Landmark Theatres' Esquire Theatre is up for sale for $3.3 million
Denver’s historic Esquire Theatre is for sale, despite a lengthy renovation less than a year ago by its national theater-chain operators, who have not paid rent since April.
Commercial real estate firm Unique Properties this week advertised the building for $3.3 million, describing it as “a generational asset.” The building is owned by a family LLC known as Downing Street and leased by Landmark Theatres, which also operates the Mayan, Chez Artiste and Landmark Greenwood Village theaters in the metro area.
“Like many tenants in town, they have not paid rent since April and that’s the reason why the family decided to put it on the market,” said Tim Finholm, executive vice president at Unique Properties. “And taxes are like $31,000 a year and no one knows when (movie theaters) will reopen.”
While Landmark first acquired the lease to the 9,175-square-foot building in 1980, the theater has beckoned art-house devotees and midnight movie-goers along a busy stretch of East 6th Avenue in Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood for more than 90 years. The Landmark first opened in the fall of 1927 as the Hiawatha Theatre, with one screen and a balcony.
Landmark’s current lease expires in 2024, according to the real estate listing. Unique Properties advertises the building as having 25-foot high ceilings, 28 parking spaces, and a new roof and interior.
Landmark’s corporate PR office, which is closed until its theaters reopen, directed requests for comment to Landmark’s customer service headquarters in West Hollywood, Calif., which had not responded as of Thursday afternoon. Landmark was also still listing the Esquire as one of its theaters online as of Thursday.
There is a chance that Landmark could continue to operate the Esquire, provided they pay what they owe, Linholm said.
“If they choose to work out a lease and pay off the back rent, I think somebody would be more than happy to keep them over there,” he said.
That said, Linholm and his office have entertained multiple offers so far from investors and even neighborhood residents. The sale status, while not exactly surprising in mid-2020, is sure to come as a disappointment to the neighbors and film buffs who cheered its triumphant return last year.
In December 2018, an incident that Landmark would only confirm as “a utility outage” shuttered the theater for repairs, including those due to water damage. Landmark officials were tight-lipped about the closure as they promised a spring 2019 opening. When that date came and went, area neighbors took to social media and local news media to express their concerns about the potentially permanent closure of the Esquire.
On June 14, 2019, the Esquire reopened with numerous improvements, although Landmark declined to comment on the details, including the number and size of the “modern, comfortable seats” or other amenities that might contribute to the “improved theater-going experience” they touted publicly at the time.
Large exhibitors such as Regal, United Artists and AMC Theatres have in recent years cut their seating capacity at area theaters in favor of larger seats to compete with specialty chains like Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, as well as mobile and home viewing.
RELATED: AMC reopening a sixth of movie theaters nationwide, including some in Colorado
But it was apparently not to be for the Esquire in the age of coronavirus, where even massive exhibitors have struggled with stop-start government edicts and customer safety. On Thursday, AMC Theatres, the largest cinema chain in the world, announced that it would start to reopen Aug. 20 with more than 100 locations nationwide, including six in Colorado.
This is a developing story.
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