National Theatre

10925 Lindbrook Drive,
Los Angeles, CA 90024

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NGC's National Theatre

Opened March 27, 1970 with Kenneth Nelson in “The Boys in the Band”. The NGC National Theatre was one of the last single screen giants to be erected. Its rather bland exterior belied a large upstairs lobby (which was replete with chandeliers) and an enormous orange-colored auditorium (which boasted a massive screen 56ft wide and 26ft high). All seating was on a single sloping floor. It was equipped with Norelco DP-75 projectors which were capable of screening 35mm & 70mm films.

The Mann National closed on April 19, 2007, but re-opened less than a month later under an independent exhibitor on a short-term lease. The theatre closed again on October 7, 2007 and was demolished in January 2008. In summer of 2014 construction began for a 34 apartment unit building.

Contributed by Ross Melnick

Recent comments (view all 756 comments)

John Miller
John Miller on January 28, 2016 at 12:01 am

Oh wow! I think this is where I saw a re-release of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in 1983. I was wondering what theater it was.

CStefanic on September 5, 2018 at 8:11 pm

Re-looking at the photos from the last night. Man, one of the BIGGEST mistakes this city has EVER made: The closure and raze of the National. Devastating, even now.

MSC77 on March 26, 2020 at 3:21 am

Fifty years ago today the National held its invitational premiere grand opening. It’s disappointing the venue isn’t still with us to celebrate the milestone.

MSC77 on December 31, 2021 at 7:20 pm

Here’s the link to a 12-page 40th anniversary RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK retrospective featuring a historian Q&A and 70mm playdate chronology. The National is mentioned several times and is featured in one of the images.

Larry Wilson
Larry Wilson on March 26, 2023 at 3:38 pm

I only got to see two movies there: “Single White Female” and the unpublicized Dolby Digital showings of “Star Trek VI.”

Markus_Nornes on July 30, 2023 at 1:06 am

In the early 80s I moved from Colorado to LA to establish residency for UCLA. One of the first days on the ground, I took lunch on the 2nd floor terrace of the restaurant across the street from the National. Raiders of the Lost Ark had just opened and I admired the sheer scale of the theater and marquee. After the meal, I went to the film. Was floored by the experience and applied for a job and got it.

The National was a truly special theater. It had a massive screen and an astounding sound system in an oval shaped theater with 1,200 seats—no balcony. From the outside, it looked like a huge whale, and for every film they hired artists to pain 20-foot high reproductions of the posters on the theater’s side. Going to the National was an experience, with a huge open lobby and curtains hiding the screen. The theater was truly wondrous for a kid from a Western cow town.

At the time, the Westwood was THE place to watch films in LA. And I loved how they closed off the streets and the place turned carnivalesque every weekend. There was a system in place to let all the theater employees get passes to all the Westwood theaters. And when I became Assistant Manager, I discovered that I could get into any theater in the city for free. I was going to many, many films back then—and all over the city.

Most of the employees were in the teens and 20s. But one assistant manager was in his 30s and had started around the time the Exorcist played at the National. He said it was disgusting. Between every movie they were having to clean all the vomit from the restroom floors. He claimed so many people fainted that they eventually had an ambulance stationed at the curb. I never believed him, but have since seen it confirmed in news reports of the time.

It wasn’t long before I realized the theater enjoyed a constant stream of celebrities waltzing through the door. We’d let them in free so we could chat them up in a little transactional encounter. Some were regulars, and they came to know they could get free tickets with their faces. Susan Sarandon often came to the box office, obviously hoping to be waved in; I remember thinking she might have been struggling to make it, she appeared so hungry for that free ticket.

There were also many premieres held there. Each premiere had a very different crowd—imagine the difference in audiences for Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Douglas Trumbull was using our theater to show his experimental Showscan technology to potential investors. The highlight for me was the premiere of Reds, for which old Hollywood came out.

For a while, I kept a list…until seeing celebs became a little ho-hum…I’ll upload a photo of the list to the photos section of this page.

