19 April 2007

Another One-Screener Falls

In yet another incident in the sad decline and death of the grand one-screen movie palace in the face of the multiplex onslaught, the thirty-six year-old Mann National Theater in Westwood, Los Angeles, is closing down and is scheduled for demolition. This is one of L.A.'s largest seating capacity theaters, and along with the Mann Village (better known in the Vernacular as "The Fox," and one of the greatest, grandest theaters remaining in the city) was one of the principal premiere spots for films in Westwood.

I have some great memories of seeing films at the National: I saw most of the Star Trek films there, and waited in a long line to see opening night of the James Bond film Licence to Kill inside its great cavernous auditorium. I also saw the opening night of Mission: Impossible there. I am sad to see the old behemoth go, even though as a piece of architecture it isn't anything of sterling beauty; all utilitarian '70s decor with a screening room enshrouded in beige pleated curtains as its sole decoration. I can't imagine there was much effort made to save it, not like there would be if somebody got the Philistine idea of taking a wrecking ball to the Fox in Westwood. Regardless, the loss of the old movie palaces is a loss of our movie heritage.

The theater had a cameo appearance in this year's Zodiac, where it masquerades as a San Francisco theater showing Dirty Harry. Fincher couldn't have picked a more perfect theater to project the 1970s period feeling of the movie. I'll bet that the National did show Dirty Harry when it premiered.