Landmark Theater To Shut Down
The landmark National Theater in Westwood, the site of countless Hollywood premieres since it opened in 1970, is shutting down after tonight (Thursday), Daily Variety reported today, citing a theater employee. The National is operated by the Mann Theaters chain, which announced last year that it would not renew its lease due to rising rental costs but later signed a short extension. The company did not confirm the closing. The National, which seats 1,112, represented what Variety described as "a dying breed of single-screen cinemas in an age of megaplexes."
The headline is confusing, since there is a whole theater chain called Landmark, but this is kind of sad. I think I know the theater it's referring to, if it opened in 1970. The theater is a definite relic of its era--it clearly hasn't been updated or even refurbished since its opening. The result is that it's somewhat dingy looking, but it's also wholly unique. It's got a sort of rounded facade with big windows, the sort of thing that was the wave of the future then. The carpeting and upholstery is all orange and yellow, now dirty with age. But as the news blurb notes, the most striking feature is the size of the theater. One screen, and the room is huge. If there weren't chairs you could play professional football in there. And it's not like new theaters with the stadium seating--there's a slight slope, then an angle back up as you approach the screen, so it averages out to being fairly level. The sheer amount of space was impressive.
I saw Dukes of Hazzard and Team America there, both at off-peak showtimes, and of course the theater was never close to full. It's not surprising that the place was not profitable enough. Unlike the other old Westwood single screen theaters, it doesn't hearken back to a 1930s how-could-you-ever-think-of-touching-this-theater golden age. No, it just looks like a harder-to-romanticize 1970s out-of-date-but-not-out-of-date-enough dumpy theater.
Anyway, I thought it was cool.