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Laemmle Passes Sunset 5 to Sundance Cinemas

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 3, 2011 at 11:10AM

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.
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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.

This article is related to: Exhibition, News, Independents, Genres, Box Office, Independents


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.