Mann Theaters will not renew its lease on the landmark Mann National Theatre, continuing its exodus from Westwood.
The National, the last single-screen theater built in Los Angeles, was the site of numerous glitzy film premieres since its opening in 1970.
After exiting the National, Mann will be left with only three one-screen theaters: the Village, Bruin and the smaller Festival theater.
"The lease is coming to an end, and they were looking to raise the rent," said Mann Theaters Chief Executive Peter Dobson. "We just can't afford the money they want."
Simms Commercial Development, which manages the property, declined comment.
The Mann chain, co-owned by Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Studios and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., will exit in August from the 1,107-seat venue. Mann previously abandoned the four-screen Westwood Theatre complex in 2001, which was replaced with a Whole Foods Market, and subsequently left the Regent and Plaza theaters.
"At one point, Mann controlled all 10 screens in Westwood Village proper," said Steve Sann, a longtime Westwood business owner, real estate consultant and partner in the Nine Thirty Restaurant at Westwood's W Hotel.
The first premiere at the theater was in 1970, when "The Boys in the Band" bowed. Since then, it's been the site of scores of high-profile Hollywood film debuts, including "The Exorcist," "Indiana Jones" and "Spider-Man."
Westwood was once dominated by large, single-screen theaters. But the advent of stadium-seating cineplexes and competition from the ArcLight in Hollywood, Century Theaters' new 15-screen flagship operation in Century City and The Bridge all cut into attendance.
Mann executives had hoped to keep the classic picture palace. "We looked at renovating the theater or turning it into four screens and none of the business models worked," Dobson said.
One plan discussed in 2004 called for Mann to be the anchor tenant of a five-screen theater project in a $60 million, mixed-use development on Broxton and Le Conte avenues. That project, however, recently stalled when the development partners filed lawsuits against each other. The reported price of renovating the National at the time was about $5 million.
Overhauling the National could be expensive due to required seismic and Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades, asbestos removal and other improvements. Parking and traffic concerns and lack of retail appeal also have made Westwood less appealing to theatergoers.
Sources said one potential tenant would be Westwood-based Regent Entertainment, which occupies the penthouse floor of the KB Homes building at Wilshire Boulevard and Veteran Avenue. Regent is the world's largest independent distributor of television movies and owns the gay TV network, here! Regent also owns boutique theaters, including the Regent Showcase at La Brea and Melrose avenues.
Regent co-founder Paul Colichman declined comment on the property or its leasing status, but offered his view on what it will take to lure viewers back to Westwood screens.
"It's a competitive theater environment, and Westwood, which is a phenomenal area in terms of location, will have to provide reasons for people to return," Colichman said. "There has to be lots of free parking, more and better restaurants, and more and better retail businesses to support the local population."
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