Cecchi Gori F.A. Cinema

8556 Wilshire Boulevard,
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 31, 2014 at 4:59 pm

A City of Beverly Hills Cultural Heritage Commission report on the theater (PDF here) says that Fox West Coast Theatres took over the Regina Theatre in 1948, and renamed it the Fox Fine Arts Theatre. The house was still owned by Fox when I first became aware of it in the early 1960s, but I don’t recall it being listed as the Fox Fine Arts by that time. It’s called simply the Fine Arts in the earliest newspaper listing I have for it, which is from February 10, 1971.

Also, the report has a couple of photos (badly copied) from ca. 1948-1950, and the name Fox does not appear on the marquee, and if it was on the vertical sign it isn’t discernible in the photocopies. I don’t know if the house was actually called the Fox Fine Arts for a while, or if the Fox name just got attached to it in people’s memories.

In any case, the theater was designated a city landmark earlier this year. It’s too bad Beverly Hills wasn’t so eager to landmark theater buildings when the Beverly and the Warner were still standing.

Homeboy
Homeboy on November 15, 2012 at 1:29 pm

The following article appeared in the November 13, 2012 issue of the Los Angeles Times:

“Historic Theater in Beverly Hills an Empty Shell”

The renowned designer had a mission: to “transform this Wilshire Boulevard cracker box into a sumptuous palace.”

So Joseph J. Musil ordered up red velour seats, gold sconces, a sunburst ceiling and a lobby carpeted in crimson for the 1993 renovation of the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills. Shimmery black curtains swept back to reveal the giant screen. The place thrived as a venue for small premieres, drawing A-listers on any given night and plaudits from nearby residents.

But it wasn’t enough. Unable to stay afloat, the Fine Arts closed in 2009. An Indian company’s plan to reopen it to screen Bollywood films fell through. The theater became an empty shell.

And so it remains. Some supporters worry that the Fine Arts will never function as a theater again. Back on the market for $4 million, the Fine Arts is at the mercy of an era and economy that make a tiny, one-screen movie theater a risky investment. And while former patrons view the theater with nostalgia, and a few prospective buyers have made inquiries, no investors have stepped up. Historic as the theater is, it is not quite a landmark.

“It’s a big shame, but you know, it’s a change in the entertainment system,” said Brian Dunne of NAI Capital, who has the listing. “People are going to the big multiplexes with food courts and parking. They want it to be more of a social experience. I don’t mean to say this is a dinosaur going nowhere. This place has a lot of charms. We need somebody who wants to keep its tradition alive.”

That tradition dates to 1936, when it was built. Named the Regina Theater, it would go on to generate a wealth of lore. Actor Peter Lorre once stopped in to catch a showing of “M,” the German film that kick-started his career. He fell asleep.

In 1948 it was renamed the Fine Arts Theater and hosted the premiere of “The Red Shoes.” Invited guests included Susan Hayward, Joan Crawford, Ava Gardner and Shirley Temple.

Vittorio Cecchi Gori’s film production company bought the theater in the early 1990s and spearheaded the Musil renovation. Cecchi Gori’s 1997 production “Life Is Beautiful” went on to win several Oscars. Its director and star, Roberto Benigni, arrived one day at the Fine Arts to practice crawling over theater seats, a move he repeated the following evening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion when accepting his best actor award.

Known as a low-key place that showed foreign films or indie flicks, the Fine Arts attracted cinephiles and celebrities.

Casey Rocke, who worked as the theater’s manager and film projectionist, recalled the days when Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft arrived on double dates with Carl and Estelle Reiner. An employee once jokingly carded Charlton Heston for the senior discount. Even Hollywood’s younger generation made their way to the ticket booth. Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio were both good-humored during its pre-credit card days, dashing to an ATM across the street.

“We had a solid audience and always booked something no one else had,” Rocke, 34, said. “The theater didn’t make a killing, but it didn’t lose money.”

At one point Landmark Theatres was operating the place; then Cecchi Gori rented it out as a screening room. The current owner, Bhupendra Kumar Modi, who lives in Singapore and has a home in Beverly Hills, is selling the Fine Arts after deciding its operation didn’t fit his company’s business plan.

City officials and staff have spoken in favor of keeping the site a cinema. Michele McGrath, senior planner for Beverly Hills, said city officials have been looking at how to invigorate the neighborhood and have even talked of creating a theater district.

“I think the city cares about theaters in general — they’re part of our cultural heritage,” she said.

Area residents say they have felt the loss. But most see it simply as a sign of the times.

“It seemed like it was part of our neighborhood and that we had a stake in it,” said Brenda Castiel, who has lived within walking distance of the theater for two decades. “I would love for it to remain a theater, but I imagine it’s not economically viable.”

Across from a gas station and an auto repair shop just west of La Cienega Boulevard, the theater is easy to miss on traffic-clogged Wilshire Boulevard. Display cases that once held movie posters are empty and the marquee blank.

