When the Sundance Sunset Cinema opens to the public on Friday, it will be as much a return as it is a replacement.
The new theater, situated in the West Hollywood spot occupied by the Laemmle Sunset 5 for 20 years until it closed last year, aims to re-inject some life into Los Angeles' occasionally faltering art-house circuit. But why here, why now?
“The way this came about was the site of the former Laemmle 5 was not only in disrepair, it was sort of sinking into the sunset, so to speak,” says Robert Redford, whose Sundance Institute is the five-location chain's namesake, via phone interview. That disrepair, he says, made it “ripe for redevelopment and re-engineering” in a way that could be both “filmmaker-friendly and audience-friendly.”
By audience-friendly, he's referring to reserved seating, beer and wine and outdoor patio space — features that, until now, have been mainly associated with the ArcLight and Landmark, at least when it comes to seeing independent fare.
These traits make the Sunset Cinema very much a luxury theater, and it likely will come with matching ticket prices.
As for what sets it apart from the above-mentioned competition, well, there is our trust in Redford, an L.A. native who is used to risky ventures of this sort: “I grew up here. I was raised here as a kid,” the founder of the Sundance Film Festival explains.
After a brief conversation with him, it's easy to forget the disappointment that accompanied the Sunset 5's closure and simply be glad that L.A. soon will have another venue for indie film.
“When it got to Los Angeles,” Redford continues, “suddenly something was sparked inside me, which was, 'Gosh, I can come back to my own roots, you know, my own hometown.' And that felt good.”