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2 historic Westwood theaters saved from possible closure

Regency agrees to run the Village and Bruin, whose fate had been in jeopardy since last year, when Mann announced that it would let its leases on both theaters expire in March.

April 01, 2010|By Kate Linthicum

Don't pull that curtain down just yet. Two landmark theaters in Westwood that had been facing closure will remain in operation after a theater chain agreed to take them over this week.

Beginning Thursday, Calabasas-based Regency Theatres will run the historic Village and Bruin theaters, said Lyndon Golin, the company's chief executive.

The fate of the theaters had been in jeopardy since last year, when the previous operator, Mann Theatres, announced that it would let the leases on each property expire in March. Westwood residents and architectural preservationists had rallied against that possibility.

"This was a big, big, big worry," said Marc Wanamaker, a historian who is writing a book about Westwood. "We expected the two theaters to close, period. So this is really good news."

Once known for its vibrant movie-going scene and ornate, single-screen theaters, Westwood lost several theaters to closures and demolitions in recent years as audiences flocked to larger multiplexes. But the loss of the 1,300-seat Village Theatre and the 670-seat Bruin Theatre would have devastated Westwood, Wanamaker said.

The Spanish Mission-style Village Theatre, known for its 170-foot tower emblazoned with neon letters that spell "Fox," has long been a favorite for movie premieres. Just across Broxton Avenue, the Bruin Theatre boasts a wrap-around marquee that makes it one of Westwood's most distinctive buildings.

Had Regency not stepped in, the theaters might have been converted into retail space or demolished, said Hillsman Wright, a preservationist who runs the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation.

Wright said the Village and Bruin aren't the only Los Angeles theaters under threat. His group has protested the planned demolition of the 80-year-old Fairfax Theatre, which developers hope to convert into condominiums and parking, and has monitored closely the sale of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

"We think it's extremely important to preserve the experience of hundreds of strangers going into the dark together and sharing an experience," he said. "Theaters build community."

Wright said he still remembers bringing his nephew to the Village Theatre for a screening of "Batman" in 1989. The youngster was impressed by the theater's lavish interior and impressive sound system, Wright said.

Golin, Regency's chief executive, would not disclose the financial terms of his company's deal with the theaters' owners. But, he said, Regency has agreed to run the theaters "long term."

"There's a lot of pride in running theaters like this," he said. "They just don't build movie palaces like this anymore."

kate.linthicum@latimes.com

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