Movies, Not Condos: Save the Fairfax Theatre

Movies, Not Condos: Save the Fairfax Theatre

The Fairfax Theatre, on Beverly at Fairfax kitty-corner to the CBS Television City, has been closed since January, when the roof partially collapsed due to long-term neglect and heavy rains. A sign posted in front of the theater promised that the three-screen, 80 year-old mini movie palace would reopen in March, but that didn't happen. Due to an order by the Department of Building and Safety, the theater can't reopen until/unless Alex Gorby, the owner of the building and landlord to theater operator Regency, pays for roof repairs. Gorby had 30 days to comply with that order, and didn't, because he wants to permanently shutter the theater and build condos with ground-floor retail space in its place.

With historic theaters a highly endangered species, a number of organizations have stepped in to try to squash Gorby's condo dreams. The Los Angeles Historic Theater Foundation sponsored an 80th birthday party/rally on Saturday to spread the word about the conflict between Gorby and Regency, who, according to the LAHTF's Hillsman Wright, "were forced to leave and wished to stay" at the Fairfax. In terms of neighborhood response, Saturday's event was a success (see this video for a recap): over 100 people showed up, and at several points the honking in response to one protester's "Honk if you love movies" sign drowned out Wright's speech.

But honking doesn't cure condo development, and so the friends of theater have pinned their hopes on getting the Fairfax declared a Cultural Landmark, which would force Gorby to preserve it rather than destroy it. The first hearing in that fight is on April 1.

If the preservation argument doesn't get you, here's an angle that'll affect anyone in LA who loves movies. Most local moviegoers may not know this, but from a distributor's standpoint, Los Angeles is the hardest major market in the country in which to open a non-blockbuster film, and one of the biggest problems is that there aren't enough centrally-located screens. Once a cheapy second-run double feature house run by Cineplex Odeon, under Regency's management the Fairfax screened a combination of studio films and indies like Anvil! The Story of Anvil and Antichrist. Los Angeles can't afford to lose three movie screens in the heart of the city. As it is, a lot of indie films now open significantly later in LA than they do in New York, if they ever make it here at all; the fewer available theaters, the worse that problem gets.

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