Even as patrons of the 14th Los Angeles International Film Exposition attend tonight's opening gala in Hollywood, the landlord will be putting the finishing touches on Filmex's new home across town.
The opening-night fund-raiser will take place at Mann's Chinese Theatre, where "A Private Function" will be screened and at the nearby Palace, site of the Benefit Ball. Meanwhile, at Mann's Westwood Triplex, where most of Filmex's remaining 129 films will be seen, workmen will be attempting to beat the clock with completion of an interior face lift.
On Tuesday, the triplex lobby was still strewn with tools, cable, dust and scaffolding as a crew of carpenters and electricians went about their work. "We are behind schedule, but it's always that way," Mann Theatres executive William Hertz said from the relative calm of one of the two 300-seat theaters on the site, which also has a 500-seat theater. "Inevitably, the heavens and the Earth have to move at the last minute."
Filmex executive director Suzanne McCormick and artistic director Ken Wlaschin, surveying the site, also expressed confidence that the theaters would be ready in time. "There's no such thing as a festival where things don't get done at the last minute," Wlaschin said.
By Friday morning, the triplex should boast a modernized concession area and a redesigned lobby with new carpeting.
The "updating" at the 9 1/2-year-old theater complex, formerly a Safeway, would have been implemented sooner or later, Hertz said. Filmex made it happen sooner.
The $200,000 refurbishment got under way two weeks ago, Hertz said. The theaters have remained in operation, with only matinees eliminated this week as the Filmex deadline approached. Hertz said that work has continued around the clock for the last few days.
Filmex initially approached the Mann chain because of the convenience of the Westwood location as well as the benefit of having three screens under one roof, McCormick said. Last year, screenings were spread among three theaters in West Los Angeles and Hollywood; an earlier Filmex took place at the Plitt Theaters in Century City.
McCormick said that she expected the single locale to promote more of a "festival atmosphere."
"What's nice around here," she added, "is there are so many little coffee shops where one can go before and after a film."
The Filmex directors said they hope the location of the theaters near the heart of Westwood Village would lead to increased impulse ticket-buying by passers-by.
Mann Theatres is footing the entire bill for the refurbishment, Hertz said. Filmex will pay an undisclosed flat fee to the theater company for use of the triplex and its support services during Filmex, which continues through the end of the month. Included in Filmex's deal with Mann Theatres is use of the Chinese Theatre tonight.
Hertz said that the Mann deal with Filmex "certainly is not profit-making overall" but added that it was beneficial "from the public- relations point of view."
Tonight's gala is being held at the Chinese because of its size--it seats about 1,500--and because it is, Wlaschin said, "the best cinema in the world."
Though both McCormick and Wlaschin appeared confident about the success of this year's Filmex, they noted that you can't please everybody. McCormick said: "I suspect after this one, we'll get letters complaining that it didn't serve the community well because it was all in one place, so we should spread it out all over the city."