Thursday, November 3, 2011

Another Nail in the Coffin for Los Angeles Indie Movie Theaters

Rather sad day, at the very least personally, hopefully to many cinephiles in the Los Angeles area as well as the venerable institution known as the Sunset 5 will be closing its doors December 1st.  Owned and operated by Laemmle Theaters, a small Southern California chain of art houses, the decision comes with a whimper on the already sad state of art house complexes in Los Angeles.  Over the past few years, many have folded (thinking of the Fine Arts Theater and NuWilshire Theater, and the others (including the Sunset 5) have for some time appeared fledgling at best.  All of which is terribly sad news, not the least bit personally for the indelible marks seethed into my memory, but the lack of art houses in Los Angeles itself.  While bigger, fancier multiplexes have popped out and have over the past few years have increasingly shown a bigger diversity in mixing big Hollywood films with the smaller art house offerings, and certain local revival houses are doing stellar business working on their own terms (thinking of the New Beverly Cinema, owned by Quentin Tarantino, and Silent Movie House of Fairfax.)  But what's becoming of the simpler, scrappier art houses that value screen space to the truly independent, foreign and documentary features that now, more than ever appear less and less existent in Los Angeles.

Perhaps saddest for me, because I was at the Sunset 5 just yesterday (where I saw Take Shelter) and have been a regular and happy consumer for several years-- I saw films like Weekend and Tabloid there as, and as both are currently two of many favorite offerings of the year.  Yet it's fact that this nearly two decade old cinematic haven (it opened its doors in 1992) has a lasting legacy; the theater is located in center of West Hollywood and opened its doors to the small, but everlasting moment in independent filmmaking of the Queer New Wave, showing the early titles of brash filmmakers like Todd Haynes, Gregg Araki, Lisa Cholodenko, and Todd Solondz.  Before the look started to become slightly rundown, it was the hippest theater in town, but also a lovely communal moviegoing experience in of itself. 

Plans are underway that Sundance Cinemas will renovate the space and open a 7-screen multiplex in 2012, but that's hardly the point.  The of late, no-thrills atmosphere of movie places like the Sunset 5 are reminders that plush and fancy (not to mention-- ridiculously expensive) are not the wave of the future, but the reason why many prefer staying home.

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