United Artists Is Still a Name in Exhibition

The United Artists Theatre at the Ace Hotel in Los Angeles

Our salute to the 100th anniversary of United Artists continues.

For many veteran moviegoers, the name United Artists Theatres is just as familiar as that of the studio that produced so many Oscar-winning films. The separate exhibition company bearing the United Artists name was created in 1924 when Joseph Schenck joined UA as president and partnered with Mary Pickford and Charles Chaplin on the purchase and construction of a chain of movie theaters. In December 1927, United Artists Theatres unveiled its flagship in downtown Los Angeles, a Spanish Gothic movie palace featuring a huge mural depicting an array of Hollywood stars in costume, including Pickford and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks, and Gloria Swanson. The tallest privately owned structure in Los Angeles until 1956, the United Artists Theatre is today the Ace Hotel.

At the same time, United Artists Theatres also opened a palace in Detroit and a remodeled cinema in Chicago—the beginnings of a chain that continued to expand.

The UA chain was acquired in the late 1940s by San Francisco exhibitors Robert and Marshall Naify. The UA offices remained in San Francisco until 1988, when the circuit was bought by Tele-Communications Inc., who moved headquarters to Englewood, Colorado. That same year, UA Theatres acquired the Sameric chain of cinemas in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

In 1992, Tele-Communications sold the chain in a leveraged buyout deal with UA management, abetted by Merilll Lynch. In 2001, during a period of financial instability for the cinema business, United Artists Theatres declared bankruptcy, along with several other circuits. Investor Philip Anschutz combined UA’s assets with those of two other bankrupt chains, Regal Cinemas and Edwards Theatres, to form Regal Entertainment Group. Today, the United Artists name lives on at locations such as the Regal UA Berkeley 7 in California; the Regal UA Galaxy 14 in Indianapolis; the Regal UA Snowden Square Stadium 14 in Columbia, Maryland; and the Regal UA Sheepshead Bay Stadium 14 in Brooklyn, New York.

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