It was during ninth week of this past fall quarter that I noticed, while making one of my essential Diddy Riese runs, for the first time, that Broxton Avenue had been cordoned off for a movie premiere. A glitzy red carpet was laid out and security guards manned the entrance to the Regency Village Theatre. Posters advertised the now Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe-winning film “La La Land” and little did I know that Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone were set to arrive in our very own Westwood.
Lines of eager fans adorned the sidewalks in hopes to see the stars, and I was one of them, baffled to find myself here with such a stroke of luck. And finally, the lead actors arrived in their limousines, wearing a stylish gown and tuxedo. I was in awe of their stardom, and seeing them in person made my year.
This incident sparked my interest in Westwood’s history and, most importantly, the historic movie theaters that stand tall in the heart of its busy streets. Westwood is one of the major places where Hollywood presents its movies to the world.
One of the most popular premiere sites include the Regency Village Theatre, which opened in 1931. Known for its 170-foot tower embellished with neon letters spelling “Fox,” it boasts Spanish colonial style architecture, and can be spotted from anywhere in the village. Some of the biggest films have premiered at the theater including many “James Bond” films, “Mission: Impossible,” “Batman,” “Harry Potter,” “The Terminator,” “The Lego Movie,” the “Shrek” series and a plethora of others, for 60 years.
Its seating capacity is about 1,400 and the interiors were remodeled in the late ’40s. The Dolby Atmos sound system was also installed in time for the movie “Transcendence.” They passed the rigorous set of industry standards for audio reproduction, and are one of the few remaining THX-certified theaters in LA.
Directly opposite to Regency Village Theatre stands another historic theater, the Regency Bruin Theater. Another one of Westwood’s most distinctive buildings, the Bruin Theater was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument in 1988. It flaunts a wrap-around streamlined marquee which says “Bruin,” and was built in 1937. With an Art Deco style architecture, it has a 670-seat screening hall, again with antique interiors, but renovated sound and projection equipment.
Although temporarily closed to the public, the Crest Theatre is another historic theater in Westwood. Located farther down south to the UCLA campus on Westwood Boulevard, the Crest Theatre was built in the ’40s and has extravagant acoustics and a unique interior. Its intimate size and gold-painted exterior make it seem all the more regal. The auditorium is equipped with a stage, a dance floor, a VIP seating area and has hosted film and music festivals, burlesque shows, charity events and movie premieres. In 2010, it was designated a Historic-Cultural Monument.
Located near Westwood on Santa Monica Boulevard is theNuart Theatre. Built in 1930 and opened in 1931, it has an Art Deco-style architecture and can be seen lit up in neon lights every night. This theater is best known for its long-running blockbuster screening of Ridley Scott’s classic film “Blade Runner.” It also hosts a weekly Saturday night screening of the “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” at midnight. It has a seating capacity of 660 people, and since the 1970s, has been a predominant feature of the Los Angeles art house scene.
The Landmark Regent Theater is also another theater in Westwood Village that has recently received a lot of attention with it shutting down soon in order to make space for two new restaurants. Built as a retail store in the 1940s, it was remodeled into “L.A.’s Most Beautiful Intimate Theater” in September 1996. It mostly played independent, specialized, foreign and art films on its only screen. The Landmark Regent also features new seating, decor, digital sound and claims to “bring the best screen presentation of any cinema in Los Angeles.”
Our city is one of the nation’s major hubs for arts, entertainment and culture, and the historic theaters are a testament to that. Visitors and Bruins alike are treated to parades of movie stars arriving in limousines, walking on the red carpet and greeting fans amid flashing lights, paparazzi and cameras. So, the next time you sit in one of these theaters, watching the latest release with a bucket of popcorn, remember the seat you’re sitting at might have once been graced by a major movie star.