By Moises Barragan
It’s a Saturday night, and there is an independent movie you have heard the buzz about for the past few days. You go to check your local massive-chain theater, only to be disappointed that they aren’t screening the indie flick.
Your best option at that point is to drive down south to Los Angeles and go to a small arthouse theater, eating up time and losing gasoline. Even then, the screening for the desired film might be at an inconvenient time, and you’ll have to deal with nobody’s favorite pastime, traffic.
For years, Santa Clarita residents’ only options to watch a movie in theaters were to select one of the two Edwards Cinemas located in Valencia and Canyon Country, both of which primarily screen movies that have huge budgets backing them, and would show a critically acclaimed independent film once in a blue moon.
“I’ve always had to drive an hour out to the city to see art and independent films since high school,” said Sammy Lamb, an animation student attending CalArts.
But all of this is about to change, because one of the oldest arthouse theater chains in the state of California is Laemmle, which has locations stationed exclusively in the greater LA region which include Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, and soon, Santa Clarita.
While the small theater chain does showcase big Hollywood films from the likes of Marvel and DC, their primary focus is showcasing smaller, independent films, and shorts that are campaigning to enter the Oscars. One could imagine the surprise of film buffs in Santa Clarita when the Laemmle decided to set up shop in the town of Newhall. Especially after having a small choice in theaters for a very long time.
Max Keller, a professor at COC who teaches film history and is a long-time Santa Clarita resident expresses his excitement for the community getting a chance to watch movies that wouldn’t normally play in their area.
“I think Laemmle opening up a theater here in Santa Clarita is a great thing,” said Keller. “We haven’t had a new movie theater open here in close to twenty years, so this is desperately needed.”
With the construction of new homes across Santa Clarita, and an increasing population, it would only make sense to create a new theater location after all of these years. Not only would it be a new theater, but it would be a new theater that stands out and offers a different variety of movies compared to the local competition.
Even the more casual moviegoers in Santa Clarita also appear to show interest, mainly because there is now another theater choice to have instead of only sticking with the two Edwards Cinema locations.
Moviegoers such as Tristin Kurtz, a COC student, expresses his enthusiasm for the new theater when he realized that it would now be easier for him to watch new, foreign films locally in his area.
This new Laemmle location is planned to be a 2-story building and will contain 7 screens. The theater is going to be located on the newly constructed Newhall crossings, right next to parking lots and the Old Town Newhall library. With the location being near the shopping center in Old Town Newhall, this would be an ideal place for people to be attracted to watch movies shortly after they finish running their errands or buying a meal in the nearby stores and restaurants.
Not only could this new theater potentially introduce smaller films to the residents of Santa Clarita, but could bring in more people from slightly up north into this theater location. Driving up North to L.A. is already a hassle for most of our neighbor communities, so having a closer location to them could potentially be enticing to them.
“I think people from places like Sylmar, Granada Hills, or the Antelope valley might drive up here to see films that would normally play further South,” said Keller.
What could also be enticing is watching streaming-backed movies from Netflix and Hulu in the big screen before they officially release them on their platforms. Such as how Martin Scorsese’s critically acclaimed Netflix movie, The Irishman, which was able to play in the Santa Monica locations two weeks before the official streaming release.
“I anticipate that Newhall will have a blend of films, perhaps most like our NoHo location,” said Greg Laemmle, the co-owner of the Laemmle theater chain. “Where we program a mix of upscale Hollywood films alongside the crossover arthouse hits.”
Another big trademark besides being able to watch indie hits in the theater chain, is that it’s possible for anybody to rent out a theater to screen almost any film, whether it’s for just creating a small event for a film with no distribution, or to campaign for an Oscar run. The films screened don’t even have to be feature-length, they can sometimes be short films.
Beside screening new movies for all to see, the Laemmle doesn’t forget about classic films both American and foreign. In the past, the theater has done special one-night screenings for arthouse classics such as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Victor De Sica’s post-WWII Italian film, Bicycle Thieves. More variety like the films mentioned could potentially lead to more people revisiting the theater to watch old movies they may have never seen, or want to re-watch on the silver screen.
Even though excitement for the Laemmle may be strong among film fans, whether or not the theater will succeed financially would have yet to be seen. Especially since movie theaters have been gradually been suffering from a steady decline in attendance over the course of the decade.
Theaters, both big and small have been dealing with the negative side effects of increased ticket prices, which can turn off casual moviegoers from driving to a theater, spending gasoline and then spend around $10 on a single adult ticket. Another industry theaters have been facing for the past five years are the increased quantity of streaming services that offers thousands of movies a month for the same price as an average theater ticket. Some movie studios might even blame film piracy for the decline in attendance, but many might argue illegally downloading movies occur as a side effect due to the high ticket prices.
But not only are those factors that the Laemmle would have to work around to stay around for a long time, they’ll also have to deal with competition from other nearby theaters. The Westfield mall of Santa Clarita plans to construct a new movie theater alongside the Costco. So depending on the prices and what kind of blockbuster is planned to be screens on the other new theater, the Laemmle would have to compete with a third theater.
As of writing this article, the ticket, food and theater rental prices for the new Laemmle location has yet to be officially announced to the public. Depending on the ticket prices and what is shown upon it’s first day in operation, we will see how the public reaction will effect to course of the theater’s success upon its grand opening.
Despite many factors that the theater will be faced with in order to become financially stable in the upcoming decade, some feel that the Laemmele may have a chance to appeal to residents of Santa Clarita, both for entertainment and for employment. Jedd Caballero, a film student residing in Santa Clarita believes that the theater would eventually become a successful business.
“Word of mouth spreads quickly around here, so I do think that the Laemmle does have a chance of being successful,” said Caballero. “It also allows for more employment opportunities, and the possibility of nearby communities choosing this new location instead of further down south.”
Seeing how the theater is not very far from CalArts and COC, art and film students may be interested in going on over to the theater to watch a new small film they may have heard about while studying in their classes. So the Laemmle has a potential audience from the get-go.
Finding employment is a major priority for many residents in Santa Clarita, where it can be difficult to find a job. So having a new business to offer job positions could lead to people sending in applications shortly after it opens.
The Laemmle is scheduled to complete construction and be open for business sometime in 2020.