Tours Travel

What happened to Westwood?

Until a few years ago, Westwood was the place to go if you wanted to pamper yourself. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I wanted to find a place where I could walk … browse stores, etc. Something, perhaps, that reminded me of New York City. Los Angeles is not a great city to walk … however Miss Susan P. from Encino told me that the best places to walk were Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and Westwood Village. I hadn’t been there in years, but after going to Westwood with Ron last week, I thought I should visit him again …

Located about 30 minutes from my apartment, Westwood is located on the west side of Los Angeles, just east of the San Diego Freeway (405). Home to the esteemed UCLA, Westwood was once a thriving college town … with great shopping, restaurants, record stores, and great movie theaters. Parking was a pain and expensive … but it was worth it. One could easily have spent the day in Westwood and had a good time … not anymore.

In the past, I’d drive from Hollywood specifically to hang out in Westwood … I’d have a slice or two at La Monica’s pizza in Gayley … I’d stop by Baskin Robbins for ice cream, check out Circuit City in Gayley, spend a year at Tower Records on Westwood Boulevard, visit an independent record store or two, and of course, see a movie …

When I started hanging out in Westwood … there were no less than six individual Mann Theaters screens, a Mann 4-plex, a United Artists 3-plex, a General Cinema 4-plex, and a magnificent owned and operated theater. by Pacific Theaters called The Crest. Ten different movie theaters … all within walking distance. You can see why I would love a place like this … It was like Westwood really was a MOVIE TOWN …

On Saturday night, I visited the old Movie Town … and what I found was more like a Ghost Town. Since 2006, there has been an awkward exodus in Westwood … everyone was leaving and no one was moving.

Before Saturday’s movie, I took a walk around the neighborhood once lively … what’s left of it at least. The two-story Tower Records is gone … all the other Westwood record stores are gone too. The Rite Aid is gone … now it’s just an empty space. I was surprised to find that even the Gardens of Glendon restaurant (site of two dates in the past) had closed its doors forever … with nothing in its place. The streets now felt dark and lonely … although some things remained …

The In N Out burger is still there … that’s where I took Ron last week. And then there is Lamonicas … Thank God, Lamonicas is still alive and well. I loved going there whenever I could. Excellent pizza … really good. On Saturday I had two delicious Sicilian slices … I wanted to have 100 more. The theme of the place is all of New York … which makes it too easy for me to love.

My Baskin Robbins is still there … I’ve never seen him busy, but he’s always open … even late. After my pizza, I always got vanilla ice cream from Baskin Robbins in Westwood … just like I did on Saturday night.

After pizza and ice cream, I usually took a look at the giant kiosk next door. On Saturday, I couldn’t help but go through … checking the music magazines like always … sure I was glad to see that the kiosk had survived, but other places weren’t so lucky … especially in terms of what has Happened in Westwood theaters in recent years.

Since then, the Mann Westwood 4-Plex has been shut down and destroyed. It’s not a great theater, but it’s a loss nonetheless. I had seen three movies there … GODS AND MONSTERS … and Dennis Rodman’s action actor SIMON SEZ … that I watched completely alone … I mean … NOBODY was in the movies except me …

The Mann Plaza has closed. I think I only saw one movie there … FREE ENTERPRISE … It was a decent single screen though … I think it even had a balcony. It was a nice old theater …

The Mann Festival has closed. The seats weren’t that great … they folded down … although I think they fixed it. I had many experiences there. It’s where I met Jamie Lee Curtis and saved their seats for GONE WITH THE WIND … it’s where I watched various PGA screenings with movies like ABOUT ADAM and PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS … It’s where I watched SNOW FALLING OVER CEDARS … and where I licked my wounds watching IRON MONKEY after a disastrous date in 2004 …

