Ahrya Fine Arts Cinema

8556 Wilshire Boulevard,
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

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Cecchi Gori F.A. Cinema

Viewing: Photo | Street View

The Wilshire Regina Theatre in Beverly Hills opened Wednesday, April 21, 1937. The first program was “That Girl From Paris”, and “Black Legion”, plus a March of Time newsreel and a cartoon. Seating was general admission at ‘Popular Prices’ – 25 cents for adults, 10 cents for children.

Built at a cost of $75,000, the theatre sat 800 people (in smaller seats than today). Initial press coverage mentioned the design firm of B. Marcus Priteca (who also designed the Hollywood Pantages) but did not credit the theatre’s design directly to him. Opening day newspaper ads announced a ‘Magic Fountain for Young and Old’, and a “Theaterette in Ladies Lounge” as special features.

It was taken over by Fox West Coast Theatres in 1948 and renamed Fine Arts Theatre (occasionally referred to as the Fox Fine Arts Theatre and a tall vertical sign with that name was added to the center of the façade (it has since been removed). In 1951 it hosted the World Premiere of George Stevens' “A Place in the Sun”. In 1959 “Room at the Top”, (‘The Most Daring Film in a Decade’), played there for over six months. Some time after the 1950’s, the original small forecourt and free-standing boxoffice were eliminated for an interior lobby.

In 1974 “The Exorcist” drew long lines around the block into a residential area that didn’t appreciate the attention. Local residents called for changes in parking regulations and even restrictions on the theatre’s schedule. These issues have long since been addressed. It was operated by Laemmle Theatres from 1985 to 1993.

The Cecchi Gori film company took over and renovated in 1993. Theatre designer Joseph Musil, who also redesigned the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood and the Crest Theatre in Westwood, brought his colorful theatrical flair to the new Cecchi Gori Fine Arts Theatre. The lobby has been further enlarged by moving in the back wall of the auditorium. A new 14' by 33' screen was installed several feet in front of the old proscenium to accommodate wider aspect ratios. This re-configuring, and the use of somewhat wider seats, reduced the theatre’s capacity to 410. The Cecci Gori people originally wanted an Italian street scene painted onto the screen curtain, but later decided against it. That is is why there is a flat black curtain instead of traditional gathered drapes.

Two stores that flanked the theatre were converted into a full concession stand and an expansion of the ladies room (no ‘theatrette’, just more toilets). The box office window is now located between the front entrance doors. Changes to the interior have been substantial enough to make it difficult to attribute the theatre’s current overall look to any one person, although Joseph Musil’s design touches are everywhere. The theatre’s original marquee and facade remain essentially unaltered.

The Fine Arts Theatre was leased to Screening Services Group and reopened in December 2005 with the US premiere of “Mrs. Henderson Presents”. Primarily a rental venue, the theatre has been equipped to handle multiple film and video formats, including 2K Digital Cinema, and Dolby Digital EX. Parking for the theatre will be available at the Flynt building on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and La Cienega Boulevard.

Sadly the ‘Fine Arts’ was closed in the fall of 2010. It was reopened as the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre on September 18, 2015 with “Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer” and is managed and operated by Laemmle Theatres.

Contributed by TJ Edwards, Cinema Treasures

Recent comments (view all 78 comments)

Joe Vogel
Joe Vogel on August 31, 2014 at 9:59 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.

dyban
dyban on December 9, 2014 at 3:30 am

Los Angeles Times article from April 25, 2014 –

http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-0426-fine-arts-theater-20140426-story.html

Philanthropist adds Beverly Hills' Fine Arts Theater to purchases

The Fine Arts Theater on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills has gone through a succession of owners and has been sitting empty for five years – By Martha Groves

The Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, a classic Art Deco venue with a celebrity-studded past, has been sold to Paula Kent Meehan, the philanthropist who also is buying the Beverly Hills Courier.

Built on Wilshire Boulevard in 1936 as the Regina, the compact, single-screen theater served for years as a venue for small premieres that drew Hollywood A-listers.

In 1948, it was renamed the Fine Arts Theater and showed the premiere of “The Red Shoes.” Among the invited guests were 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 a 1993 renovation by the late Joseph J. Musil, a theater designer who also restored the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Musil installed red velour seats, gold sconces, a sunburst ceiling and crimson carpeting in the lobby.