Inside, boxes of Red Vines and Junior Mints still linger at the concession stand. A purple couch fringed in gold awaits a visitor. Although the entry shows some wear and tear, the auditorium, with its rows of plush seats and gold and silver decor, still exudes glamour. It is in need of a ruler but remains the sumptuous palace Musil envisioned.

almaruiz250
almaruiz250 on June 28, 2012 at 2:59 pm

Mr. Dunne, we at The Museum of Contemporary Art, are looking for a closed theater in Beverly Hills or Hollywood as a potential exhibition site. Do you have a phone number where I can reach you? Best, Alma Ruiz, Senior Curator, MOCA, 213621-1746.

brianmdunne
brianmdunne on May 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm

I am a real estate broker seeking a buyer or a joint venture partner for the Beverly Hills Fine Arts Theater. Please contact me if there is an interest.

Joel71
Joel71 on June 1, 2011 at 9:51 pm

I did a little research and found out the Cecchi Gori Group sold the Fine Arts to Ferncrest International, INC. back in September 2010. Anybody know what Ferncrest International is? The theatre still looks closed.

Also, found this video of the 1993 restoration on the youtube…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tF909MwgKOI

Dublinboyo
Dublinboyo on January 28, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Will always remember sitting in a packed house to see “Das Boot” in 1981. Was a lovely little theater.

markinthedark
markinthedark on December 9, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Sad. Was a great theatre.

shatter
shatter on December 9, 2010 at 1:38 pm

this kills me. I live a block away and would love to go to this great theater for a film. I used to love coming here when I lived in Santa Monica. oh well…

RevDORK
RevDORK on September 30, 2010 at 8:21 am

It’s back on the market after Cecchi Gori decided it didn’t want to invest the money to get the theatre running on a full-time basis. I was working on a booking/advertising deal with Laemmle when the plug was pulled. I put up the marquee in the last picture.

There was enough money to redo the lobby, just not enough for projection or concession equipment. Or advertising, or booking, or ticketing stations, or a staff, or parking or anything that would help me get the theatre running. But the lobby… looks great.

So, for a record 3rd time, I’m no longer the manager of the Fine Arts.

If anybody needs a theatre manager/ projectionist with 11 years experience, I can be reached at

MagicLantern
MagicLantern on July 22, 2010 at 6:11 am

So what’s the latest, RevDORK?

William
William on May 6, 2010 at 5:15 pm

works now. Nice shot

monika
monika on May 6, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Oops! This should work:
View link

William
William on May 6, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Your link is coming in as Private page on flickr.

monika
monika on May 6, 2010 at 3:36 pm

Here is a photograph I took of the Fine Arts in March 2010:
View link

RevDORK
RevDORK on December 10, 2009 at 3:49 pm

Howard, thanks for the help.

Simon, no Joseph Musil wasn’t hired for the recent renovations. They were fairly minor touches to get the theatre back in working condition after the last tenant. We are planning a major renovation in the near future and will contact him.

Simon Overton
Simon Overton on December 10, 2009 at 1:08 am

Has theater designer JOSEPH MUSIL, who was previously involved in the Fine Arts renovation, been hired with this recent renovation?

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on December 9, 2009 at 6:07 pm

Rev, your name request makes sense to me, and I’ve sent it in to the right person. Within 24 hours, it will likely get done unless a problem emerges.

RevDORK
RevDORK on December 9, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Joe Vogel, great link! I have an article from when the theatre opened in 1937 and photos from a premiere in the 1950’s. I got them from the Beverly Hills libray a while back. I hope to get them up on the web soon.

RevDORK
RevDORK on December 9, 2009 at 5:42 pm

Mark, It’s Cecchi Gori.

Can I have the name at the top of the page read “Cecchi Gori Fine Arts Theatre”? Just like it used to be. I need to talk to our website guy about changing it on the CecchiGoriUSA.com website.

Thanks.

DonSolosan
DonSolosan on December 9, 2009 at 2:04 pm

There is an “h” in Cecchi Gori, please take another look at the link posted on Dec 4 2009; the mistake at the top of the page is an additional “h.” “Checchi” is wrong.

HowardBHaas
HowardBHaas on December 9, 2009 at 8:30 am

All the website links above have an “h” as do my own notes from attending a movie in 1998. Is there a photo link or other link that you can point to that didn’t have the “h” for this cinema?

meheuck
meheuck on December 9, 2009 at 1:45 am

There is no “h” in Cecci Gori (though it is pronounced with one) – the spelling should be corrected.

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on December 8, 2009 at 4:47 am

Boxoffice of September 24, 1938, had a small photo showing the marquee of the Regina Theatre, looking much as it does now. The accompanying article is about a trend of creature-feature double bills the Regina set off when they booked “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” for a three-day run and ended up holding it over for four weeks.

RevDORK
RevDORK on December 4, 2009 at 8:37 pm

The link Lost Memory put up is for the former tenant of the building. The closet thing we have to a website right now is this page and http://www.CecchiGoriUSA.com . We’re working on a bright shiny website in the near future.

Anybody interested in being our booker or want to rent the theatre for a event/screening, drop me an e-mail and I’ll get back to you.

Thanks.

RevDORK
RevDORK on November 16, 2009 at 4:24 pm

I can be reached at