When will retro be more in style?
When it comes to classic movie theaters still standing, we certainly don’t have an embarrassment of riches. Sadly when I think of all the articles I edit about opening/closings, we have a disproportionate number of the latter. When it comes to the lucky survivors though, they often make it to the next chapter of their lives through the implementation of a mixed-use policy. A lot of old movie palaces exist today because they can offer live theatre and concerts as well as film. Where does that leave the great theaters built during the sound age that don’t have stages?
Maybe it’s the fact that people can’t identify with the style(certainly a simpler departure from the deep themes of the theaters built before them) and maybe it’s the lack of usage possibilities, but the postwar single-screeners seem to have been rapidly depleting even more so than their predecessors. There obviously weren’t as many single screens built after the war, but still. With some of the most key examples of the 60’s and 70’s like the Indian Hills Theater, Cine Capri or the UA Cinema 150 already gone, one wonders if any will be around in another ten years.
With the closing of the Mann National last night, Los Angeles might still have plenty of great theaters to rest on but an irreplaceable treasure has been lost. The special time-warped feeling anyone with a pulse would get from walking in there is something even the most thoughtfully produced theater today could not replicate.
I’ve yet to be able to get anyone on the phone at Mann to talk to me about it so we can only assume the obvious. The exclusive engagements are a thing of the past. With a new multiplex at Century City and plenty of options in Santa Monica, the average Westside moviegoer has been over-saturated and probably isn’t going to see the one movie playing at the National. For years, they haven’t even been getting the most high-profile pictures in the marketplace, but instead settling for family films/romantic comedies along with the Village and Bruin’s leftovers. With the intersection of Gayley and Lindbrook being one of the most visible in Westwood, the value of the land sure exceeds the receipts the National is bringing in on the average week.
I’m sure going to miss it though. What I like most about the style is how it’s so understated. I love lavish palaces with all the ornamentation but this 60’s/70’s style was clearly a product of its time(as opposed to alluding to another era). Theaters like the National really are living breathing objects of their decades.
What could be most tragic about its closing is what the theater came from. Here was a theater that 25 years ago was one of a handful showing “The Exorcist” in all of the United States. Now, barely an afterthought for most people living in a city built on movies. With premieres going down somewhere almost every night of the week, the National rarely gets one anymore.
Since the news of its closing came so recently, we can hope that maybe they’ll be another extension on its lease. Another chain or private investor could always pick it up. My money though is on the students of UCLA having a new place to buy affordable clothing at Old Navy Westwood, on Gayley and Lindrook. Only time will tell the next chapter for the vanishing treasures of the 60’s/70’s.
To those there for the final show last night, hope you cherished it as much as I did. Despite the fact that there was absolutely no fanfare courtesy of the theatre’s management, the theatre itself lived up to its legend with its booming sound and enormous picture. When the curtains fluttered shut for the last time, something majestic was left in the air.
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