Independent movie buffs and longtime Angelenos who watched the decline of the once popular Laemmle Sunset 5 can celebrate: The theater reopens on Friday, August 31 as Sundance Sunset Cinema. Yes, that’s “Sundance” as in the Sundance Film Festival. While the theater and the film festival are run by two separate wings of the Sundance juggernaut, the multi-screen venue will program a slate of American indie and foreign language titles — not unlike what you’d see if you visited Park City in January.
We haven’t seen the interior, but it sounds like Sundance sunk a hefty chunk of change into refurbishing the joint. It now has all the hallmarks of the upscale, post-millenial movie theater: reserved stadium seating, plush rockers and tablettes, digital projection, an upstairs lounge and a patio where patrons can linger, a bistro, and 21+ shows where beer and wine are served.
Things have changed since the theater hit the peak of its popularity in the mid to late 1990s. Back then, a Virgin Megastore anchored the complex at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Crescent Heights. Crowds streaming out of films would often filter into the music store and browse for CDs. Now, we have Netflix, we download our music, and the multi-level mall is anchored by Trader Joe’s and CB2 — though the Crunch gym remains.
As movie fans who want more viewing options, we’re excited about the opening, but the venture is nothing new for Sundance, which already operates theaters in San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, and Madison, Wisconsin. Prior to its public debut, Sundance Sunset Cinema will host a few special pre-opening celebrations for Outfest, Heal The Bay, and the Sundance Institute.