Five years ago in the fall of 2006, Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles screened at the Lammle Sunset 5 as part of the LA Korean Film Festival. The theatre has long been king of the LA indie film scene and often the competiion to get films booked into the theater was fierce. Five years later the LA Times is reporting that a 20 year reign is ending.
It's the end of an era for a West Hollywood movie house that has been a mainstay of the independent cinema scene for the last 20 years.
Laemmle Theatres will stop operating the Sunset 5 at the end of the month after being unable to come to terms with the landlord on a new lease.
Robert Redford's Sundance Cinemas will take over the five-screen complex Dec. 1 and will temporarily close it for renovations, with plans to reopen in late spring. This marks the entry of Westlake Village-based exhibitor into the Los Angeles area. Sundance Cinemas operates theaters in Madison, Wis., San Francisco and Houston.
Although the Sunset 5 will remain operational, the loss of Laemmle as its programmer marks a significant shift for the independent film business in the Los Angeles area. Filmmakers such as Catherine Hardwicke ("Thirteen"), Bryan Singer ("The Usual Suspects") and Bill Condon ("Gods and Monsters") had their films premiere at the movie house on Sunset Boulevard near Crescent Heights.
"I've seen so many inspiring films at the Sunset 5 -- movies you couldn't see anywhere else," Hardwicke said. "Then I got lucky and my directorial debut, 'Thirteen,' screened there. It was a real honor to do a Q&A in this iconic indie theatre. I even had a heckler in a fake beard and mustache and a stalker chick that made her own fliers for the screening. I'll miss the Laemmle vibe, but I'm glad to hear that the theater will reopen in the spring."
Over the years, the programming for the theater became more of a challenge as first-rate art house titles were attracted to higher-end cinemas in the area, specifically Pacific Theatres at the Grove, which took over the location in late 2002; the Arclight Hollywood, which opened in 2003; and the Landmark Theatres on Pico Boulevard, which launched in 2007.
“Ever since the Arclight and the Grove opened, we lost some attendance,"
While its a good thing Sundance is taking over it is a downer to see this era end. At least we can say Robotech was part of this great era of indie film in Los Angeles!said Greg Laemmle, president of Laemmle Theatres. “We still had hit films such as ‘Monster’ [starring Charlize Theron] and ‘Half Nelson’ [starring Ryan Gosling] along the way. But we started seeing fewer and fewer of them. Distributors were under pressure to get into the Arclight.”