iPic Westwood

10840 Wilshire Boulevard,
Los Angeles, CA 90024

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Damon Packard
Damon Packard on May 11, 2007 at 9:45 am

no no, i was just saying i worked at the Coronet at that time (during engagements like Aliens and Legend—which I believe originally opened at the Avco) Labyrinth i vividly remember seeing at the Plitt. Also I meant Crest when i said Coronet re: CE3K, was gettig theatres mixed up, I was 10 years old when that came out (in ‘77) and saw it in the valley somewhere but you’d think they would’ve opened a spectacle like that at the National or Village. Now i could sware there were more 70mm prints of Poltergeist in release in '82 but maybe not, I think 1982 and '85 had more 70 engagements in all of history. I just recall the sound was TREMENDOUS, and remember in those days there was a huge difference between optical dolby and magnetic 6 track, and i do seem to recall those Marina theatres had a 70mill advert somewhere but heck i could be wrong. We were having so much delerious fun in those days playing video games maybe i saw somewhere else and am confusing it.
Westwood was like a 2nd home for me in the 80’s, I worked at the National (in '84-85) and the Regent, Village, 4-plex, Festival even the Plitt and Shubert in Century City all through that decade, making lousy money but seeing thousands of movies free, many fond memories. It really was the last “exciting” era for cinema in many ways, even though the 70’s was certainly the last golden era, i think of the early 80’s as an extension, and even the mid 80’s was a slight trickling over. By the end of the 80’s it was over though. We’ve basically been stuck in that time ever since. NOW I recognize your name, i’ve seen your lists up on in70mm.com, did you work as a projectionist at that time? You might know some of the same folks i do.
Seeing Dragonslayer in 70 at the National, now that was inspiring, too bad it was trampled over by Raiders

Coate on May 11, 2007 at 9:13 am

D. Packard: regarding “Close Encounters,” I may have misunderstood your post, or perhaps you weren’t clear. Are you describing the CORONET in Westwood or the CORONET in San Francisco?

Coate on May 11, 2007 at 8:15 am

“Poltergeist” in 70mm in Marina del Rey? Not according to this.

“Close Encounters” at the CORONET? In 1986? Are you maybe thinking of a different movie as “CE3K” didn’t play the CORONET nor was it released in ‘86? “Labyrinth,” maybe?

Coate on May 11, 2007 at 8:11 am

Ah, the Trilogy… March 28, 1985… Nine theatres in the whole world… The day before the “Return Of The Jedi” re-release…

The cities and theatres involved in this one-time-only charity event were: Chicago (Carnegie), Dallas (Northpark), Denver (Continental), Los Angeles (Egyptian), Los Angeles (Avco), New York (Warner Twin), San Francisco (Coronet), Seattle (Cinema 150), Toronto (Uptown).

William on May 11, 2007 at 8:09 am

CE3K opened at the SRO Crest Theatre in Westwood, but was a 35mm print. The Crest was not equipped to run 70MM at the time.

Damon Packard
Damon Packard on May 11, 2007 at 7:02 am

yea i didn’t think Poltergeist played there, and your right i can’t even remember it playing in Westwood at the time, (I saw it in Marina Del Rey in 70mm) Though the Plitt would’ve been a better place. I only mentioned it because Heather O Rourke is buried in that cemetary and thought it would have been fitting. I do quite vividly remember seeing John Carpenters The Thing at the Crest (one of the only existing 70mm engagements) about 6 or 7 times before it left, really surprised CE3K opened at the Coronet (i worked there there in ‘86, and so did Alan) but i’m getting off subject since this is a board about The Avco. I think my fondest memory of the Avco was that '85 SW trilogy re-release, that was a blast

Coate on May 6, 2007 at 11:03 pm

D. Packard: “Poltergeist” didn’t play the AVCO. In fact, it didn’t even play in Westwood first-run. It ran at the CENTURY PLAZA in nearby Century City at a time when films generally played either Westwood or Century City but rarely both simultaneously. At that time the AVCO’s main house was running “Annie.” A few months into the run, “Poltergeist” ran in Westwood at the CREST right around the corner from the AVCO.

“Poltergeist II” played first-run at the BRUIN. “Poltergeist III”…well, who cares!

Alan Sanborn: I too attended the 30th anniversary “Star Wars” screening at the GOLDWYN and I squirmed in my seat when that recollection was made that “Star Wars” did not open at the CHINESE.

