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BRINGING THE MOVIES CLOSER TO HOME : Movie Houses: A Neighborhood Watch

November 23, 1987|MICHAEL CIEPLY

NEW ZONES: Some key points in Los Angeles' changing theater configuration:

Universal City : After opening in July, Cineplex Odeon's 18-screen complex already rivals the strongest theaters in Westwood and Hollywood in drawing power.

Paramount's "Fatal Attraction," for instance, pulled in $44,267 on one September weekend at Universal City, compared to $50,979 at the Mann-owned Bruin in Westwood and $47,461 at Mann's Chinese in Hollywood. No other Southland theater came close.

Attendance initially sagged at Hollywood theaters when the Cineplex complex, less than four miles away, opened. According to Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Bill Welsh, the Hollywood movie houses have since "snapped back"--suggesting that Universal City is finding new moviegoers rather than stealing from old areas.

-- Centur y City : In an audacious move, AMC Theatres planted 14 new screens just 2.3 miles from the heart of Westwood.

This fall, they played a big smorgasbord of arty, independent pictures ("My Little Girl," "Maurice," "Dogs in Space"), but also picked up some major studio releases (Fox's "Princess Bride" and Tri-Star's "Suspect") simultaneously with some of the less powerful Westwood theater auditoriums.

Meanwhile, Cineplex has added two screens to its recently acquired Century City theater, bringing the total to four. One possible ploy: Cineplex could use its pending acquisition of the Egyptian in Westwood to book a strong movie, then break the traditional clearance that has kept the same film from playing in its Century City house, according to several theater executives.

-- Santa Monic a: Four miles from Westwood, Santa Monica has nine theater screens.

But city planners say 18 new screens are contemplated, including Mann, AMC and Cineplex complexes set to open within the next year or so.

Some inside observers predict that Santa Monica theaters will hurt Century City more than Westwood and will never play blockbuster films day and date with the Westwood Big Three: the National, Bruin and Village, all owned by Mann.

But new Santa Monica screens might pressure other Westwood theaters, including General Cinema's Avco, to soften their clearances.

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