Jason Reitman and a group of directors have bought Westwood's iconic Village Theater


One of the most beloved movie theaters in Los Angeles, the historic Village Theater in Westwood, is now under new management — and the owners include some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

On Wednesday, a coalition of directors led by Jason Reitman announced they had closed a deal to take over the 93-year-old movie palace that has been a favorite site for movie premieres since its opening in 1931, with a 170-foot white Spanish Revival/Art Deco tower that has long served as a beacon for film lovers in search of old-school Hollywood glamour.

Originally part of the Fox Theaters chain, the Village, which was designated a historic-cultural monument in 1988, has been owned and operated by the Regency Theatres group since 2010. When the theater — used a location in Quentin Tarantino’s 1960s-set “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” — went up for sale last year, Reitman moved quickly to pull together fellow filmmakers to purchase it.

An L.A. native and the son of the late comedy director Ivan Reitman, the director, whose movies include “Up in the Air” and “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” had grown up seeing films at the Village. Reitman held the premiere of his 2007 breakout “Juno” at the theater.

The effort to save the Village Theater, which comes as movie theaters in Los Angeles and around the country continue to face financial headwinds, brought together a diverse array of Oscar-winning filmmakers whose work spans a range of genres. The new owners of the theater include such directors as Christopher Nolan, J.J. Abrams, Guillermo del Toro, Christopher McQuarrie, Judd Apatow, Damien Chazelle, Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus, Bradley Cooper, Alfonso Cuarón, Hannah Fidell, Alejandro González Iñárritu, James Gunn, Sian Heder, Rian Johnson, Gil Kenan, Karyn Kusama, Justin Lin, Phil Lord, David Lowery, Chris Miller, Todd Phillips, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Reitman, Jay Roach, Seth Rogen, Emma Seligman, Emma Thomas, Denis Villeneuve, Lulu Wang and Chloé Zhao.

The theater — which boasts a large auditorium seating more than 1,300 people, with a 70mm-capable screen and upgraded sound system — will showcase a mixture of first-run films and repertory programming selected by the theater’s owners.

Several of the filmmakers, including Justin Lin, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris, Brad Silberling and Alexander Payne, are alumni of UCLA, which sits just a block away from the theater.

Inside the house, the directors plan to showcase artifacts from their personal collections, including props, wardrobe items and film prints. In time, there are plans to add a restaurant, bar and gallery, but the theater will remain open throughout.

Reitman spoke to The Times by phone Wednesday about the inspiration behind the deal, the state of moviegoing and what the future holds for the Village Westwood.

Long before you were a director, you grew up going to the Village Theater. What are your early memories of being there?

Reitman: I genuinely remember lining up around that corner for as long as my father was taking me to movies. That was my introduction to the moviegoing experience: getting there early, lining up around the corner and feeling like I was part of a community of people who loved movies, who could not wait to see a film on opening night and who knew that the conversation before and after the movie was almost as important as watching the movie itself.

A lot of filmmakers clearly have a special place in their heart for this theater given how many stepped up to be part of this. When did the conversation start about taking the Village over?

What’s incredible to me is how quickly this all came together.

I heard that the theater was up for sale last summer, and I remembered what happened to the National Theatre just a few blocks away [which closed in 2007 and was demolished]. I also heard that one of the bidders was interested in turning it into a live musical theater venue and another bidder was interested in turning the interior into retail.

I immediately put in a bid, and I started reaching out to directors I knew. And the response was swift — and it was positive. I think the first couple directors I spoke to were Rian Johnson and Guillermo del Toro, who both immediately said they were in. And the more directors I asked, the more positive feedback I got and the more I kept hearing the same thing, which was that we unknowingly had a common vision to collectively own a movie theater that could serve as a community hub for everybody who loves movies, a place where you could grab coffee or a bite before or a drink after and love movies in every way.

This has obviously been a tough time for many movie theaters particularly in LA and some, like the ArcLight and the Landmark, have not survived. At the same time, we’re also seeing new signs of life in the local moviegoing scene with theaters like the Egyptian, Vidiots and Quentin Tarantino’s Vista Theater and the announcement of a new film festival. How do you see your purchase of the Village in the context of all that?

You know, we spent the last few years inside and we’re all re-learning why we want to go out, why we want to watch sports, why we want to go out and dance. Live-streaming has made it effortless to watch things at home. But in doing so, we’ve lost something really important, which is the habitual experience of going to the movies and watching them together.

There’s a reason why Christmas is the biggest moviegoing day of the year. It’s that day that you’re with your family and you need to find an activity that you can do together no matter what. Movies truly bring us together, and I think this is a great moment to shine the light on how fun it is to go to the movies and how important films are for community building.

That community building is particularly hard in a city like L.A. but the Village has been an integral part of downtown Westwood for a long time.

You know, there’s something in the name: Westwood is a village and this theater is called the Village. I think that’s what we all yearn for. No matter how technologically advanced we get, no matter how much we crave the city center, there’s a part of us that always yearns for a village. This is a village for movies.

With so many filmmakers involved and such a diverse group, how do you envision the theater’s repertory programming evolving?

I think the programming is going to be a reflection of the directors, and I’m really proud of the fact that there’s a very cross-generational group that represents every genre of filmmaking. This is a movie theater that is co-owned by Christopher Nolan and Emma Seligman, Steven Spielberg and Lulu Wang.

We want this to be a showcase for first-run movies on one of the biggest screens in the country with the best picture and best sound. And simultaneously, a place where you can see indie film, international film, rep-house film, programmed by one of your favorite directors.

So what happens in the months to come? Obviously the theater will remain open but it sounds like there are pretty ambitious plans to remake it with a restaurant and bar.

[Dryly] Well, as you know, renovations in Los Angeles are easy. Construction is a snap.

The theater is going to remain open for the foreseeable future, as we finish putting together plans, but things are already in the works. We have an exciting vision that includes dining, drinking, moviegoing, gallery viewing, and programming of new and old films, and we cannot wait to share that with everybody.

Do those plans involve acquiring other property adjacent to the theater or nearby?

[Laughs] Do you know how hard it was to pull together a group of 30 people to buy this one building? Right now I honestly just I feel like I’m living in a dream. It was literally a matter of months ago that I was standing in front of this theater, wondering if I can help save it. And just a week ago, I was in the lobby with heroes of mine, directors who were among the reasons I became a director myself, and we stood together like a group of giddy kids in disbelief that we now own this theater. And that thrill is carrying me every day right now.

Will the repertory programming start soon? Any hint of what we can expect?

It’s a great question, and we can’t wait to share more. I think we’re going to have to find a balance.

Here is what I’d say: I love what’s happening in Los Angeles right now and I’d love to see it eventually happen across the country. And with the Village, we think there’s an opportunity to not only have a great community home for cinema in Los Angeles but for us to create the kind of theater that we hope will one day exist across the country.



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