On the same subject of “Star Wars” and memory, have you seen the new “Making Of Star Wars” book? I think the book overall is fantastic, but contained within is some erroneous information pertaining to the post-production and distribution of the film. One glaring error appears in regard to the CORONET Theatre in San Francisco. To summarize, there was some controversy surrounding “Star Wars” being pulled by court order to accommodate a booking of “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind.” The book’s author, however, erroneously claims that the matter was settled by having “CE3K” play at the NORTHPOINT while “Star Wars” stayed at the CORONET. This, of course, is not how the matter was resolved. (“Star Wars” was sent out for re-bid and wound up a week later at the CINEMA 21; “CE3K” did in fact play the CORONET; “The Goodbye Girl” played the NORTHPOINT at that time.)

I found the error humorous considering the author singled out the CORONET no doubt due to its proximity to the headquarters of the company that produced the movie. You’d think that error would not have slipped through!

Alan, I give you credit for recognizing the limitations of memory. Many people have a (ego- and/or insecurity-related) problem admitting that memory can be an unreliable source for recalling information, particularly when information and events from several decades past are the subject. In fact, there are a few folks who post regularly here on Cinema Treasures that I’ve gone ‘round and 'round with on this memory issue. Yes, there’s conflict between some of us, and I’m not happy about it. But I’ll refrain at this time from putting them on the spot by identifying them by name. :–)

Damon Packard
Damon Packard on May 5, 2007 at 5:21 am

I’m always surprised this theatre is still open, again another example of a once thriving spot, now few know it exists. Yea i saw the original SW films there too, fondly remember the first THX system demo, and camped out in line to see various things over the years. Remember the 1985 StarWars trilogy release in 70mm, and Back to the Future Trilogy release. I too was at the first midnight show for “Jedi” at the Egyptian in ‘83, (camped out for 24hrs) boy what madness was that. Everyone snuck in on the line and people were going nuts. I’ve always loved the location of the Avco, settled next to the haunting Westwood cemetary. I’ll never forget walking thru the place one dark windy night (back when they left the gate open late into the eves) Didn’t the Poltergeist films play there? and I probably snuck into that place more times than any other to see Return of the Jedi. Hey Alan it’s been a long time, we used to work together, send me an email.

William on May 2, 2007 at 4:20 am

When the Universal/Paramount film “Sorcerer” opened the Chinese as the Big Summer Film. Mann Theatres had to move “Star Wars” over to the Mann Hollywood Theatre. That’s when the Mann Hollywood got it’s final remodel to handle the film till Chinese opened back up after Sorcerer. That also screwed with Mann Theatres and 20th. Century-Fox on the First Run Hollywood/Westwood runs. Fox would book it’s films in other chain’s houses in those areas, for over the next decade.

AlanSanborn on May 2, 2007 at 1:42 am

November 15th as the end for Star Wars at the Avco? Well, that’s not how I remembered it but if you’ve done the research then you’re probably right. Thirty years can play a few tricks on the memory. Actually, if you’d said that it moved upstairs in August, that would have made a lot of sense because I certainly would rather have been seeing it on the big screen at the Plitt than on a small screen at the Avco. But I’m definitely surprised to hear that it was on the big screen at the Avco until Hallowe'en of that year.

By the way, I attended the screening and reunion of Star Wars filmmakers at the Academy Theater on Wilshire last week. And it was interesting that a couple of the filmmakers made references to not having been able to open Star Wars at the Chinese because Sorcerer was there and having to bring it in later. Having read the articles mentioned a few posts back, I know that it opened at the Chinese, closed for Sorcerer after a few weeks and then returned there when Sorcerer did less well than expected. (I was present, by the way, at the ceremony where Threepio, Artoo, and Vader got their footprints in the forecourt there! A decade ago Premiere magazine ran an article about it which featured a great shot of my friend Chris and I at the event, right in the front row of a very disgruntled looking crowd – disgruntled because we’d waited for hours for a good spot only to have the press move in and block our view at the last moment!) One of the filmmakers who remembered it this was was either Gary Kurtz or Alan Ladd Jr. – I’ve forgotten which now. But I just thought it was intersting that even the bigwigs have had their memories of events clouded by the intervening decades.

May the Force Be With You!


Coate on May 1, 2007 at 7:50 pm

The splitting of the AVCO’s 1,200-seat auditorium took place during November 1993.

