The Los Feliz Theatre will show its last film Sunday, ending an era in Los Angeles cinema.
Laemmle Theatres, the family-owned movie company that has operated the theater since the 1940s, lost its lease this summer after negotiations with its new owner fell through. A new tenant has not been found.
Merchants and residents who rallied unsuccessfully to save it, said they will continue their fight to preserve the landmark on North Vermont Avenue as a theater, even if it has been lost as the city's venerated art house. The Los Feliz brought the city its first art and foreign-language films in the 1940s.
"It would be a shame not to give it a fighting effort," said Ari Sikora, an urban planner and organizer of Friends of the Los Feliz Theatre.
Sikora said the group will press the theater's owner, an investment company that bought the property last year, to lease it to another theater operator.
If that fails, she said, the group will press for enforcement of zoning laws that they hope will prevent the owner from replacing the theater with a store or restaurant.
They consider the theater a key to preserving one of the city's few business districts retaining the ambiance of older Los Angeles.
"Here is an opportunity to preserve a street before it completely deteriorates under the forces of the market," Sikora said.
'Part of the Evening'
An informal survey conducted this summer by the group established that the theater played a major role in drawing patrons to the street's restaurants, shops and bookstore.
"It appears that a lot of people make the Los Feliz a part of the evening," said Koki Iwamoto, owner of Chatterton's bookstore, situated two doors away.
Sikora estimated that losing the theater would cost businesses at least $600,000 a year.
Faced with that prospect, Friends of the Los Feliz Theatre rallied around the Laemmles this summer when negotiations with the Denley Investment & Management Co. began to fall apart.
After buying the 7,500-square-foot building last December, Denley granted the Laemmles two temporary extensions of their lease. But Robert Laemmle, co-owner of the theater company, balked at an August increase that would have pushed the rent to $5,000 a month. Laemmle said he later agreed to the price, but was told the building was no longer available.
The Laemmles were given 60 days to vacate.