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I remember it well! When I was watching Solo last night at the Village Theater and they ran the THX trailer, I was just thinking back to those days when the crowd would burst into wild applause for THX! And, yes Happy birthday yesterday to Return of the Jedi, the original Star Wars, AND to THX!
3 days straight without a break? ;–) That’s a lot of overtime! But if you were brand new, they may literally have forgotten you! By the way, it’s the 41st anniversary of Star Wars, not the 42nd. Oops. My bad. Happy Empire Strikes Back’s 38th birthday today, May 21st. I saw that opening day at the Avco as well!
I will, by the way, be thinking about the Avco with it’s large screen this Friday when it will be the 42nd anniversary of the opening of Star Wars which I saw at the Avco on opening day. It’s nice that we actually have a new Star Wars film opening on that day this year to help commemorate the event!
Thanks, everyone! Plinfesty, I never really forgave them for twinning the main house. It took the Avco from being one of the very best screens in Westwood to be virtually irrelevant overnight. Anyway, it sounds like my quest to find a lookalike theater (mostly for the exterior) is probably not going to pan out but, due to other events, it looks like my need for such a theater has diminished anyway. But thanks everybody for the info!
Thanks OC and Dave! The reason I was asking is that I was wondering if there’s any building ANYWHERE that could double for the AVCO’s exterior back in it’s heyday. It doesn’t really sound like it but if anyone can think of any that look similar, I’d love to hear about it!
Hi Kravdude. I saw Star Wars there on opening day so maybe I saw you!
Hey everyone, it’s been awhile since we’ve had a post here but I’m wondering if anyone knows whether or not the GCC Avco Cinema Center in Westwood was a one of a kind structure or whether any other theaters were built with the same general design and look anywhere else in the country? Alas, my somewhat limited Google searches have not shed any light on this question.
I saw Rita at the Chinese a year or so ago. She looks pretty much precisely the same as she did 20 years ago! I knew Burt fairly well. When I was taking film classes at LACC, he used to always come to the screenings and used to rave about the films that my friends and I did. I’d always say Hi to him when I went to the movies in Westwood. Now, the Carl you’re talking about who passed away is not the manager who used to run Midnight movies at the Plaza, is it?
“The National and the Plaza and the Regent and the FourPlex and the Village and the Bruin.
All within WALKING DISTANCE….”
Not to mention the U.A. Westwood (turned to the U.A. Egyptian, turned to the Odeon Westwood, turned to the Mann Festival), the U.A. Cinema Ctr. (turned to the U.A. Westwood), the Avco, and the Crest! They may not have been Mann Theaters and they may have been mostly South of Wilshire but they were still withing walking distance and part of the vibrant Westwood movie scene!
(Former U.A. Asst. Mgr.)
It is indeed bizarre what’s happened to Westwood. Remember when there were four music stores there – Tower, The Wherehouse, Musicland, and Penny Lane? Now, zippo. Of course, some of that has to do with the changing nature of the music industry but there is practically no place in Westwood where I browse anymore except perhaps Aahs. Is Kevin Smith’s Secret Stash store still open? It always seemed to be closed when I was there!
Happy New Year!
I hope this isn’t a blame game but, yes, I agree that we who talk so much about wanting midnight shows are to blame if we didn’t show up and support them (which I had not as of yet but was planning to several times in the upcoming weeks.) I honestly wasn’t sure the whole thing was real (not being able to see any word of it in the paper or on the marquee) until it was too late to catch the Exorcist.
But, truth be told, while we could all vow to spread the word as much as possible (and I have and will continue to do so), the truth is that there aren’t anywhere NEAR enough people on this list to make this a money-making venture for the theater! The showings NEED to be listed in the papers, preferably as far ahead of time as possible and flyers at trendy spots and places where film enthusiasts might be would be a big help. I bet a lot of businesses in Westwood would post signs or give out flyers in exchange for some free admissions or some free return advertising. We used to do those sort of cross promotions at the U.A. Westwood all the time!
I hope it isn’t really too late but my advice would be to form a game plan before jumping back in. Come up with a strategy for getting the word out BEFORE you start running the films again! Also, as has been said, take advantage of the National’s uniqueness as one of the last single house movie palaces and book films that will really show the National off to it’s best advantage! Big spectacle movies are what suits the National and sci-fi and fantasy films always tend to have a loyal following. Any CHANCE of getting any of the Star Wars or Indiana Jones films in there? With proper advertising, those would definitely sell out!
I think your comments were right on target, Cliff. The National’s advantage over all the other screens that do revivial is that it is a theater WORTHY of playing big spectacle films! “The Exorcist” was a great choice but almost nobody knew it was playing!
I was surprised on your list, Cliff, that you didn’t put Terminator and Terminator 2 back to back, an obvious choice and a rare example of a great movie with a sequel that is, in many ways, even better.
My only question for you, Cliff, is – Howard the Duck has a large following? Really? I can’t remember the last time I heard anyone mention that film with anything other than contempt! Personally, while I never thought it was a great film, I never thought it was AS bad as it’s reputation made it out to be. But I haven’t seen it in 20 years! Labrynth was a much more satisfying Lucasfilm that year.
