The New Beverly Cinema has been a part of my life since I moved to Los Angeles, though I wasn’t a constant presence there. While I loved a lot of their midnight programming (especially Brian Collins’ HMAD series) I just don’t have the constitution to go to midnight movies all that much. Similarly, it’s geographically difficult for me to get there on occasion. But it’s always been there and I’ve never had less than a great time going, plus prices were ultra-reasonable and all of the films were shown on 35MM (until recently). But the theater is about to change faces, and it remains to be seen if the change will be for the better.
Michael Torgan has been running the New Beverly since 2007 when his father, Sherman Torgan, died. Sherman had actually been running the theater since 1978, marking over three decades of the New Beverly being a family-run business. Quentin Tarantino, who had been helping the Torgans with their business finances for some years, stepped in at that moment to buy the property in order to protect it. As the landlord of the New Beverly Cinema, Tarantino had let Michael Torgan essentially do his thing, until he bought a digital projector to be able to show more current releases. The theater was never going to abandon 35MM film, but Tarantino decided that he didn’t want to mix exhibition formats. As a result, Michael Torgan no longer programs for the theater and the venue will be closed for a month. When it reopens, Tarantino will have gotten rid of the digital projector and will be the primary programmer. Hit the jump for more.
Michael brought in digital for the simple fact that besides being a revival house, the New Beverly is an art film second-run house. So, if Frances Ha does well in general release, a month or two later, it plays at the New Beverly, along with something similar. But the companies that release those kinds of movies don’t even make prints anymore. My feeling is, ‘Fuck those guys.’ I want young filmmakers to want their movie to screen at the New Beverly so badly that they demand a print as part of the deal they make with Magnolia or Roadside Attractions or whoever. ‘You have to strike a 35 millimeter print so we can show it at the New Beverly! You’re not paying me jack-shit, you’re ripping me off, but that’s one thing you can do!’ [Laughs. Heartily.]
While I agree in theory with some of this, there is absolutely no way a company like Magnolia will pay tens of thousands of dollars to strike a print. And, aesthetically, there seems to be little point in transferring a digitally shot movie onto actual film.
That was the thing that pushed me over to say, ‘Now’s the time to do it.’ I want the New Beverly to be a bastion for 35 millimeter films. I want it to stand for something. When you see a film on the New Beverly calendar, you don’t have to ask whether it’s going to be shown in DCP [Digital Cinema Projection] or in 35 millimeter. You know it’s playing in 35 because it’s the New Beverly.
That’s definitely a sentiment I can get behind, however it does mean that there will be very few new indies playing the theater since the vast majority of them are shot digitally (and won’t be able to afford to strike even one of the aforementioned prints).
I can certainly get behind the New Beverly being a 35MM only venture that mostly screens older films (the majority of the from Tarantino’s own collection), but I still feel like this is the end of an era. The New Beverly used to be one-stop shopping for cinema fans, where you could see old and new films alike. Now its place in the landscape of the city will be slightly more niche.