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Documentary 'Only In Theaters' follows family-owned theater chain's bumpy road through seismic changes

The Seattle based owners of the Laemmle chain say art house theaters still have a future. #K5evening

SEATTLE — In their new hometown of Seattle, Tish and Greg Laemmle can walk around without constantly being asked what's playing, but as we learn in the documentary "Only In Theaters," in Los Angeles,  the Laemmle name is synonymous with art house movies.

For more than 80 years their family-owned chain of theaters has often been the only place to screen foreign and independent films. Moneymakers for years, movie theaters are now facing tumultuous times.

When we meet Greg Laemmle in the film it's 2019 and he's considering selling the theater chain that bears his family name.

"We're starting to see red ink on the books which is not something we've been used to," Laemmle said at his Ballard home. "And as detailed in the film we begin to looking at the possibility of selling a family business which had been around for 80 years and three generations."

At the time, streaming services are the biggest adversary and the Laemmles decide to hold onto the business. Then three months later, the pandemic strikes and the family must shut down its theaters for 13 months.

"It was awful and the best I could do was just try to be there for Greg," Tish Laemmle says.

"Only In Theaters" is the story of a family trying to survive a series of seismic shifts in their industry. Audiences will feel like they're going into battle with the likeable clan.

The Laemmles may live in Seattle but they still run the LA-based chain and both see a future for movie theatres that offer more than superheroes and sequels.

"The indie book stores are still around and the vinyl record stores are still around,' Greg Laemmle said. "If anything is going to survive with movie going it's going to be ultimately the indie movie theaters. It's going to take some time but I think we're coming back."

The Seattle International Film Festival screens "Only In Theaters" Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m. at the SIFF Cinema Uptown. Greg Laemmle will be there to take questions from the audience. The 11-day film fest runs through Sunday.

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