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ENTERTAINMENT NEWS : Popcorn and Pop Music : On a trial basis, vending machines that provide CDs grace the lobbies of two area movie theaters.

September 03, 1993|MICHAEL ARKUSH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

You've corralled a bucket of popcorn and your favorite sugar fix, but there's still plenty of time before the feature begins.

Don't panic. Two San Fernando Valley-area movie theaters, the Mann 8 in Agoura and AMC 14 in Burbank, are experimenting with a new way to pass time in the lobby--a vending machine that sells compact discs. Moviegoers can listen to selections for free or purchase an entire recording.

"There are always people interested in it," said Alice Rodgers, general manager of the Burbank AMC. "Then the music starts and a few more people come to look at it. It's a definite attention-getter.

Just ask Tony Moufarrege, 12.

"It gives me something to do while I wait for the movie," said Tony, of La Crescenta. "I love all these songs. I like to listen."

Installed in May, the machines offer 48 selections, including many types of music. They take credit cards, ATM cards or bills from $1 to $20, although no change is given. Prices range from $10 to $16.98.

Robert Kardashian, president of Movie Tunes in Beverly Hills, which distributes the machines, said the two Valley-area theaters, along with outlets in Century City and Long Beach, are the only ones in the nation to test the product.

So far, the biggest problem is its uniqueness. "The consumer doesn't know what it is yet," he said. "It's a bit confusing."

The Valley-area theaters sold about 500 CDs in the last month, and the other locations had similar success, he said.

"If we do well, it will be in theaters everywhere," he said.

THEY'RE BACK: The Lennon Sisters, who made their performing debut on "The Lawrence Welk Show" on Christmas Eve in 1955, will give a concert Sept. 18 in Van Nuys to benefit a homeless shelter.

Their performance is part of "USO Extravaganza" at the California National Guard Armory to benefit the Trudy and Norman Louis Valley Shelter in North Hollywood. It will be the Lennons' first singing appearance together on stage since a 1989 tour.

In recent years, the sisters have hosted a PBS special on their careers and done a few recordings in the studio. When offered a chance to help the homeless, reuniting was an easy decision.

"We are all just a step away from being there ourselves," said Janet Lennon, 47, of Sherman Oaks. "With this economy, anybody could become homeless."

Lennon and her sisters--Kathy, Deedee and Peggy--will perform such 1940s standards as "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)."

The evening, which begins at 7:30, also will include a big band performance by the Dwight Kennedy Orchestra, a silent auction featuring a pair of Shirley MacLaine's dancing shoes and a James Earl Jones-signed "Field of Dreams" baseball.

The Valley Shelter provides 200 beds, a medical clinic and job placement programs. Tickets are $75. Call (818) 781-4232.

NEVER TOO LATE: Because he served in the military and started a family in the early 1970s, Joe Minjares didn't have a chance to pursue some of his artistic passions.

"I had to find work to feed the kids," said Minjares, 47, of Canoga Park, who bought a small tavern in Minneapolis and turned it into a successful Mexican restaurant. "I had no education. That's what I had to do."

But two decades later, he has become a playwright. His first production, "The King of the Kosher Grocers," will have its West Coast premiere Sept. 8 at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego. The play centers on childhood memories of a community grocery store on the north side of Minneapolis.

"Stores like this were the centerpiece of the community," he said. "You saw your neighbors. It was a place to get information. Now, the market is gone. The whole neighborhood is gone. The play is about the loss of history."

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