Coate on April 25, 2007 at 9:06 pm

Hmmm. “Star Wars” at the Avco ending in August??? My notes taken when researching the article mentioned in our previous posts indicates the Avco engagement was May 25-Nov. 15. (The final two weeks of that run was a 35mm presentation in one of the smaller upstairs theatres whereas the bulk of the run was in 70mm in the big 1,200-seat auditorium.)

AlanSanborn on April 23, 2007 at 10:51 am

Hi Michael! Thanks! July 6th makes perfect sense for the opening at the Plitt. So Star Wars had already played for six weeks in Westwood at that point and, as I recall, closed there in August. So while it didn’t literally move from one theater to the other, that was the effect as far as my viewings were concerned. Then it stayed at the Plitt until September of 1978.

My Schindler’s List experience was similar except that I believe I was tipped off by either the newspaper ads or the marquee that there were now four theaters there. I just remember feeling sick to my stomach.

I was, by the way, similarly upset (although not quite at the same intensity) when the Plitt (or was it Odeon by then?) cut THEIR big theater into three. It was the theater that I thought of as the Star Wars house even though Star Wars had played both screens during its run. In some ways, it wasn’t as bad because they used the back of the theater to turn into two new houses instead of cutting it down the middle from front to back like the Avco did. But because they had to move the booth closer to the screen to accomodate the new screens, they still made the main screen smaller as well.

Best wishes,

Alan Sanborn

Coate on April 22, 2007 at 5:02 pm

Alan…in my previous post I posted two links; click the second one. There you will find a reference to the Century Plaza engagement of “Star Wars.” (That “additional L.A. engagement mentioned in my article that you asked about was a run at the Winnetka Drive-In.)

The splitting of the Avco’s main auditorium occured during late 1993. “Jurassic Park” during summer ‘93 was the last thing I saw in the 1,200-seat main house. When I saw “Schindler’s List” in early '94 it had been split. (Imagine my surprise — and disappointment — when our line was led into what had previously been the right half of the main house. I thought at first we were being led to a newer auditorium built where the rear parking lot was/is.)

AlanSanborn on April 21, 2007 at 11:16 pm

Oops. I just realized that I made another mistake in my post up above. By the time of Jurassic Park, the Lost World, the big theater at the Avco had long since been divided. I think it must have been the original Jurassic Park that was the last big hit in the uncut theater because I’m pretty sure that by the time Schindler’s List opened later that year (1993), the butchery had already occurred. Anyone remember precisely when it happened?

Alan Sanborn

AlanSanborn on April 21, 2007 at 10:39 pm

Thanks for the link to that article, Michael. Very interesting! But it doesn’t say when Star Wars opened at the Plitt. We only know that it wasn’t during the opening weekend. Was it the L.A. Theater that they referenced as opening a few weeks later? That sounds right to me. I do seem to remember that it was playing simultaneously at the Avco and the Plitt but I was an Avco junkie and it was closer to me so it wasn’t until it left the Avco that I started viewing it regularly at the Plitt. Therefore it “felt” to me as if it had “moved” but you are correct.

I attended that footprint ceremony at the Chinese, referenced in that article, when they brought the film back after a few weeks of “Sorcerer”. But, strangely, I never actually SAW Star Wars at the Chinese Theater until the Special Editions. I did see both Empire and Jedi at the Egyptian in Hollywood and that was also where they ran the full trilogy screening somewhat after Jedi.

I’m looking forward to seeing the full six film marathon when it runs at the upcoming Star Wars convention here in L.A. but I’m a little concerned about what sort of screen and presentation we’ll be viewing the films on if the marathon is actually AT the Convention Center.

Best wishes,

Alan Sanborn

Coate on April 21, 2007 at 6:52 pm

Alan…I share your pain regarding the Avco. (By the way, I attended the National’s final show the other night.)

Minor correction regarding your comment about seeing “Star Wars” at the Avco “before it moved to the Plitt Century City”: “Star Wars” never “moved” to the Plitt; the film played there concurrent with the Avco. They didn’t begin on the same date, however. For more on the original distribution of “Star Wars” see:

Historical/Retrospective article:
View link

List of 70mm engagements with release dates and promotional blurbs:
View link

AlanSanborn on April 21, 2007 at 3:55 pm

While I think the Village Theater is the grandest theater in Westwood, the Avco always held the fondest place in my heart until that time of supreme butchery – an act so abhorent that nearly a decade later I still can’t think about it without getting angry.

