Hollywood directors join hands to save LA theater

A notable group of A-list Hollywood directors, including JJ Abrams, Guillermo del Toro, and Gina Prince-Bythewood, made a public announcement outside the historic Village Theater in Westwood, Los Angeles, this week. In an unconventional move, they declared themselves the “new caretakers” of the theater, a cultural landmark that opened in 1931 and has been the venue for numerous movie premieres over the decades.

The theater was previously under the management of Regency Theaters, a small chain. Last year, it was put up for sale, prompting more than 30 directors, led by Jason Reitman, to step in and acquire it. The group, which also includes Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, and Bradley Cooper, expressed their intention to preserve the theater as a cultural hub for movie enthusiasts. They plan to use the venue to publicly display personal collections of props and costumes.

The directors emphasized their commitment to restoring the theater to its former glory as a film-centric cultural institution. Spielberg, in particular, expressed his desire to contribute to the revival of the venue. Chris Columbus, known for directing films like Home Alone and Harry Potter, pledged to share part of his collection of 16mm film prints, referring to the theater as a “cinematic miracle.”

Nolan stated his excitement about collaborating with fellow directors to create a space that showcases the future of film exhibition. The terms of the theater’s acquisition, including the purchase price, were not disclosed. The Village, previously known as the Fox, earned the status of a Los Angeles cultural monument in 1988.

Jason Reitman, reflecting on his personal connection to the theater, mentioned attending it with his father, director Ivan Reitman, in his childhood. He also hosted premieres for his films there, such as Juno in 2007. Reitman expressed concern that potential buyers wanted to transform the theater into a live music venue or retail store, prompting him to place a bid and rally support from other directors who shared a common vision for the venue.

Reitman envisioned the theater offering a diverse range of films that reflects the eclectic tastes of its “cross-generational” owners. This includes showcasing first-run movies on one of the country’s largest screens with top-tier picture and sound quality, as well as featuring indie films, international films, and repertory house films curated by the directors themselves.

The extensive list of new owners of the Village Theater also includes Judd Apatow, Damien Chazelle, Ryan Coogler, Alfonso Cuarón, Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, Hannah Fidell, Alejandro González Iñárritu, James Gunn, Sian Heder, Rian Johnson, and many more, representing a powerhouse collective invested in the future of film exhibition.

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