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Beverly Cinema looks back

The screening of a pair of Bergman classics is, in a way, a tribute to two movie lovers.

August 01, 2007|Robert W. Welkos | Times Staff Writer

One of Sherman Torgan's last acts as owner and manager of the New Beverly Cinema on Beverly Boulevard was programming a month of classic films to showcase during August. So it was a quirky coincidence that in the same week that Swedish director Ingmar Bergman died at age 89, the arty repertory theater would be screening two of Bergman's greatest films: "The Virgin Spring" and "Wild Strawberries."

The screenings tonight and Thursday night come barely a week after the theater had been closed for six days following the death of Torgan, 63, who suffered an apparent heart attack while on a bicycle ride in Santa Monica. The theater reopened last week and now Torgan's son, Michael, has taken the reins.

Jeff Rosen, a film editor who has long consulted on programming at the Beverly Cinema, said there would be a void without Torgan, who had been running the theater since 1978.

The venue, which screens classic, independent and foreign films, has suffered an attendance drop-off in recent years due to factors such as DVDs and traffic congestion. But Rosen said the theater recently was packed after director Quentin Tarantino approached Torgan and persuaded him to run some of the old grindhouse movies of the 1960s and 1970s.

Rosen said the timing of the Bergman films coming in the same week as the director's death was not unlike what happened a generation ago, when actor Peter Sellers died and the theater had already scheduled a screening of "Dr. Strangelove" a day or two later.

robert.welkos@latimes.com

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