I’m sure I saw films there before 1977 but it was my experience seeing Star Wars on opening day, May 25th, that changed my life. I became a huge movie buff and changed my dream from becoming a novelist to becoming a filmmaker.

I actually saw the second show of the day at 2:50 in the afternoon with my friend, Anthony, who’d ditched our fifth and sixth period Drama class at Uni High with me for the occasion. We loved it so, we stayed through the third show and by the time we left, the line for the film stretched down Wilshire to Glendon and up Glendon as far as I could see. I saw the film there more than 50 times over the next three months before it moved to the Plitt in Century City where it stayed for more than a year.

I saw the first shows of Empire and Jedi there as well although, since the Avco always had their first show at 10 A.M., I saw Jedi earlier at Midnight at the Egyptian in Hollywood. But I still saw it first at the Avco because I attended a 5 P.M. benefit screening there the day before it opened.

I saw the first show of Alien and then Aliens on opening night was unbelievable! I also saw the sneak preview of E.T. there although that was actually in one of the upstairs theaters. The theater shut down not long after Jurassic Park: The Lost World came out and when it re-opened, the unthinkable had happened. They’d cut our beloved first floor theater into two, thus destroying one of the three great screens of Westwood (along with the Village and the National).

With the National now closed, I suppose it’s pure fantasy to think that they might ever restore the first floor to one theater again. Westwood certainly needs another great screen but as long as they make more money with four screens than with three, I know it could never happen.

I still mourn the Avco that once was.

Best wishes,

Alan Sanborn

cedricbrown on March 27, 2007 at 9:41 pm

Don’t get me started about this once great theater. I saw Star Wars, Blue Thunder, Schindler’s List, and yes Rocky and Bulwinkle. It was Apollo 13 that I first exprienced the hack job that was done to what was one of the trully state-of-the-art movie venues. The seating was not re-sloped after the division. The seating in the original auditorium was a very subtle amphitheater contour, not just a sloped plane. Therefore it felt as though we were about to tip over on our right sides.

jarotra on December 5, 2006 at 5:36 pm

May 25, 1977 – it all started at AVCO Center Cinemas.

My friend and I attended UCLA, and had gone to a gathering of science fiction fans and had heard rumors of a new film coming out soon. A short clip reel of Star Wars was shown on a small screen to the fans present – the impact was dizzying. Those watching the fan reaction included Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill – unknowns at the time, able to mingle freely among the hundred or so present. The general uproar forced the Lucas people to reshow the trailer at least five times before we left. We made plans at that moment to take off work to see the first showing on the first day of release.

The AVCO was the perfect place to see Star Wars. Almost new, minimalist decor, huge screen, tremendous sound. People did not yet know how to watch that type of film – there may have been a day when people cheered, shouted, and screamed during a film, but it was before our time. We had to learn all over again that first day.

There was a small line outside – it was before word of mouth had spread, and a lot of people were curious industry insiders – not only the rabid fans we all came to know and love. The very fact that there was a line was an oddity. If I remember correctly, many people were also put off by the high ticket prices. They had the nerve to charge $3.50, when normal admission was $2.50 for a first run film.

Everthing changed after that. People camped out in lines for tickets. Strategy was required – one person went early to get tickets, or waited in the ticket line while the other waited in the line to get in. Movies became events. Repeat business was the norm. Hollywood was revived. But I will always fondly remember the AVCO Center Cinemas in Westwood.

Lee on October 7, 2006 at 7:44 pm

Before Albert Szabo was at the AVCO he managed the Beverly Theatre.

William on August 31, 2006 at 6:58 am

I remember Al Szabo at that theatre and after him Peter Bobela.

dhill01 on August 11, 2006 at 3:14 pm

I saw all three Star Wars flicks at the Avco. Szabo hired me as an usher during the run of Annie.

William on June 30, 2006 at 5:23 am

Christan, When you saw “Gorrillas in the Mist” was that a move-over or First Run. Because “Gorrillas in the Mist” opened over at the Cineplex Odeon Theatre in 70MM.

And Clarence was not that bad of a manager to work for.

CinemarkFan on May 29, 2006 at 11:42 am

What was the Avco 70MM print of Stakeout like Christan?