Welcome to Miami, Landmark Theatres. After a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Coral Gables Mayor Jim Cason at the Shops of Merrick Park during a VIP preview reception Thursday, the anticipated grand opening the following day of the Landmark at Merrick Park had to be pushed back a week because of "technical issues."
OK, so there were still some wires hanging from the ceiling behind one table of wine and hors d'oeuvres at the new movie theater in the upscale mall. Still, the one theater house open for guests during a VIP preview featured an impressive taste of this comfortable, intimate, "high-end luxury cinema." Located in the space formerly occupied by Borders bookstore, the theater boasts plush leather seats that recline with the touch of an electric button and even prop up your feet.
Mabel Tam, the VP/head film buyer for Landmark, a chain that has 56 movie theaters in 27 markets across the Unites States, said she'll book movies at the theater from Los Angeles, where the chain is based. "We are always mindful about what an adult would want to see in a friendly, clean atmosphere. It could be something like Rogue One. It could be something a little more thoughtful, like Fences. It could be something like Julieta."
The new multiplex features assigned seating in seven screening rooms, all equipped with 4K digital projection. The largest theater seats 150 filmgoers, and the most intimate is a 25-seat screening room designed for private events.
The idea of Landmark is to cater to more adult tastes in cinema. Tam says the theater is programmed with that in mind. "Not to say that an adult wouldn't like watching Sing," she adds, pointing to herself.
With adult tastes in cinema come adult beverages. What truly makes this movie house different from others is apparent as soon as you walk in: an expansive bar in the lobby. Though the preview event featured catered big-brand beer and wine, Emilia Stefanczyk, Landmark Theatres senior regional publicist for the East Coast, shared a menu with everything from hot foods to craft beers. She also noted the bar will offer a full range of liquor and feature specialty cocktails and a wine selection that you can order by the bottle.
Though there is food that you would expect to find at a movie theater, such as nachos, much of it is not typical movie fare. In fact, you can choose to have carnitas added to your nachos. There are also naan flatbreads that offer twists on the regular pizza, including a Hawaiian with pork belly and jalapeños.
The opening programming so far seems safe and mainstream. (This Friday's opening is scheduled to coincide with the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One.) But Tam expects to tailor the theater's programming according to feedback from the audience. "With all of our theaters, you adapt,” she says. “Audiences do change. You test things out, you see what sticks, so I'm really looking forward to seeing this market and what it can do."
Given the fact that there are seven indie art houses spread across Miami-Dade — the closest ones to this location being the Tower Theater and the Coral Gables Art Cinema — some critics might say there is already a plethora of choices programmed by local film experts for grown-up moviegoers.
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"I don't want to say they're our competition,” Tam says. “We're not looking to take away from the Coral Gables Art Cinema. I think they're a wonderful theater. I think it's in a great area... We're not looking to take away. We're looking to supplement."
Tam says Miami's growing film market drew Landmark to build a movie theater at Merrick Park, the chain's first in Florida. She says of Miami: "It's a burgeoning art market. I think it's ripe. I think there's interest in finding upscale fare where you aren't able to find it. I know you have big multiplexes here, the Sunset, Aventura [both AMC Theatres], which offer everything under the sun. But to find those little smaller films, that's something we are trying to develop."
Tickets to movies at the theater will cost $12.50 for adults; $10.50 for military members, students, and seniors aged 62 or older; and $9 for children aged 12 or younger. You can also join a film club for early details about upcoming movies, free screening invitations, notifications of filmmaker appearances, and other events for the Landmark at Merrick Park. Visit filmclub.landmarktheatres.com.
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @HansMorgenstern.