Eat, drink and watch ‘Star Wars’ in luxury. New theater opens in Coral Gables

Architectural rendering of the lobby area at Landmark Theaters at Merrick Park, which opens for business Friday Dec. 9.
Architectural rendering of the lobby area at Landmark Theaters at Merrick Park, which opens for business Friday Dec. 9.

UPDATE: The opening has been delayed a week, until Dec. 16.

Starting Friday, you’ll be able to cap off a day of holiday gift-buying and dining at The Shops at Merrick Park with a movie.

Landmark Theatres will open the doors to its new seven-screen luxury multiplex, which occupies 25,000 square feet adjacent to Neiman Marcus on the third floor of the open-air mall in Coral Gables just north of U.S. 1. Landmark will be the first mainstream movie theater operating in Coral Gables since the Riviera Cinema closed in 1999.

Opening weekend offerings at the Landmark include the Jennifer Aniston/Jason Bateman comedy “Office Christmas Party” and the Jessica Chastain drama “Miss Sloane.”

Coming soon are “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” and “Fences,” a film adaptation of August Wilson’s play about race relations in 1950s America, starring and directed by Denzel Washington. Online ticketing and prices are expected to be available online on Thursday afternoon here.

“With Miami being among the top film markets in the nation, we are most excited to open our doors in Coral Gables this month,” said Ted Mundorff, president and CEO of Landmark Theatres. “Our hope is that The Landmark at Merrick Park will further enhance the region’s well-earned reputation as an arts and cultural destination.”

Landmark Theatres operates 268 screens at 56 locations in the U.S. Mundorff says the Merrick Park venue will offer a “smart mix” of mainstream Hollywood releases and art film programming. Merrick Park is located at 358 San Lorenzo Ave., just north of the intersection of U.S. 1 and LeJeune Rd.

The auditoriums are small, ranging in capacity from 47 to 100 seats, but will offer state-of-the-art laser projection and Dolby 7.1 sound. The multiplex will offer high-end amenities such as reclining leather chairs, online reserved seating, a full bar menu and fancy concession fare.

The Landmark at Merrick Park is opening during a boom in South Florida moviegoing, with five stand-alone art house theaters currently operating in Miami Dade. The Coral Gables Art Cinema, which is located a mile and a half away from Merrick Park, regularly outgrosses multiplexes with their bookings of non-exclusive titles. The theater’s run of Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society” this summer sold a total of $41, 593 in admissions, compared with $36,455 for the AMC Aventura, $25,649 for Regal South Beach and $17,676 for the AMC Sunset Place.

Because Landmark at Merrick Park and the Coral Gables Art Cinema both sit on city-owned land, the Coral Gables City Commission required Landmark to agree not to demand exclusivity from distributors, so both theaters will be able to show the same films.

Neal Block, head of distribution for Magnolia Pictures, which released the South Korean thriller “The Handmaiden” and the documentary “Author: The JT Leroy Story,” says Landmark’s seven-screen addition to Miami’s exhibition landscape will help smaller films hang around longer than just a couple of weeks.

“Miami is an unusual market for specialized film,” he said. “It’s full of neighborhood theaters that offer great programming but few screens. A smaller title can find a home at the O Cinemas, or at the Gables, or at the Cosford Cinema, or at Miami Beach Cinematheque. But staying on screen for a month is a tough task when a theater has just one or two screens. Landmark will be able to offer longer runs for films that need them. That’ll be a significant benefit to distribution in a market that occasionally can be frustrating to navigate.”

Among the movies playing at Landmark Theatres around the U.S. are smaller titles such as the celebrated black-and-white horror film “The Eyes of My Mother,” the Oscar-shortlisted documentary “Tower” and director Pablo Larrain’s critically-acclaimed drama “Jackie.”

Mark Boxer, senior VP of sales and distribution for IFC Films, says Landmark’s tradition of making room for art films as well as “Star Wars” will further strengthen Miami’s standing as a market place for smaller movies.

“The arthouse market has been improving in Miami, but with the addition of The Landmark at Merrick Park we should see this improvement accelerate substantially given their commitment to supporting top flight specialized product,” he said.