest statement on file, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1998, lists Halperin’s salary as $95,625, about 36 percent of the $261,080 allotted for management and general expenses. The next-highest-paid staffers were business manager Barb Netter at $42,500 and bookkeeper Shirley King at $32,161. (King left her job at the league in January.) Halperin negotiated a new three-year contract with the league a few weeks before the alleged embezzlement was discovered; neither she nor Kelly Leonard, president of the league’s board of directors, will disclose her current salary.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Nathan Mandell.