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Cinefamily Accountability
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Harkhams Change Plan for Cinefamily/Fairfax - Next Steps Unknown

Since early 2018, the Harkhams told a consistent story about their plan to convert Cinefamily into Fairfax Cinema: their public comments (to industry) broadly matched their official filings (to the city and state). Signs pointed to a renovation of the space, a rebranding as Fairfax, and a seeming expectation that the unfinished Cinefamily business would simply fall away and be forgotten:

  • Cinefamily/Fairfax leadership told film distributors that Fairfax Cinema would be open by 2018.

  • In April 2018, the Harkhams took on a quarter-million dollars in new debt for renovations. Sammy confirmed the loan in June 2018, but offered no further details, saying there would be a public announcement “soon.” It is not yet clear if the Harkhams’ financing agreement with Community Bank of Pasadena requires a specific timeline for completion.

  • Permits at the City Department of Building and Safety were filed throughout 2018 and into early 2019, indicating ongoing construction work. CA got a hold of draft floorplans, though a May 2019 DBS filing indicates further revisions. (At the time of writing, the DBS permit status is listed as “applicant returned to address corrections” on May 23, 2019.)

  • Food and alcohol joined the menu, as seen in filings with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the L.A. Planning Department.

There are signs, however, that the renovations and rebranding are not proceeding according to plan:

  • The Secretary of State’s website is missing a required Fairfax Cinema filing.

  • On social media, people assume the renovation project was abandoned.

  • The alcohol license application with the ABC remains on hold.

  • A Certificate of Occupancy was requested in December 2018; as of this writing, it remains open and pending.

  • CA had reported on Cinefamily being hit by more tax liens and another lawsuit. We now report that in late May 2019, the California Employment Development Department filed an additional $29,685 lien.

  • Ironically, although Cinefamily continues to exist, it has been suspended by both the Internal Revenue Service (never filed taxes for 2015, 2016, 2017) and the California Franchise Tax Board (liens).

Now comes word from the Harkhams’ former lobbyist, raising new questions about the viability of the project. Following recent reporting, the lobbyist writes to CA to explain that Dan and Sammy “had been considering a filing [for an alcohol permit]… but [the Harkhams] chose not to proceed.” She also reports that “I do not represent the Harkhams in any capacity at this time.” Industry-watchers increasingly mention alcohol sales as key to a theater’s attractiveness, as well as its profitability. It is not clear if or how this change of plans will affect the overall project.

Despite the lobbyist’s stated expectation that the Harkhams would provide additional detail to CA, neither Dan nor Sammy have not responded to requests for comment.