Classic Westwood Village, Bruin Theaters on Verge of Extinction?
Disturbing news trickled out of Westwood over the weekend, when the LAT reported that Mann Theaters will not renew its leases on the Village and Bruin theaters in Westwood Village. That would leave both venues -- each local landmarks dating back to the 1930s -- dark headed into 2010, with somewhat ugly implications for studios, festivals and moviegoers who'd taken advantage of them over the years.
It would be one thing to shutter the Bruin, which is far better known for its Art Moderne-style Broxton Avenue facade than for its spectacular moviegoing experience. The Village, on the other hand, while cavernous, echo-y and beset with parking problems, is the destination theater for both studio premieres and galas hosted by the Los Angeles Film Festival, which already faces a dwindling screen count with the Mann Festival closing last week. The Majestic Crest down the street isn't doing so well either, with its owner considering selling, then leasing the theater back for its art-house runs; the AMC Avco on Wilshire is a hellhole multiplex where business gets done economically and often forgettably for LAFF festgoers.
No one is going to go demolishing either endangered theater; the exteriors -- including the Village's iconic "Fox" tower -- are protected landmarks, though the interiors could possibly undergo gut-renovations that subdivide them into friendly new bookstore/coffee house/chain restaurants for the UCLA crowd. For the Village, anyway, it's likelier that the theater would remain in operation as a premiere/events venue, rentable by the night, even if it's only 100 nights a year. And your outsider odds of seeing a film there again would drop precipitously. The Bruin could host smaller events like the Brad Pitt manhandling it hosted last year, but don't count on it. Truly, we're facing the end of an era.