"It's the same old story. Every time somebody wants to build something, somebody else wants to stop him," complains Hollywood Chamber of Commerce President Bill Welsh, referring specifically to neighborhood opposition to a development that may bring four new theater screens to Hollywood Boulevard.
Yet tough clearance demands--especially from Westwood, where nine of 17 screens are owned by Mann--also played a role in discouraging growth.
One landmark clearance battle came to a head just before Christmas in 1983.
At the time, owners of the Baldwin Hills Entertainment Complex in Baldwin Hills, a predominantly black area, complained to movie studios and to the press that their theater was dying because it couldn't book first-run movies "day and date," i.e., simultaneously, with Westwood--even though the Baldwin is fully nine miles from the thriving Westside entertainment village.
Ultimately, the Baldwin prevailed, thanks to public pressure and threats of legal action. This fall it played Paramount's "Fatal Attraction," a smash hit, on one of its three screens, even as the movie did land-office business on the strongest screens in Westwood and Hollywood. For Christmas, moreover, the Baldwin expects to play "Cry Freedom," "Eddie Murphy Raw" and "Leonard Part 6," all major studio releases.
Encouraged by the theater's success, Baldwin co-owner Nelson Bennett says he currently plans to add three additional screens by next year, and also develop multi-screen complexes in currently theaterless areas of Compton and Carson.
"Some light was shed on the fact that there is a viable (movie) market in minority areas," Bennett says now. "But whether we had any general effect on what constitutes a justifiable clearance, I just don't know."
In fact, Milton Moritz, advertising and public relations vice president of Los Angeles-based Pacific Theatres, insists that clearances are breaking down, largely because the rising cost of movie advertising has made it uneconomic to play most films in Westwood and Hollywood alone.
"Things are happening now that just did not happen a year ago," says Moritz, whose company operates Hollywood's successful and soon-to-be refurbished Cinerama Dome. "It is just too expensive to insist on those exclusive runs."
One major studio executive, complaining that his company's pictures have been pulled too quickly from Westwood screens, predicts that budding new film zones may soon give studios access to prime Los Angeles audiences without playing the two big movie centers at all.
The executive suggests that adult-leaning movies, in particular, will ultimately do better by playing, say, Century City, the Beverly Center area and Universal City--much as United Artists' "Baby Boom" did, with some success, last fall.
"It can happen," he says, perhaps a bit hopefully, "but only if exhibitors really build everything they have on the boards."
\o7 Times intern Connie Benesch contributed to this story.
\f7 Number of Screens
SANTA MONICA (A) 1982 9 1987 9 Proposed 18 MARINA DEL REY (B) 1982 6 1987 6 Proposed 6 BALDWIN HILLS (C) 1982 2 1987 9 Proposed 3 WESTWOOD (D) 1982 17 1987 17 Proposed 0 CENTURY CITY (E) 1982 2 1987 18 Proposed 0 WEST SIDE/BEVERLY HILLS (F) 1982 11 1987 8 Proposed 0 BEVERLY CENTER AREA (G) 1982 18 1987 17 Proposed 8 HOLLYWOOD (H) 1982 23 1987 19 Proposed 8 UNIVERSAL (I) 1982 0 1987 18 Proposed 0