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DOWNTOWN : East West Players May Move to LATC

August 28, 1994|TOMMY LI

East West Players, an Asian performance group, has started negotiations for a possible move from its 99-seat Silver Lake home to a 296-seat space at the city-owned Los Angeles Theatre Center, officials said.

"We have wanted to move for some time now," said Tim Dang, artistic director of the 29-year-old theatrical troupe. "Our audience is coming from all over the place, so we wanted to move to a more central location, which is Downtown."

The move to LATC would be temporary. East West Players plans to move to its permanent home at Little Tokyo's historic Union Church sometime in 1996.

East West Players put its theater at 4424 Santa Monica Blvd. up for sale for an undisclosed sum because ticket sales have declined as much as 15% since the January Northridge quake, Dang said. Sales also dropped after October's Southland fires and the 1992 riots.

"A lot of people since the riots have become very wary of the area," which has also been plagued by car burglaries and vandalism, Dang said.

Though Downtown is also struggling to rebuild its image as a safe community for entertainment, business and dining, Dang said, at 514 S. Spring St., LATC has a better chance of drawing larger audiences. The facility is run by the city's Cultural Affairs Department.

"Cultural Affairs (officials) are making it quite clear to us that they have increased their security, in terms of the lighting, in terms of the parking situation," Dang said.

"We're still looking at other places," Dang said, "but LATC seems one of the best. . . . We would be making a step up from where we are."

Since taking over operations of the Downtown theater in October, 1991, the city has spent $100,000 a year on security and made efforts to beautify the Spring Street area with trees, said Lee Sweet, LATC business manager. Although panhandlers can still be seen on the street, that hasn't stopped audiences from watching the multiethnic shows at the theater.

An estimated 5,000 to 7,500 people came to the theater in the 1991-92 season, compared to 19,500 in the 1992-93 season, Sweet said.

LATC is composed of four theaters--seating 90, 296, 320 and 498.

If both sides can agree on a contract, Dang plans to relocate during a break in the group's performances, between late December and mid-January.

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