Castleton and Key give way to Landmark

Paul F. P. Pogue

Construction at Keystone Art Cinema

In a few short weeks, the local art cinema scene experienced a complete reordering. The only Indianapolis art house is now Landmark's Keystone Art Cinema & Indie Lounge, a seven-screen cinema opening Friday in the Fashion Mall. Castleton Arts lost its lease at the end of November, and Indianapolis' other art house, Key Cinemas, shifted to a second-run house last weekend.

Management at Castleton Arts declined to comment, but Scott Grow, a Castleton Arts staff member for eight years, said that the theater had been on a month-to-month lease. And Simon Properties, who also own the Fashion Mall, exercised the option to cancel the lease at the end of November.

"I have no animosity towards Landmark as a company," Grow said. "They do a really good job of supporting art films. My issues all have to stem from Simon Properties, their general business tactics. We liked being family-friendly. We came to know a lot of our customers by name and face. It's strange to see that all disappear."

Ron Keedy, owner of Key Cinemas on the Southside, said he at first hoped to coexist with the new theater.

"Then I started calling the film companies to fill out my calendar for December and January, and they said, 'Well, we think we can make more money with Landmark, so we're doing it there instead,'" Keedy said. "I don't blame Landmark in the least. They're doing what they do. It's an attitude on the part of the film companies, and I can't blame them, either. They're just trying to maximize their grosses and they feel they can do that better on the Northside rather than the Southside."

Keedy is now back to where he was when he started the Key, showing second-run films and aiming to open another art cinema eventually.

"It's going to be in another part of town," Keedy said. "I'm not afraid to go head to head with Landmark. This is the wrong location for an art house."

Ray Price, Los Angeles-based vice president of marketing for Landmark, said Simon Properties contacted Landmark many months ago, looking for an art cinema for the Fashion Mall.

"When we were originally approached by the Simon group, they told us basically that Castleton was closing and that they were looking to replace it with a more modern structure," Price said. "It was a proactive thing on their part."

As for the local film scene's art house future, Price noted that several local organizations, such as the Heartland Film Festival, had expressed interest in working with Landmark for events. Keedy said he plans to continue his occasional showing of local films, with the next being The Mini Dec. 20.

All agreed that location is critical in the art cinema business, but it remains to be seen if the central Northside mall will be the ideal site for such fare.

"The majority of people I've talked to about it, especially the oldsters, said that for 14 years at Castleton Arts and six years here, we've been able to drive right to the front door," Keedy said. "We don't care about wine in the seats or the lounge or anything like that."

"Our clientele doesn't like large, expansive theaters where you have to walk a block to get from one theater to another," Grow said. "On another end, being the only other art theater in the city, people will go out to see the art films."

Price, however, said that he expects the location to open up a new client base.

"There's two components in the audience of any theater: There are the die-hard people, who will come no matter what, who will see a movie in a straight-back chair in a high school auditorium if they have to," Price said. "And there's the kind of audience who would like to, but they won't if it's not kind of nice. We'll see what happens in Indianapolis."

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