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» Cinematour Forum   » Cinemas in the News   » Mann exiting Westwood? Festival closes. Village and Bruin next?

   
Author Topic: Mann exiting Westwood? Festival closes. Village and Bruin next?
Mark Campbell
Member

Posts: 437
From: Seattle, WA
Registered: Oct 2004


 - posted August 01, 2009 10:21 PM      Profile for Mark Campbell   Email Mark Campbell         Edit/Delete Post 
Very sad. The Festival has closed and the LA Times reports that Mann intends to not renew its lease on the Village and Bruin theatres here:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-westwood-movies1-2009aug01,0,542882.story

Ironically I made a pilgrimage to see the new Harry Potter at the Chinese today. Will that be next?

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Adam Martin
Administrator

Posts: 1090
From: Dallas, TX
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted August 02, 2009 02:21 AM      Profile for Adam Martin   Author's Homepage   Email Adam Martin         Edit/Delete Post 
quote:
Theaters fading to black in Westwood

The Mann Festival is the latest to close as filmgoers continue migrating to multiplexes. Preservationists brace for the possible loss of the Mann Village and the Mann Bruin.

By Martha Groves
August 1, 2009

Moviegoers in the 1960s and '70s flocked to Westwood Village, where they had their pick of first-run films on nearly 20 screens. With parking scarce, patrons stashed their cars at the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard and took shuttles into the village. A-list celebrities turned out for frequent splashy openings.

The occasional premiere still brings red carpets and klieg lights, but the neighborhood near UCLA is no longer the movie hub it once was. Nearby multiplexes have lured away most of the crowds, who favor comfortable stadium seating, state-of-the-art sound systems and other modern amenities.

The closing Thursday night of the Mann Festival Theatre on Lindbrook Drive -- on top of last year's demolition of the Mann National Theatre and previous losses of the Mann Westwood 4 and Mann Plaza, among others -- is further indication that Westwood's movie culture appears in danger of fading to black.

Preservationists are also bracing for the potential loss of the village's two most architecturally distinctive theaters: the Village and Bruin, which date from the 1930s. Encino-based Mann Theatres has given notice that it intends not to renew its leases on the Broxton Avenue theaters -- one Spanish Mission style with the famed neon-lighted Fox tower, the other Art Moderne with a distinctive wraparound marquee. Both are city historic-cultural monuments.

The building owners say they are seeking new operators. Whether they will find them, given the tough economy and the challenges facing single-screen theaters, is far from certain.

"We've lost a staggering number of important theaters," said Ross Melnick, co-founder of the Cinema Treasures website. "The idea of the Village closing and being lost is nearly unfathomable."

Of all the theaters, many of them virtual museum pieces from another era, the Village, with its Fox tower, might loom the largest. Melnick described the spire as "an international signpost of Los Angeles and movies."

Katy MacQuoid, waiting in a long line near the Bruin for a fresh ice cream sandwich at Diddy Riese, had her first and last experience at the Mann Festival on Thursday night, when she and co-workers attended a private screening of "Funny People."

"In general, I prefer smaller neighborhood theaters to cineplexes, but the cineplexes are so much more convenient," conceded MacQuoid, 30, of Hermosa Beach.

Jolé Nguyen, 25, a freelance movie production assistant from Studio City, said she prefers multiplexes. "Even when I had friends at UCLA, we'd always go somewhere else that had bigger theaters, like the Grove or the iMax theaters at Universal or the Promenade," she said.

Oddly, that suggests that Westwood, envisioned as a village for students and residents, has been outdone by faux villages such as the Grove and Universal CityWalk, with their megaplexes and see-and-be-seen ambience.

Such patterns, particularly among younger theatergoers, explain why venues such as the Festival have become expendable. They also reflect the general economic malaise that has afflicted the village for years. Storefronts along Westwood Boulevard and side streets are filled with vacancy signs.

"[The Festival] was red ink on the Mann chain's books," said Marc Wanamaker, a historian who is writing a book about Westwood. "We're living right now in a catastrophe for theaters."

The Mann Festival was located in a former Ralphs grocery store -- listed on the National Register of Historic Places -- that opened in 1929 as one of the village's first six buildings. The theater had had many identities, including UA, UA Egyptian and Odeon Cinema. Opened in 1970, it featured a simplistic but comfortable auditorium -- not flashy enough for today's crowd.

Paul Colichman, a publisher and self-avowed theater geek who as a boy worked behind a movie theater candy counter, said ideally an investor would design a modern complex around the Village and Bruin, much like the Arclight Hollywood at the Cinerama Dome. At one point, he noted, Mann Theatres thought of putting a multiplex in a parking lot behind the Bruin.

Meanwhile, preservationists fret over the outlook for neighborhood theaters. Robert Bucksbaum, owner of the Majestic Crest on Westwood Boulevard, is struggling to keep the theater alive and has put it up for sale.

"It is very worrisome," Wanamaker said, "this slippery slope of one little one closing and finally people start looking at the Village and the Bruin, the holy grail ones. I don't know what the solution is."


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Christopher Crouch
Member

Posts: 292
From: Anaheim, CA
Registered: Feb 2006


 - posted August 02, 2009 04:16 AM      Profile for Christopher Crouch   Email Christopher Crouch         Edit/Delete Post 
I have little doubt the Village and Bruin will survive, as cinemas, after Mann departs. While they are no longer box office juggernauts, they remain high profile "showpieces" that will attract certain operators (i.e. there is a prestige factor involved). Additionally, their cultural/historical significance is well known enough to stave off redevelopement. This is even more the case with the Chinese. The greater risk comes with theatres like the Festival; cinemas that aren't as well known and/or appreciated by the public at large. Basically, to utilize a corny Hollywood analogy, the "stars" will survive, but we are in danger of losing many of the "character actors" that enrich the cinematic landscape in their own unique way.

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Bill Gabel
Member

Posts: 288
From: New York, NY
Registered: Feb 2003


 - posted August 03, 2009 04:01 PM      Profile for Bill Gabel           Edit/Delete Post 
Well lets hope the owners don't price the new leases out of the ballpark for another chain. Mann Theatres paid a pretty penny for the leases on the last round of renewals.

When Cineplex won the bidding war for the Odeon Theatre. The lease price for a year made it a theatre that could never make a profit for the chain.

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Brad Erickson
Member

Posts: 117
From: West Hollywood, CA
Registered: May 2006


 - posted August 04, 2009 02:27 PM      Profile for Brad Erickson   Email Brad Erickson         Edit/Delete Post 
The Village and Bruin have two things going against them.

The first is the nearby AMC 15 and LANDMARK 12 who have clearance to play the same films. With the blockbusters like Harry Potter available all three locations, the Village ends up third choice.

THE BIGGEST OBSTICLE is that Westwood Village is a complete drag. They have done nothing to entice the public to want to come there. The parking is still awful and Rents are still ridiculous. Retails have bailed and have chosen not to come into the village whatsoever because the lack of return. There are places that have been empty for a decade. It is not an enjoyable place to hangout any longer. When I go see a film at the Village and Bruin I time it so I can see the film and then leave.

Doubtful any chain will take these leases in this current economy, and with Westwood a mess. It would take someone with foresight to hope it will turn around at one point. But Westwood has no interest in becoming a mecca again and will probably just ended up as it has settled into.

We can only hope that the owners will offer a deal to Mann to keep operating them until perhaps they find a new lease holder. I'm not sure when the lease expires, but Mann was flexable with the National for a while and kept it open an additional 8 months.

I honestly think Mann is slowly closing shop. They are not renewing any leases and have cancelled plans for planned new multiplexes.

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