MOVIES THE WAY THEY WERE MEANT TO BE SEEN
26 years ago, a handful of volunteers from The Los Angeles Conservancy, a nonprofit that recognizes, preserves, and revitalizes the historic architectural of L.A. County, dreamt up Last Remaining Seats, a summertime program which presents classic films and live entertainment in historic movie palaces. The brilliantly simple plan was a way to draw attention to the often-neglected historic theatres on downtown’s Broadway (the largest theatre district listed in the National Register of Historic Places). While the Conservancy offers walking tours, they mainly cover the theatres’ exteriors, so this is an extremely rare chance to see the glorious interiors of these ornate and spectacular movie palaces (unless you rent them for a movie shoot or private function, and I assure you that doing so will cost slightly more than twenty bucks).
On June 1, 2013, the Los Angeles Conservancy will launch the twenty-seventh season of Last Remaining Seats, presenting classic films as they were meant to be seen: on the big screen, in a beautiful theatre, surrounded by fellow fans. Attending these screenings is a communal experience unlike any other movie-going adventure you will ever have (including that Drive-In Movie date you may have had with the football team). In the last twenty-plus years that I have attended these events, I have been hard-pressed to find a more friendly, lively, and joyous crowd anywhere else. The act of collectively watching a classic film is an infectious, natural high. This is why people attend from around the world, and why Last Remaining Seats sells out every year. The good news is that there are still some tickets left for most of the programs, which begin in June at the Orpheum Theatre. The good and bad news is that next year you will know to buy ahead of time: All About Eve (1950) at the Los Angeles Theatre on Broadway (the gorgeous movie palace that opened with the premiere of Chaplin’s City Lights in 1931) is already sold out. So is To Catch a Thief (1955) at the Orpheum Theatre (1926). However, you still have a chance see the beautifully restored 1926 Orpheum, also on Broadway, if you get seats on June 26 for Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1925), a silent film which will be accompanied by Clark Wilson on the Orpheum’s original Mighty Wurlitzer organ.
La Bamba (1987) will be screened on June 5 at the Palace Theatre (1911), another structure on the historic “Broadway corridor,” the birthplace of vaudeville and cinematic entertainment in Los Angeles. This area features one of the largest concentrations of historic theatres on one street in the nation with twelve stunning theatres located within nine blocks. Behind their misleadingly humble exteriors, Broadway’s theatres feature sweeping marble staircases, star-sprinkled ceilings, elaborately crafted interiors, gilded rococo designs and a wide range of flamboyant architectural styles. As Vaudeville died out, the theatres were mostly converted into grand movie palaces. With postwar suburbanization, attendance declined, and many of the theatres were either converted into retail space or shut down completely. Were it not for efforts of organizations such as The Conservancy, these theatres would become parking lots. The host for La Bamba will be Laura Isabel Serna, Associate Professor of Film at USC School of Cinematic Arts; special guests include the stars of La Bamba, Lou Diamond Phillips and Esai Morales.
On June 12, My Fair Lady will play downtown, but rarely will you have a chance to see a screening at the Music Center. This is the first time ever that Last Remaining Seats will visit the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (designed by Welton Becket and Associates), which opened in 1964, the same year My Fair Lady was released. On June 29, perennial favorite Casablanca will play twice, except the 1942 classic will be seen at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, which opened as the Fox Wilshire in 1930 and has been beautifully renovated. The 2:00 matinee host will be John Rabe, creator and host of KPCC’s “OffRamp,” and the 8:00 evening host will be Alan K. Rode, film historian, writer, and director of the Film Noir Foundation.
Last Remaining Seats
Los Angeles Conservancy
screenings from June 1 through June 29, 2013
for dates and tickets, visit http://www.laconservancy.org
or call the Conservancy’s event hotline at (213) 430-4219