The boss was Mr. Ramsey, a brash New Yorker with a wicked tongue. I had only seen characters like him in the movies, and he was the real deal. Mr. Ramsey had been in the movie theater business for many decades and was coasting towards retirement. He made sure that he had competent assistant managers and that enabled him to play figurehead, coming in late to work and basically standing around looking Big. He occasionally got mad, which was terrifying, but most of the time he was like a charming, crazy uncle.

Mr. Ramsey didn’t trust guys. Only women could go in the box office, except for the assistant managers. And only guys could stand at the door. The concession stand was chaos, and all held together by “King Candy.” That position was held by a fun-loving black guy that kept everyone’s spirits up, even when patrons were being mean. I was annointed King Candy after several months, which meant I started wearing a tuxedo and didn’t have to sling Cokes and popcorn so I could concentrate on the money and managing the kids behind concessions.

About the time I started at UCLA, Mr. Ramsey promoted me to assistant manager. It mainly meant managing staff and money. But, having spent my life in rural places, I also had to kill the rats by default. None of the city folk would go near the traps. Said pests were down in the sub-basement, which had a dirt floor, boxes of records and construction materials, a desk and the brand new computer they installed for electronic ticketing (before that we had the old-school spools of paper tickets).

UCLA had just introduced desktop computing to their humanities classes, and with a little monkeying around I discovered the theater PC computer had a word processor built into the guts. Rather than battle students for computer terminals at the university mainframe lab, I wrote my papers down in the basement, printing them out on the dot-matrix printer we used for box office reports. It was actually a great place to study, so I strung a hammock between two support columns. And between study sessions, I could go sit in the theater and watch favorite scenes from whatever was playing.

The booth was union, and off limits to civilians. After a while, I got to know one of the projectionists quite well and he let me in to watch the magic. It was especially fascinating to be there for the Showscan screenings. Douglas Trumbull had invented this 70mm film system that ran at 60fps. He claimed that the extra frames made the image more vivid, and had a measurable physiological effect on the human body. It was impressive; I guess I bought it. There was a second 70mm platter system and projector just for the short SF film he showed investors. It also had its own sound system, which was spectacularly good. Every few Saturday’s Trumbull would rent the theater in the morning to show his short to rich investors. He was a very nice guy. Showscan became an amusement park kind of thing, and I’m not sure it’s still around. But our theater hosted Trumbull’s attempt to mainstream the technology; the film was Brainstorm and about using some kind of tech to experience what was going on in other people’s minds——something like that. The “normal” scenes were show in 1.85 on 35mm. But the scenes where you go inside people’s brains were shot in 70mm widescreen. I’m not sure they were shot in Showscan in the end, but my memory is that the National switched back between 70mm and 35mm projectors. (I could be wrong.) It was pretty cool watching the SFX master do his thing behind the scenes.

There are other nice, big theaters in LA, but they somehow feel compromised. Cinemarama Dome is awesome, but has funky proportions that somehow tweak the edges of the frame. There are the big silent movie palaces in HW and downtown, but it’s partly a tradeoff—spectacle for sound. But the National was perfect. It simply felt totally designed around the cinematic experience…the 70mm, surround sound experience, the curtains hiding the screen, everything. When I went back to check it out some years back and found a pit, I was profoundly shocked. What a scandal.

Ftopel on September 2, 2023 at 9:08 pm

What a wonderful description of the theater. Thank you.

m00se1111 on September 12, 2023 at 7:33 am

Nice memories of this theatre from a former employee (Peter Knego) and denison there of (Josh Mills) are shared in Josh’s podcast “Rarified Heir”

Josh is the son of songstress Edie Adams & Peter son of Rosalee Calvert & Peter Coe

MSC77 on December 26, 2023 at 11:35 am

Fifty years ago today THE EXORCIST opened here. The National was among only two-dozen cinemas in twenty-one North American markets to play the film at release launch.

THE EXORCIST would go on to play here twenty-six weeks, a venue record.

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