Speaking of films with bad reputations, are there any other Ishtar fans out there? I’ve never understood the rep this film got! It’s hilarious! I’ve had the opportunity to let both Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman know that I love the film. Beatty was appreciative but I think Hoffman thought I was making fun of him. Damn, I want an Ishtar soundtrack album!
This is a REAL shame about the Midnight shows! I actually had friends lined up who wanted to see Pulp Fiction and Resevoir Dogs (a film that I am IN!) in the next couple weeks!
I can totally understand that the films weren’t turning a profit. Very few people out there knew about them! Does anyone have any ideas for an effective way to market these shows? I believe that the audience exists for them if they can just be made aware that they’re happening! I’m sure it must have taken the Plaza a little bit of time anyway to start building up word of mouth about their Midnights in days of yore.
I guess I’m just saying that I hope SOMETHING can be done to salvage this idea! The National is so vastly superior to any of the other theaters in town that show Midnight movies! I sort of have the sense that this is something that Westwood really NEEDED without even knowing they needed it!
It’s tricky to get major blockbusters when all of your competitors have huge chains of theaters that they can use to negotiate better deals with the studios. I think Sicko is potentially quite a catch although I do see your point that, visually, it isn’t the sort of film that NEEDS a big screen like that National.
I think the real problem is still a lack of awareness that the National is open and running films and also not a lot of promotion out there. It was gratifying to see The National listed first in the Sicko ad in the Times but when I asked at the box office if people could order tickets over the phone, I was told by the cashier that he didn’t think so. In today’s market, this is a major handicap.
I’ll bet The Transformers looked great when they screened it there for the L.A. Film Festival!
I saw Sicko tonight and it was just as riveting as the first time. I was truly surprised to find only a couple of hundred people there but I hope that will grow as word gets out both on how good Sicko is and that the National’s reopened for business.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Armand tonight who was still reeling over serving Dianne Keaton! Keep up the great work, Armand!
By the way, William, when I last saw Rita she was managing at the Chinese Theater in Hollywood. That was about a year ago so I don’t know if she’s still there or not.
I ran into Barton outside the Village Theater on the opening night of Spiderman 3. He’s actually the one who told me that the National was about to re-open although he also told me that he thought they would get Pirates 3. If that had happened, I would actually have seen it IN WESTWOOD!
Hi Armand. You DEFINITELY need to get some serious publicity out on your Midnight shows! If not for this list, I would NEVER have had a clue about The Exorcist showing! I drove by the theater Thursday and couldn’t see anything about it in the box office although on Saturday I noticed the TINY little paper ad you had in your window at the far end of the box office. There’s also no mention in the L.A. Times about your midnight shows nor is there any number given to contact your theater.
That said, I’ll do my best to spread the word to my friends.
By the way, I saw Sicko this week and it’s incredible! I really think you’re going to do HUGE business with it! Every American seriously NEEDS to see this film! When do you start selling tickets or are they already on sale?
Armand, it’s a pleasure to meet you! Thank you so much for your efforts regarding midnight shows. There are so many films I’d love to see, I hardly know where to start so I’ll just mention one right now. Any chance that with the 4th of July coming up, you could get a showing of 1776? That was one of the first films I ever saw at The National and seems an obvious choice for this time of year. It was screened a couple of years back at the Egyptian so a print must still exist.
Great news, by the way, about Sicko coming to the National! I can’t wait for that! I think you’re going to have your first huge hit!
Re: Lucas’s divorce. I tend to agree that this must have had a big impact on Lucas. Up through Raiders, pretty much everything he did was brilliant. (Well, I’m a moderate THX-1138 fan but certainly everything after that!) Then he gets involved in his divorce and we get Return of the Jedi. Mind you, I love Jedi but if ever a film was in need of another script draft… Anyway, I’ve just always had the feeling that Lucas stopped paying as much attention around that time as we got Jedi and Temple of Doom back to back, both considerably off the sharp tone and wit of their predecessors. Of course, this doesn’t explain why Spielberg would have let a lesser product slip out.
I’ve always figured that both Lucas and Spielberg just really wanted to try something different with Temple of Doom and they got a little blasted for it. Of course, the thing that they were always blasted for was the violence and the intensity of the Temple ritual sequences. Those, in my opinon, are some of the things that work very well in Temple of Doom. It’s great when it’s serious. It’s the goofy nature of much of the humor (frequently relating to Willie Scott) that bothers me.
I understand the argument that Temple of Doom is a better film. It’s certainly a more original and inventive film than Last Crusade. But that’s both it’s blessing and it’s curse. As a film on it’s own, it’s a lot of fun. As a series entry, it’s woefully lacking!
They made it a Prequel, in my opinion, simply to alleviate themselves of having to worry about anything that had been established in Raiders. But really that boils down to no Marion, which is too bad, because she’s an infinitely more interesting heroine than Willie Scott. They didn’t even take advantage of the fact that a prequel would have allowed them to bring Belloch back!
