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Theaters fading to black in Westwood

August 1, 2009 |  7:55 am

Moviegoers in the 1960s and '70s flocked to Westwood Village, where they had their pick of first-run films on nearly 20 screens. With parking scarce, patrons stashed their cars at the Federal Building on Wilshire Boulevard and took shuttles into the village. A-list celebrities turned out for frequent splashy openings.

The occasional premiere still brings red carpets and klieg lights, but the neighborhood near UCLA is no longer the movie hub it once was. Nearby multiplexes have lured away most of the crowds, who favor comfortable stadium seating, state-of-the-art sound systems and other modern amenities.

The closing Thursday night of the Mann Festival Theatre on Lindbrook Drive -- on top of last year's demolition of the Mann National Theatre and previous losses of the Mann Westwood 4 and Mann Plaza, among others -- is further indication that Westwood's movie culture appears in danger of fading to black.

Preservationists are also bracing for the potential loss of the village's two most architecturally distinctive theaters: the Village and Bruin, which date from the 1930s. Encino-based Mann Theatres has given notice that it intends not to renew its leases on the Broxton Avenue theaters -- one Spanish Mission style with the famed neon-lighted Fox tower, the other Art Moderne with a distinctive wraparound marquee. Both are city historic-cultural monuments.

--Martha Groves