Roberto Benigni, the director and star of Cecchi Gori’s Oscar-winning film “Life Is Beautiful,” popped in to the theater in 1999 to practice crawling over the seats, a move he reenacted the next evening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion when he accepted his best actor award.

Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft used to watch movies at the Fine Arts on double dates with Carl and Estelle Reiner. Years ago, Cameron Diaz and Leonardo DiCaprio had to dash across the street to an ATM when they learned that the theater did not accept credit cards.

The venue has been shuttered since 2009, a victim in part of patrons' shift to multiplexes with parking and food courts. Spice Global, an Indian conglomerate, bought the theater in 2010 with plans to reopen it to screen Bollywood films. That scheme did not pan out, and the company put the theater on the market for $4 million.

Brian Dunne, a Bentley Global broker who represented the seller, declined to specify what Meehan paid but said it was less than the asking price.

A Beverly Hills native, Meehan, 83, got her start as an actress in TV commercials and series. She co-founded Redken Laboratories, a maker of hair care products that was later sold to L'Oréal. She recently agreed to buy the Courier, a weekly tabloid.

Meehan was a major donor to the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts adjoining the historic Beverly Hills Post Office, which is now named for her.

The Fine Arts, designed by architect B. Marcus Priteca, is dominated by its marquee and stepped tower. It is expected to be approved soon as a local landmark. Priteca also designed the Pantages in Hollywood.

Meehan expects to “clean it up, reopen it and let it evolve,” Dunne said of the theater. “They want to bring in more live performances and take care of the Beverly Hills community, including schools and seniors.”

jordanernesto
jordanernesto on August 28, 2015 at 9:15 pm

Laemmle Theatres just signed a management agreement with the theater’s current owner, Shawn Far. We are planning to re-open, book, manage and operate the theater beginning September 18, 2015 with daily screenings of first-run films. The name of the theater will be the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre by Laemmle. Ahrya is the name of Mr. Far’s eldest son.

RevDORK
RevDORK on August 29, 2015 at 12:58 am

I’d be interested in running the Fine Arts for a 4th different company. I know the place like the back of my hand. I can be reached at .

macoco
macoco on August 29, 2015 at 4:28 am

The Fine Arts was almost my first job when I started college at UCLA. I had gotten the usher job, had picked up my uniform, and then got a better job at the biomedical library on campus, which ended seeing me through four years of college and the first year of graduate school. But it would have been really neat to have a first-job at a movie theater!

silver
silver on September 11, 2015 at 5:50 am

Laemmle’s Facebook page just posted about their Fine Arts take over. https://www.facebook.com/laemmletheatres/posts/10153621924443276

It also links to the official Laemmle blog post with more details, and from which I’ll reprint the 1st two paragraphs below: http://blog.laemmle.com/2015/09/announcing-the-ahrya-fine-arts-theatre-by-laemmle-opening-september-18th/

Laemmle Theatres is proud to announce we have taken over the management and operation of the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills. The theatre has been closed for five years. At the time of its closure it was used exclusively as a private screening venue. Laemmle will book the theatre with first run films screening daily for the general public. Laemmle will also use the Ahrya Fine Arts to host regular series like our Culture Vulture program, festivals and special event screenings.

According to CinemaTreasures.org, the Fine Arts first opened in April 1937 as the Wilshire Regina, with seating for 800. It has been well maintained over the years and is – and under Laemmle’s stewardship will remain – a single-screen theater, though now with slightly more than 400 seats. (Movie patrons’ expectations of things like leg room have understandably risen over the decades.) We last operated the venue from 1985 to 1993, mostly screening foreign films.

Giles
Giles on March 19, 2016 at 3:35 am

question – so what are the technical aspects of this theater – can it show 35mm? what projector’s are being used (brand, 4K? or standard 2K?)

Danny Baldwin
Danny Baldwin on March 19, 2016 at 6:55 am

According to the Laemmle rental form, they still have both 35mm and 70mm capabilities. Not sure if it’s platter or reel to reel.

DCP projector is 4K… Christie I think.

silver
silver on March 21, 2016 at 12:08 am

If the 70mm capability is accurate, I wonder if The Weinstein Co. ever considered using this place for the roadshow Hateful Eight…

rivest266
rivest266 on August 5, 2016 at 5:19 pm

December 28th, 1948 grand opening ad as well as 1993 reopening as well as the April 21st, 1937 ad for the Regina theatre.

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