Everything old is new again.
The Mayfair Theater in Ventura is old. Movies such as "Gone with the Wind," "On the Waterfront" and "Ben Hur" are old. But put the theater and the movies together and Ventura has a new revival theater.
Los Angeles movie buff Kevin von Feldt is the man behind the newest transformation of the Mayfair, a theater that most recently showed Spanish-language films and before that, X-rated movies.
This is the third revival theater von Feldt operates, and he is already seeing some success with the Ritz Theater in Hollywood and the State Theater in North Hollywood. Another theater in North Hollywood is scheduled to open soon.
"I just follow around Pussycat theaters that close," von Feldt said. "The X-rated business is not doing as well with the advent of videotapes."
Some people question whether a theater that shows revival-type films can survive in Ventura County and von Feldt is quick to admit that he has no idea what to expect.
"You could have 180 people show up or you could have 27 people show up," he said. "It's crazy. You wait until nighttime comes around and wait to see if anyone shows up. It's kind of like gambling.
"I like Ventura because it is kind of in the center of all of the cities" in the county. "I get people at the Ritz who drive in from Thousand Oaks. Normally I can draw within a 25-mile radius."
The theater's first Friday night double bill of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still" drew about 40 people on Nov. 2 and word of mouth and advertising may increase attendance.
One obstacle between von Feldt and success may be some residual concern harbored by people who remember some of his past legal problems. In 1987, von Feldt was sentenced in Los Angeles Municipal Court to a year in prison after pleading no contest to 10 counts of false and misleading advertising in connection with what authorities called a phony airline company and a phony mail order promotion.
In the mail order promotion, Von Feldt was charged with hiring a Los Angeles firm to produce a television commercial promoting a mail-order book of coupons good for showings of classic movies. It turned out he neither had the rights to show the movies nor agreements with any theaters in which to show them.
"That's in the past," von Feldt said. "I guarantee that 100% of the films I'm showing, I have the rights to."
The Times checked on several of the films scheduled to run in the series and von Feldt was in fact given the rights to show them.
The Mayfair is featuring a triple bill through Saturday featuring two W.C. Fields films, "It's a Gift" and "The Bank Dick," and the Marx Brothers classic "A Night at the Opera." Two Gene Hackman films, "The French Connection" and "The Conversation," will be playing Sunday through Tuesday. Other upcoming films include "On the Waterfront," "The Apartment," "Little Caesar" and "Public Enemy."
The Mayfair Theater is located at 793 E. Santa Clara St. For schedule information, call 643-7977.
Other films on tap:
On Saturday, The Thousand Oaks Library's classic cinema night will feature the 1962 British film "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner." The film looks at a young man's fight to remain an individual despite societal pressure to conform. Show time is 7:30 p.m.
The next day, the Ojai Film Society will present the 1973 German film "Aguirre, the Wrath of God," starring Klaus Kinski. It's the story of a group of conquistadors who separate from Pizarro's 1560 South American expedition to travel the Amazon in search of El Dorado. Show time is 4:30 p.m. at the Ojai Playhouse.