The Mann National has closed and been destroyed … a vacant lot is in its place … It was one of my favorite theaters in Los Angeles. It had a lot of character … a huge theater with a huge screen … It was dirty and outdated, but I loved it. I had the pleasure of seeing SAVING PRIVATE RYAN there on opening day in June 1998, as well as movies like SMALL SOLDIERS, ADAM SANDLER’S EIGHT CRAZY NIGHTS, 30 DAYS TO YUMA, and WAR. It pains me to think that he’s gone forever …

The United Artists Westwood 3-plex was closed and destroyed. It is now a CVS pharmacy. It’s not the best theater, but I loved it … I watched a lot of movies there … PLAYING FROM THE HEART, 15 MINUTES, THE OTHERS, BOILER ROOM, CORRE, LOLA CORRE, AMERICAN HISTORY X and more …

Once a thriving metropolis of ten movie theaters … Westwood now only has four movie theaters …

The Mann Regent in Broxton is now run by Landmark Theaters and thankfully it still functions as a single screen. There I had seen TEA WITH MUSSOLINI, then Landmark bought it … I saw things like PERSONAL SPEED and SESSION 9.

The General Cinema Avco 4-plex is now operated by AMC. It’s not a great theater … it never was. There was always something strange or strange about it … I never felt like anyone was directing the show … However … I had visited AVCO on more than a few occasions to see movies like THE DIRTY WORK, THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, COMPANY MAN, HOT ROD, MR. WOODCOCK, as well as TAKEN with my mom.

The Mann Bruin is still alive and well … yet it is my least favorite theater in the area. The reason … an amazing design and a vintage-style marquee on the outside, but a plain and simple Jane look on the inside. I saw some things here … SPHERE, DR. DOOLITTLE, FREDDIE SE FINGERED, CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND, plus a screening of NATIONAL TREASURE 2: BOOK OF SECRETS.

The Crest is now a struggling independent theater owned and operated by a guy named Bob. A beautiful art-deco style theater inside and out … sadly in its last stages. Bob has run out of money … and sends desperate emails to people like me asking if anyone wants to buy it … I watched a lot of movies at The Crest … EVE’S BAYOU, JANE AUSTEN’S MAFIA !, DR. STRANGELOVE (OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMBA), LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, BICENTENNIAL MAN, THE BABYSITTER DIARIES, THE HUNTING PARTY, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS with my mom, plus special screenings of CRASH and THE AVIATOR …

Fortunately, the Westwood Theater premiere still remains intact … the glorious historic Westwood Village Theater … site of many movie premieres to this day due to its large capacity, beautiful and glamorous old school architecture and large balcony . Your front canopy is a site to behold. When I first moved to Los Angeles in 1998, I made sure to visit the Village right away (having seen it on a visit in 1997). The Village was the first theater in the US to install a THX sound system (in 1983). It was always a great thrill every time I went there. I watched as many movies as I could … like TITANIC, LETHAL WEAPON 4, THE X-FILES, THE SIEGE, GREASE, 3000 MILES TO GRACELAND, RED PLANET, SUPERMAN RETURNS, STAR WARS EPISODE 1: THE PHANTOM MENACE, WIDE EYES CLOSE, HOMICIDE FROM HOLLYWOOD (for the premiere of my first movie), THE BRAVE ONE and Saturday night’s feature film … SHUTTER ISLAND. If I had my way, I would watch all the movies there …

What happened to Westwood? I really don’t know … Before I moved to Los Angeles, I had heard that there was a gang problem … Maybe Westwood was already dying when I arrived … I was too naive to realize it. Plus, with the advent of popular outdoor extravaganzas like Third Street Promenade, The Grove, and The Anericana in Glendale … people have fewer and fewer reasons to spend time in Westwood. It still has UCLA, the Armond Hammer museum, a live theater for plays, two Starbucks, two or three gyms, and of course the many movie premieres still happening in the Village … So … not yet has died. I miss it so much, at least what it was before … However, I have faith … there are a lot of empty real estate there. It’s time for Westwood to come back, long overdue …

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