The bottom line is that Temple of Doom just has a completely different tone than Raiders. Raiders, for all it’s amazing stunts and effects, always has one foot grounded in reality. If the Indy in Raiders is a real guy, then Temple of Doom is like some pulp novel that someone of that era might have WRITTEN about Indy. The film has a generally goofy quality which is simply not present in Raiders.
Last Crusade, while no match for the original Raiders, at least attempts to take place in the same UNIVERSE as Raiders of the Lost Ark! And Sean Connery really makes the film.
Wow! All this activity today and not once person mentioning that Raiders of the Lost Ark opened at the National 26 years ago today!
I was there for the first two shows and then returned regularly over the next several weeks. Ah, how well I remember the anticipation: a new movie directed by Steven Spielberg, produced by George Lucas, starring Harrison Ford, with a score by John Williams and special effects by Industrial Light and Magic! It was like a dream come true! And, boy, did it live up to it’s potential!
From that huge boulder rolling down to the map shots tracking their progress to the succession of cliff hangers leading up to the greatest truck chase of all time(!) and then, of course, the awesome supernatural special effects of the finale! Truly a great film!
And, while I still believe that Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was exactly the WRONG direction to take the series (in effect making it hardly a SERIES at all), that was a heck of a lot of fun too. Last Crusade was much more a step in the overall right direction but I’m REALLY curious to see where they’ll take the next one! Indy as an aging adventurer in the 1950’s or 60’s? Bring it on!
Of course, I heartily support the idea of a return to the great Midnight movies of old! Where’s Carl when you need him?
November 15th as the end for Star Wars at the Avco? Well, that’s not how I remembered it but if you’ve done the research then you’re probably right. Thirty years can play a few tricks on the memory. Actually, if you’d said that it moved upstairs in August, that would have made a lot of sense because I certainly would rather have been seeing it on the big screen at the Plitt than on a small screen at the Avco. But I’m definitely surprised to hear that it was on the big screen at the Avco until Hallowe'en of that year.
By the way, I attended the screening and reunion of Star Wars filmmakers at the Academy Theater on Wilshire last week. And it was interesting that a couple of the filmmakers made references to not having been able to open Star Wars at the Chinese because Sorcerer was there and having to bring it in later. Having read the articles mentioned a few posts back, I know that it opened at the Chinese, closed for Sorcerer after a few weeks and then returned there when Sorcerer did less well than expected. (I was present, by the way, at the ceremony where Threepio, Artoo, and Vader got their footprints in the forecourt there! A decade ago Premiere magazine ran an article about it which featured a great shot of my friend Chris and I at the event, right in the front row of a very disgruntled looking crowd – disgruntled because we’d waited for hours for a good spot only to have the press move in and block our view at the last moment!) One of the filmmakers who remembered it this was was either Gary Kurtz or Alan Ladd Jr. – I’ve forgotten which now. But I just thought it was intersting that even the bigwigs have had their memories of events clouded by the intervening decades.
May the Force Be With You!
Hi Michael! Thanks! July 6th makes perfect sense for the opening at the Plitt. So Star Wars had already played for six weeks in Westwood at that point and, as I recall, closed there in August. So while it didn’t literally move from one theater to the other, that was the effect as far as my viewings were concerned. Then it stayed at the Plitt until September of 1978.
My Schindler’s List experience was similar except that I believe I was tipped off by either the newspaper ads or the marquee that there were now four theaters there. I just remember feeling sick to my stomach.
I was, by the way, similarly upset (although not quite at the same intensity) when the Plitt (or was it Odeon by then?) cut THEIR big theater into three. It was the theater that I thought of as the Star Wars house even though Star Wars had played both screens during its run. In some ways, it wasn’t as bad because they used the back of the theater to turn into two new houses instead of cutting it down the middle from front to back like the Avco did. But because they had to move the booth closer to the screen to accomodate the new screens, they still made the main screen smaller as well.
Oops. I just realized that I made another mistake in my post up above. By the time of Jurassic Park, the Lost World, the big theater at the Avco had long since been divided. I think it must have been the original Jurassic Park that was the last big hit in the uncut theater because I’m pretty sure that by the time Schindler’s List opened later that year (1993), the butchery had already occurred. Anyone remember precisely when it happened?
Thanks for the link to that article, Michael. Very interesting! But it doesn’t say when Star Wars opened at the Plitt. We only know that it wasn’t during the opening weekend. Was it the L.A. Theater that they referenced as opening a few weeks later? That sounds right to me. I do seem to remember that it was playing simultaneously at the Avco and the Plitt but I was an Avco junkie and it was closer to me so it wasn’t until it left the Avco that I started viewing it regularly at the Plitt. Therefore it “felt” to me as if it had “moved” but you are correct.
I attended that footprint ceremony at the Chinese, referenced in that article, when they brought the film back after a few weeks of “Sorcerer”. But, strangely, I never actually SAW Star Wars at the Chinese Theater until the Special Editions. I did see both Empire and Jedi at the Egyptian in Hollywood and that was also where they ran the full trilogy screening somewhat after Jedi.
I’m looking forward to seeing the full six film marathon when it runs at the upcoming Star Wars convention here in L.A. but I’m a little concerned about what sort of screen and presentation we’ll be viewing the films on if the marathon is actually AT the Convention Center.