New Beverly Cinema re-opens tonight

Just a brief reminder: The New Beverly Cinema – which closed last week after owner Sherman Torgan died – is reopening tonight for its monthly Grindhouse Double Bill.

Tonight’s pair of exploitaton titles is FRANKENSTEIN’S CASTLE OF FREAKS and THE SINFUL DWARF. The show starts at 7:30pm.

By the way, the Los Angeles Times obituary for Sherman Torgan, who owned and ran the New Beverly since 1978, is here.

Torgan’s great contribution to Los Angeles film culture was that he kept the New Beverly going, despite audience drop-off due to the growth of the home video market. When the New Beverly first began playing old movies, the only real competition was from television, which showed films in an edited, pan-and-scan format that did little justice to the original vision. Since then, DVD, High-Definition Broadcast, and widescreen TV sets have made it possible to enjoy classic films in the comfort of your home without sacrificing the quality of the viewing experience, And yet, somehow, the New Beverly survived. As the obituary notes:

Revival, repertory and second-run movie theaters — the Vagabond near MacArthur Park, the Fox Venice near the beach — came and went, but Torgan’s New Beverly Cinema remained. The rise of multiplex theaters, the increasing number of classic film programs at Los Angeles museums and the DVD industry cut into his business, but film buffs, students and people in the movie business still sprinkled the audience.

I remember once, decades ago, writing a ridiculously long request list to the New Beverly – not just the titles I wanted to see but how they should be double-billed. I got a polite reply that horror films had not been proven ticket-sellers at the New Beverly, but at least a few of my requests did find their way into the schedule.

More recently, I got a sympathetic response when I begged the New Beverly to screen David Lynch’s INLAND EMPIRE – which I had foolishly missed during its initial run and which I did not want to have to wait to see on home video. (You really need to emerse yourself in the Lynchian universe, much easier to do in a darkened theatre than while sitting back watching the tube at home.) That request, too, came true; although I’m sure they would have screened it anyway, it was nice to hear back so soon and stop worrying that I had missed my opportunity to see the film on the big screen.

With all this in mind, I recommend once again that you support Los Angeles’s longest running revival house. If grindhouse exploitation movies are not to your liking, John Carpenter’s THEY LIVE screens on Saturday at midnight, and THE GOONIES and BACK TO THE FUTURE begin a three-day engagement on Sunday.