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SOCIAL CLIMES / UP ALL NIGHT

The Latte Show

Have a Cuppa, Served With a Rich Slice of Film Noir

November 22, 1996|MARK EHRMAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Care for a little murder with your latte? Or how about soup and salad with a little adultery and two-timing on the side? That's the idea behind Tales, a cafe-bookshop that provides a lot more than just a coffee buzz.

The shop specializes in short stories--plenty of anthologies are for sale here, but no novels.

What really makes this place unique, however, is that every Thursday through Monday, the management shuts down the coffee machine, dims the lights and screens classic 16-millimeter films that you aren't likely to see anywhere else on a big screen above a bar.

"We're trying to bring back community-based variety houses, where people can meet outside of a mall setting," says Tales co-owner Jaye Barry Jones, whom L.A. cinephiles might recognize as the ticket seller, projectionist and popcorn seller at the now-defunct Vagabond Theater.

Three years ago, Jones and partner Kim Nopson pooled their money to revive the revival house concept here on La Brea's Antique Alley. Only this time, they'd cater to their customers' culinary palates as well. So now, Jones, with Nopson's help, is the Tales projectionist, ticket seller and soup maker. "It's a trend to develop a restaurant that successfully shows films," Jones says, citing copycats that have sprouted from New York to Dallas. "This way, you're not just stuck with popcorn and candy and soda."

Tales specializes in film noir from the '40s and '50s, but the programming reaches into the '60s as well. Jones and Nopson also hold occasional independent filmmaker nights, when they show contemporary efforts by off-the-beaten-track directors. But it's the opportunity to catch a hard-to-find old black-and-white--not to mention the cozy setting--that brings in the film buffs.

"I like to call this living room cinema," says Nick Matonack, 38; he says he's been here every weekend this year. Matonack works for a video duplicating company when he's not out watching movies. "I've seen 428 films so far this year. But I always make it a point to come here despite my busy film-going schedule. Even if it's a film I've seen before, I'll come just for the atmosphere. You don't really feel like you're going to a movie theater. You feel like you're going to somebody's house or to a regular coffeehouse."

Another plus: Not only does Tales show quality films, but the owners also find the best copies on celluloid.

"This is one of the only places that you can regularly see good prints of old film noir," says Richard Rybicki, who, along with his wife, Barbara, is also a Tales regular. "Often, they're better than if you rented it and watched it at home."

The Rybickis say Tales makes for a great Sunday night out. Richard says he usually orders a glacier-size chunk of apple pie a la mode--a bargain at $3--while Barbara makes due with the free popcorn. "We read a lot of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett; we've lived in a couple of old Art Deco apartments," Richard says. "Yeah, I guess you could say we're doing the whole L.A. noir life."

*

Where: Tales Bookshop and Cafe, 667 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles; (213) 933-2640.

When: Daily (except Tuesday) 9:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. (as a cafe). Screenings Monday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 3:30, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.

Cost: Admission to films, $4. Cappuccino, $2 soup, $2.50; sandwiches, $2.25-$4.10. Popcorn free during movies.

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