April 14 2014 12:00 AM

Iconic theater will close its doors on April 27

Photo by Richard O. Barry
Flickr Creative Commons

Landmark Theatres' Ken Cinema is FIN. [Scroll down for the  most recent update].

According to the owners of the property housing the iconic Ken Cinema, Landmark Theatres recently gave its 30-day notice and won't be renewing its lease. The last scheduled day of showings at the Ken are April 27, and neighboring businesses say tentative plans include letting staffers curate the last few weeks' worth of movies.

Guy Hanford, who owns and operates Kensington Video, calls the closure a huge loss for San Diego. ---

"You know, they use the same original lettering on the marquee that they were using 50 years ago," said Hanford, who used to have a job cleaning the Ken in his younger days. "There's a lot of historic stuff in there that needs to be preserved, I think, in a museum. Maybe [the Museum of Photographic Arts] would display it? If a theater doesn't take the space over, I would hate to see this stuff end up in someone's garage. The public needs to see this history."

Landmark Theatres released the following statement:  

Landmark Theatres was not able to negotiate an acceptable new lease on the Ken with the landlord, even as Landmark is interested to continue to operate the theatre and make improvements by installing digital projection, which is the current industry standard.

Barry Green, a grandson of Ken Cinema's original owner / operator, Robert Berkun, and a member of the Berkun Trust, which still owns the building where the Ken is located, said Landmark Theatres requested a rent reduction when their long-term lease was set to expire months ago (he wasn't sure of the exact date). Green said his property-management company, Torrey Pines Property Management, likely denied the request, at which time Landmark Theatres went to a month-to-month lease. He didn't know any of the negotiation details since he doesn't deal directly with tenants and representatives at Torrey Pines Property Management have yet to return CityBeat's calls.

"They came to us and they wanted a reduction in rent," Green said. "They're paying a very modest rent as is. They said they were going to have to spend $80,000 on upgrading to digital so they wanted a reduction in rent to pay for that."

Landmark Theatre publicist Chris Principio said the theater was set to go digital and asked for a new two-year lease, but the property management company would only offer month-to-month. He denied Landmark asked for a rent reduction. 

"We were looking for a longer-term lease to accommodate the digital install and sound upgrade," he said. "This is the only condition we required. Their response was a shorter lease at month-to-month."

Barry's wife Tanya said she's focusing on the positive side of Landmark Theatres leaving. While Barry said he was shocked to see Landmark's recent letter announcing the end of their lease after more than 30 years in the space, Tanya wasn't as surprised.

"I just don't think Landmark has been very into it lately," she said. "It's kind of run down, and I'm not excited about the movies they've been playing. It could be so much more if someone put some TLC into it, so we're definitely looking for somebody who wants a really beautiful theater to show really great movies in."

Tanya said she's confident that someone will step up to take over the space and continue its legacy of screening foreign and independent films. "It could really be a wonderful thing continue to show really great old movies," she said.

When I shared the news of Ken Cinema's closure on Twitter and Facebook, folks were quick to share a few memories made inside the Ken, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2012 despite not actually being open for 100 years.  

"I met Ron Jeremy there," Claire Caraska said. "He autographed my 3D glasses."

Tyler Hewes said that a date at the Ken proved to him that his now-wife was "the one."

"I remember when my wife and I went on an early date to see The Muppet Movie there for a midnight showing, he wrote. "I knew then she was the one for me-willing to go out really late to a movie with puppets."

And Katy DeWinter's husband used the Ken to propose marriage. Perhaps the cutesy delivery was part of why she ultimately said 'yes.'



Good news, film fans; Landmark Theatres and the property owners have come to an agreement and Ken Cinema will continue. Here's the full press release: 

Landmark Theatres, Property Owners, Barry Green and Randi Kolender-Hock along with Torrey Pines Property Management President, Chip Crandall are happy to announce today that they have come to terms ensuring that the Ken Cinema will remain open for many years to come.


According to Ted Mundorff, President and CEO, Landmark Theatres, "the community spoke and we listened. Because of the outrage to the closing of this beloved theatre, it caused Landmark and the Berkun family to sit down and get it done."


In addition, Landmark is looking to implement several upgrades to the theatre including a new digital system and luxurious seating.


This weekend, the theatre has scheduled a special ‘thank you' celebration of their patrons favorite films including screenings of Seven Samurai, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Lawrence of Arabia, The Big Lebowski and Singin' in the Rain. "Now instead of a sad celebration, this weekend will be filled with smiles and gratitude", added Mundorff.


The Ken will reopen on May 2nd with a full schedule of showtimes.



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