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Art-House Blues

Our cover story last week about the sorry state of Los Angeles art houses and the dwindling number of its theaters showing specialty films drew many comments from cinephiles, a lot of them unhappy at the trend.

"I've lived in L.A. for nearly 20 years and have seen one theater after another disappear — the Mann Westwood 4-plex, the Plaza, the Festival, the National, etc.," writes reader Flash Bazbo. "I'm overjoyed for Hadrian at the Cinefamily and Phil and the crew at the New Beverly, but the truth is that they've put their hearts and souls into their programming and their advertising; I wouldn't have known anything about Dogtooth if I hadn't gotten the Cinefamily's e-mail bulletin with Hadrian basically saying, 'Stop the presses!'

"I feel bad about the Music Hall, but that, much like the late, lamented Fairfax, is also a victim of underpromotion and nonexistent parking. It makes going to the show all the more difficult. I'm hoping the Laemmle theaters hold out and I'm praying for the Crest, maybe my favorite theater in L.A., to stay open. These are tough times for small-scale exhibitors, but the folks at the Cinefamily, the New Bev and (to a lesser extent) the American Cinematheque have made moviegoing less of a chore and more of a fun event."

A reader identified as Hb78 says theaters themselves are responsible for declining attendance. "Revival theaters like the New Beverly, Egyptian and Cinefamily need to get off the underground high horse and bring new art-house films to their viewing public. I'm not saying they need to flip their schedule, just be open to it on a monthly basis. I've seen so many theaters run into the ground simply because they get obsessed with sticking to ONE style of programming. These theaters have a dedicated following. People WILL come out.

"A second point, being someone who used to book films, I can tell you that it's like beating a brick wall with L.A. The L.A. theaters are too tough for their own good. It's so hard to break through their skin and get booked. And forget the Laemmle. They will just turn you down in hopes that you'll fork over the cash yourself. They're hooked on four-walling. It's like crack to them. There came a point in time where we just stopped calling them."

Reader Chaunce writes: "Hadrian Belove notes that the hipster crowd is poor, and knows how to download. I think those are key points for all programmers to bear in mind, and [it] probably explains some of the successes for programming at the New Bev, Cinefamily and Cinematheque. Good programmers will be aware of stuff that is scarce, hard to find in downloadable form, or will offer something unique and special in the theater-viewing experience (i.e., Cinematheque's 70mm series, or cast-/director– attended screenings with post-Q&A).

"Another note: Later screenings might also help get more people in the theater. Or multiple screenings per night. It doesn't help if a film screens two nights, or even all week, if it is screening at 7:30. I have trouble making any screening before 9 or 9:30. That may or may not be true of others."

Finally, reader Stwsr writes: "The movies are around, if you bothered to get off your butts and look for them. And by the way, Silent Movie Theatre does not have exclusive rights to independent and foreign cinema. They may have had cache in the past, before the deluge of hipsters decided that it was the cool place to hang for bragging rights."

CITY COUNCIL TENURE

Our assessment of the dim chances that challengers have of ousting L.A. City Council incumbents in the March 8 election struck a chord with a number of revolutionaries.

Reader Brett writes: "I live in District 12, where Greig Smith is leaving anyway. Unfortunately, I cannot vote out those who most deserve to be yanked forcibly from the public teat. I don't mind Krekorian; he's the one leading the charge right now to put the brakes on this bloated NFL stadium that AEG is trying to foist on the already overburdened taxpayers and traffic-sitters of Los Angeles. Cardenas, Huizar and Perry have repeatedly demonstrated that they are little more than self-serving, self-aggrandizing professional politicians, more than slightly beholden to big campaign supporters and/or prone to nepotism."

Reader Yuval Kremer offers this advice: "There's one other thing that's important besides money and endorsements ... the more opponents an incumbent has, the more likely there will be a runoff election ... as we saw with Jack Weiss, who had a bunch of challengers and went into a runoff election for city attorney. All his money from developers and all his endorsements couldn't save him. Krekorian only has one opponent, but the others are not as lucky (Wesson has five opponents, and they all had to get between 500 and 1,000 signatures in a very short period of time in order to get onto the ballot). The runoff election is in May. That's two more months to beat a weakened incumbent. ... We may get one or two big surprises."

Writes F89graham: "The community activists in the blogosphere absolutely must get the message out about the challengers to the incumbents and the need for average people to vote in the election. Some of these horrible incumbents can be tossed out and replaced with some people who are more closely tied to their communities. The incumbents count on mailed flyers to persuade voters, but today the Internet is an inexpensive way around the advantage the incumbents have with money from special interests to pay for mailers. We can do it. Turn this City Hall upside down like the people of Egypt are doing to Mubarak."

WRITE TO US

We will appoint you to a high-paying job in Egypt. Write us at: Comment, L.A. Weekly, 3861 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City, CA, 90230. Or you can reach us at laweekly.com. Full name and contact info preferred.


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