Cheers For The Landmark: Saving Indie Film In Grim West L. A.

Michael Cieply

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Two and a half cheers for the Landmark Theatres in West Los Angeles.

The parking escalators have been broken for weeks. Those purple and black staff outfits are a bit somber. And $15 dollars seems high for an hour and 35 minutes of Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice, as delightful as it is.

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But the Landmark, so far, has kept the flag flying for independent movies, and for those who love to watch them on real movie screens.

Actually, “flag flying” is the wrong metaphor. Lately, the Landmark complex—part of a chain that was acquired last year by the Cohen Media Group’s Charles S. Cohen—feels more like a storefront church in a broken down neighborhood. Outside, you’ll see a lot of grit, grime and “For Lease” signs. Inside, you can still get a free cup of lemon-flavored ice water, and spend a couple of hours dwelling on Brittany Runs A Marathon or The Goldfinch.

Of course, there are still other places to see movies in the Western reaches of Los Angeles, where so much of the film community lives. But it isn’t easy.

To penetrate the ArcLight or AMC theaters in Santa Monica means a fight with traffic, parking restrictions, and the occasional bomb scare or suicide jumper. Even people who live in Santa Monica don’t often make the effort—and now, as reported on Deadline, all or part of the Laemmle chain, which operates the indie-oriented Monica, seems to be up for sale.

Century City and its never-ending construction projects are intimidating. Easier to avoid the AMC complex there. There’s an iPic multiplex on Wilshire Blvd. in Westwood. But road crews have made Westwood Village a no-go zone. Theaters in The Grove or Playa Del Rey might as well be on the moon. You can’t get there from here.

So it pretty much comes down to the Landmark, which would be fine, if so much of once-vibrant West L.A. weren’t collapsing around it. The multiplex is located in what used to be a shopping center, the Westside Pavilion. But most of the center closed for renovation in 2018, and won’t re-open until (optimistically) 2022, when it will become an office complex leased by Google.

That might save the neighborhood, after a fashion. But it’s far from clear that a couple of thousand techies with their own rooftop garden and a Gensler-designed “indoor-outdoor environment” can revive an entertainment-friendly commercial district, where you could once see a movie, buy a book, and watch them shoot scenes for Clueless in the food court next door.

Meanwhile, things are looking mighty grim here in La La Land. Outside the Landmark, restaurant after restaurant has bitten the dust. As of Thursday, Wadatsumi, Islands, Lenny’s Deli, and the Colony Café (owned by Lilly Tartikoff and daughter Calla) were shuttered. What used to be Norm’s, a diner up the street, had turned into a vacant lot with a four-foot high stand of native scrub brush. Upstairs 2 at the nearby Wine House had a “good-bye” sign up, but still does catering.

On the upside, the guy who was using his reflection in the window of the Pico Blvd. robot store to shave a couple weeks ago was gone; but so was the robot store. Nothing left but a google-eyed helmet-head painted on a wall. Across the street and around back, there’s a new cannabis outlet.

Those are everywhere now. And they seem to be busier than the cocktail lounge at the Landmark, where I counted one customer on Thursday.

But I’m sure things picked up later in the day. I only hope Mr. Cohen can keep his flag flying, or church open—and maybe get the escalators fixed—while we wait for Google, or someone, to save independent film in West L. A.

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