Friday, January 30, 2015

Remembrance of L.A. movie revival theaters past.

I'm partway through reading Patton Oswalt's SILVER SCREEN FIEND--his memoir about becoming immersed mostly in the Los Angeles revival-house culture (chiefly the still-in-operation New Beverly when the late Sherman Torgan was manager) to enjoy/study films for a hoped-for future career as a director.  The immersion turned into an extended fever which finally broke when Oswalt--like many other viewers--discovered in 1999 that THE PHANTOM MENACE wasn't STAR WARS.

Cued by a review of Oswalt's book, I started at the appendix section where he lists all the films (old and then-new) he saw in 1995-99, as well as the theaters he attended.

Here are comments on now-departed cinematic venues he mentions:
CHAPLIN THEATER AT RALEIGH STUDIOS: the Melrose Avenue home of American Cinematheque during part of the 1990s (Raleigh's just across the street from Paramount).  Oswalt and I were in the same audience for a double bill of JAMES ELLROY: DEMON DOG OF AMERICAN CRIME FICTION and the 1950s B-film DADDY-O with Dick Contino (Ellroy wrote a story about Contino that appears in HOLLYWOOD NOCTURNES).

TALES BOOKSTORE: a now-long-gone bookstore on La Brea near Wilshire which served a niche market for people who wanted to buy short-story book collections.  Tales, on weekends, set up a screen in the food/snack area and ran 16mm copies of film noir and B-grade juvenile delinquent epics.  I remember watching the lesser Bogart film DEAD RECKONING and the Albert Zugsmith B-camp-classic GIRLS TOWN with Mamie Van Doren and Mel Torme.

MELNITZ THEATER AT UCLA: the university's on-campus predecessor to today's Hammer Museum Billy Wilder Theatre for running various film retrospectives by director/genre/country.

NUART THEATRE--by the time I moved to SoCal in 1988, the Nuart was transitioning out of its all-revival programming to running primarily new-release independent films.  But the occasional retrospective series continued into the 1990s (e.g. Preston Sturges, Charlie Chaplin, 30s pre-Code films, 1970s Blaxploitation).

FOUR-STAR THEATRE LOS ANGELES CA: Mid-Wilshire Miracle Mile venue closed and turned into a church; I attended on occasion during the early-to-mid-90s.  Favorite double bill was DELIVERANCE/THE ROAD WARRIOR, both in 70mm prints.

And here are brief comments on other venues I remember from the 80s and 90s:
STATE THEATRE PASADENA CA: Before closing in the latter 90s, this venue served as both revival house and Hong Kong cinema (if I recall correctly, the State ran John Woo's THE KILLER before Woo and Chow Yun-Fat became Household Names).

VAGABOND THEATRE LOS ANGELES CA: the Vagabond (now the plays-revues venue Hayworth Theatre) was a tiny theatre west of MacArthur Park; my first revival-theatre experience--I was a regular customer into 1992.

BING THEATRE LOS ANGELES COUNTY MUSEUM OF ART: still running films, almost scuttled years ago since Michael Govan had little interest in the revival-theatre ethos until Martin Scorsese talked Govan out of it; I went there mostly from 1988-1993 when Ron Haver was the programmer and host--if Haver were still living today, he likely wouldn't have tolerated Govan.  My favorite double bill at the Bing was part of a series of Haver's favorites scheduled after his death: Hitchcock's VERTIGO and Powell/Pressburger's BLACK NARCISSUS.

CINEPLEX ODEON FAIRFAX THEATRE: Gone now, but in 1989-90 it had a Sunday morning old movies program.  If I recall correctly, the work print of BLADE RUNNER (released in theaters during 1991-92) had its first screening at the Fairfax.  Also, I remember seeing a 70mm Australian roadshow print of THE WILD BUNCH (with some violence deleted by the Australia censor board) with Bo Hopkins and Sam Peckinpah's son Matthew in attendance.

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