The shuttered Fairfax Theatre, for years operated as a bargain house for second-run movies, will reopen next month as the latest in the Laemmle Theatres art-house chain.
Laemmle has signed a five-year lease for the vintage theater, on Beverly Boulevard just west of Fairfax, according owner Robert Laemmle.
The theater, built in 1930, was divided into three screens decades ago, and is undergoing a rushed facelift in preparation for its planned Nov. 2 reopening.
"We've had our eyes on it for a long time. I would have liked to have bought the property but it's not on the market," Laemmle said. "It's definitely an area that can support an art house."
The Fairfax Theatre was operated for the last 15 years by Loews Cineplex Entertainment, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February. Loews opted not to renew its lease due to sagging attendance and closed the theater Sept. 20.
For years, Loews charged bargain prices most recently $2.50 a seat for popular releases that debuted six months to a year earlier. But in recent times the bargain model has been a losing proposition.
"A lot of our older theaters have become too expensive to operate," said Mindy Tucker, vice president of strategic planning for Loews.
Financial terms of the Laemmle lease with owner Alex Gorby were not disclosed, but Robert Laemmle said both parties have escape clauses after five years that are tied to attendance figures.
"If the theater performs, we hope to be there for a long time," said Laemmle. Because of vastly different fare, he said the 14-screen Pacific Theatres complex going up at the nearby Grove at Farmers market would not draw audience from the Fairfax Theatre.
Laemmle said the company is spending between $100,000 and $200,000 on mostly minor repairs aimed at brightening a space that underwent a major remodel in the late 1980s.
Part of the overhaul involves installing new seats and widening aisles. The lobby is being repainted and relighted and the three screening rooms are being touched up to highlight historic moldings and d & #233;cor, said Jay Reisbaum, director of development for Laemmle.
With the Fairfax Theatre, Laemmle wants to demonstrate that its art house model featuring first-run foreign and independent films remains viable even at a time of retraction in the exhibition industry.
"We look for a sophisticated audience and this is a perfect demographic for us," Reisbaum said. "It's a good match because our patron typically prefers to see these type of films in an art theater."
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