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THEATRE'S SECOND ACT PITS GROUP, DEVELOPER

Suzan Filipek
Edition: 12/31/2009


IN 1930, the Fairfax Theatre was a bustling place.
Photo courtesy of the L.A. Conservancy


COMPUTER GENERATED image of the proposed mixed-use development shows the Art Deco facade intact at the left of the corner of the Beverly Blvd. and Fairfax Ave. property.


Opened some 80 years ago at the northwest corner of Beverly Blvd. and Fairfax Ave., the Fairfax Theatre is a rare find in the city, says actor Gaetano Jones, of the Friends of Fairfax. “It is an architectural landmark, one of the few remaining theaters. It’s been an anchor of the community.”

Besides being a full-fledged working theater, it screens movies in an historic venue and is the cornerstone of the neighborhood, said the founder of the small-but-growing group.

Members plan to submit an application this month to the city Cultural Affairs Dept. to nominate the building as a city Historic-Cultural Monument.

Meanwhile, the owners of the property, B & F Assoc. in Santa Monica, are in preliminary plans to gut the interior of the two-story structure for a mixed-use building with 71 condominium units and 12,000 square feet of retail space. The six-story building will include a rooftop pool and other amenities and four stories of of residential the front be four stories on Beverly, said Ira Handelman, spokesman for owner Alex Gorby and government and communications relations consultant. “We believe [the new building] is going to be a very positive asset” to the area.”

The Art Deco façade of the theater will be preserved while the interior is to be gutted. An environmental report is underway for the project. “We believe the interior has been changed so much it really doesn’t have a significant character,” and is not worth preserving. The building also lacks parking.

Designed by architect Howard Laks. The proposed design includes four levels of underground parking for 220 parking places.
The Art Deco building was designed by architect W. C. Pennell. It spans 32,500 square feet and includes several retail storefronts.

According to the L.A. Conservancy, distinguishing features include a zigzag-patterned roofline, elaborate terrazzo paving and an integrated, stepped pylon at the theatre entrance. The proposed development would demolish all but the exterior walls of the theatre building, with the new construction rising above and differentiated in design.

Because of the economic downturn there is an epidemic among neighborhood theaters closing, said Brian Curran, a Brookside resident and board member of Hollywood Heritage, a preservation group.

Theaters recently closing their doors include the Regent Showcase on La Brea and in Westwood, said Curran. “The Fairfax is going to be our flagship to try to save neighborhood theaters,” said Curran.

It opened in 1932 with 1,504 seats and one auditorium. It is now a triplex with about 800 seats, showing second-run movies and $5 matinees. Two smaller theater are in the back, leaving the original larger space intact. It has a full stage, with dressing rooms and would be ideal for live performances, fundraisers and charity events, says Gaetano.

Other organizations backing the Friends support are the L.A. Conservacy, West of Fairfax Neighbors and L.A. Historic Theatre Foundation.

The Fairfax had been a Laemmle theater, before Regency took over in recent years.

For more information visit Friends of Fairfax on facebook, or e-mail friends.fairfax@gmail.com. Supporters are also encourage to write Councilman Paul Koretz, at paul.koretz@lacity.org