By Aaron Blevins, 11/29/2012
Arena Cinema to officially open Friday in Hollywood
When the operators of Arena Cinema in Hollywood stamped “Your Film Here” on the cinema’s screen in a recent promotion, they meant it.
Following a soft launch three months ago, the theatre will formally open on Friday, showing independent films in the space adjacent to the Egyptian Theatre that had been formerly known as Egyptian 2 and 3.
“What makes us different is that literally anyone who calls me has the opportunity to show their movies,” operator Christian Meoli said. “That was the whole intention.”
For the last 20 years, the venue had showcased musicals and stage plays. However, for the last six months, work has been done to turn the venue into a 92-seat theatre, while retaining much of the building’s architecture, Meoli said. He said his company, Voltaire Media, and Theatre of Arts, the acting school arm of Campus Hollywood that uses the space in the daytime, completed the work.
Meoli said the new theatre has been fitted with new seating, hi-definition projection and sound. He said the theatre has maintained its “retro ‘70s vibe” despite the upgrades.
“Making a movie theatre is not an affordable endeavor,” Meoli added. “They make it really expensive for people to even try to do it. Fortunately, we made it happen.”
Egyptian 2 and 3 were not included in the sale of the Egyptian Theatre in 1996, when American Cinematheque bought the theatre from the city of Los Angeles. Meoli said he subleased Egyptian 2 and 3 in 2010 to operate bookings for plays and musicals.
“In a joint effort with Theatre of Arts, we worked together to make the space cinema-ready,” he added.
And the results appear to be panning out. Arena Cinema screened approximately 20 to 25 films during its soft launch, and Meoli said attendance has been good — likely due to the theatre’s “great” central location.
“Fortunately, the good news is that what we’ve done is working,” he said. “It’s passing what I call the ‘industry mustard.’”
Meoli believes there is a good market for independent films in the area. He said the movies shown at Arena Cinema are “great little gems” that would typically go straight to DVD, as their distributors and creators have given up on reaching the big screen at large chain theatres.
“I think that people yearn for it,” Meoli added. “They yearn to see an intelligent, good story. …We didn’t want the big screen experience to go away for great indie films. The city has plenty of stages. We need another screen.”
On Friday, the venue will showcase “char-ac-ter”, a good film for aspiring actors, he said. Meoli said the film will be the final screen appearance for Peter Falk and Sydney Pollack. Arena Cinema will also show “The Athlete”, a sports biopic.
“These are examples of the type of films we’re going to be screening,” Meoli said.
He said the venue’s biggest goal now is raising awareness, as Arena Cinema is suddenly “the new kid” on Hollywood Boulevard. Screenings will be held seven nights a week after 6 p.m.
“It’s really been a labor of love to bring this screen to the city,” Meoli said.
The theatre is located at 625 Las Palmas Ave., tucked behind the Egyptian Theatre. For information, visit www.arenascreen.com.