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Westwood's Once-Booming Movie Theatre Culture Fading to Black

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Westwood's Mann Village, seen here for the premiere of A Star is Born many years ago, may be the next to close, following Thursday's shuttering of the Mann Festival. Photo by Alan Light via Flickr


Westwood's Mann Village, seen here for the premiere of A Star is Born many years ago, may be the next to close, following Thursday's shuttering of the Mann Festival. Photo by Alan Lightvia Flickr
A year ago, the LA Times was predicting a major comeback of sorts for Westwood, the Los Angeles neighborhood most associated with UCLA. But if the comeback is to involve classic movie houses, the comeback looks grim. This week the Mann Festival closed down, and preservationists are on standby, prepared to battle the possible loss of the Mann's Village and Bruin, according to the Times.Cinema Treaures tells the history of the Festival:

Built within the site of the first Ralph's supermarket, the Mann Festival Theatre opened in 1970. Its understated exterior matches its simplistic, but comfortable auditorium. Neither flashy nor opulent, this single screen theater has been a popular Westwood venue for years.

Smaller premieres are also held here and, occassionally, Hollywood luminaries have been spotted at this quiet, out-of-the-way theater.

The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.

Mann Festival Theater was closed on July 30, 2009

Why close the Festival? Well, the demise of the theatre--called "red ink on the Mann chain's books" by one historian, can be blamed on movie multiplexes; once upon a time Westwood was where movie fans flocked, first to see dazzling star-studded premieres, then to take their pick of first-run art house fare that filled the area's screens. But now the lure of dozens of screens in one venue, large auditoriums, impressive sound-systems, and stadium seating easily trump the one-screen small movie house. On top of that, many movie-goers prefer the fake-town ambiance of The Grove or Universal Citywalk, or the amenities of seeing a movie at the ArcLight--minus the commercials and with reserved seating.The Festival on Lindbrook isn't the first movie theatre to close up in Westwood; "last year's demolition of the Mann National Theatre and previous losses of the Mann Westwood 4 and Mann Plaza, among others -- is further indication that Westwood's movie culture appears in danger of fading to black."

Next on the chopping block: The Village and the Bruin, both vintage 1930s, both with leases Mann has gone on record saying they will not renew, and both classified as "city historic-cultural monuments." Architecture wonks, Westwoodians, and local history buffs will know: The Village is Spanish Mission style with the neon-lit Fox tower and the Bruin is Art Moderne with a wraparound marquee.