Laemmle Passes Sunset 5 to Sundance Cinemas

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by Anne Thompson
November 3, 2011 11:10 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood

Say good-bye to the Sunset 5 Theaters in West Hollywood. As venerable Laemmle Theatres is preparing to open a new seven-plex in North Hollywood, after almost two decades, it will close the now-shabby Sunset 5 on December 1. Competition from new complexes took films and moviegoers away from the Sunset. Sundance Cinemas will renovate the space and reopen in late spring 2012.

"This can be seen as ultimately being in the best interests of Laemmle Theatres," said majority owner Robert Laemmle. "When it came time to renew our lease on the Sunset 5, it became apparent that the time had come to focus Laemmle’s resources elsewhere.”

The Sunset 5 opened in 1992 and specialized in indie films from such directors as Todd Haynes (Safe), Lisa Cholodenko (High Art) Doug Liman (Swingers, Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen), Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects), Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse and Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters. The theatre was featured as a character in Willard Carroll’s 1998 film, Playing by Heart as Angelina Jolie and Ryan Phillipe went there on their first date.

Of the theatre in its heyday, Roger Christensen, the original manager of the Sunset 5, said, "It was a heated mix of eager young talents, amusing indie hucksters and hangers-on, and a passionate, razor sharp cinephile audience."

The programmers at the Sunset 5 were also committed to smaller, niche films, including what critic B. Ruby Rich called The New Queer Cinema. "The Laemmles understood the needs of the local audience and always programmed the theatre to serve the community," says Marcus Hu of Strand Releasing. "The Laemmles created a rich history in that site, one that will leave an indelible mark in Strand’s history as well as in the memories of cinephiles and filmmakers who had their careers launched at the Sunset 5.”

Meanwhile, construction is nearly complete on the Laemmle NoHo 7 Theaters at 5240 Lankershim Boulevard, North Hollywood. The target date to open the doors to the public is Wednesday, December 21, 2011. The Laemmle NoHo 7 will feature digital projection in all its auditoriums with full stadium seating in the two largest and modified stadium seating in the rest. All auditoriums boast high-backed leatherette rocker seats with extra-wide row spacing. Laemmle plans a mix of adult-appeal Hollywood movies and American indie and foreign fare.

Like the Claremont 5, which Laemmle opened in 2007, Laemmle is operator, developer and property owner at the NoHo 7. Laemmle also is developing a five-screen complex in Glendale in anticipation of a 2012 construction start, and is planning renovations for the chain’s theatres in Santa Monica and West Los Angeles.

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