There's been a lot of unease in the LA film geek world lately. Things were changing at the New Beverly, and the theater is currently shut down. Some feared it was all over, that the New Bev was done forever. But Quentin Tarantino has broken his silence and announced the fate of the theater: it will remain open, and he'll be assuming total control.
The backstory: Sherman Torgan started the New Beverly as a rep house cinema, and as the theater began struggling in the 2000s Tarantino began helping him out behind the scenes, paying bills for the theater. In 2007 Sherman died suddenly and the future of the theater was up in the air as the landlord decided to move in a Supercuts. Tarantino, working with Sherman's son Michael, bought the building outright and became the New Beverly's landlord. But now, after seven years of being the behind the scenes owner, Tarantino is stepping up and taking over totally. Michael is apparently leaving and Tarantino will be personally programming the theater from October through the end of the year, almost every movie coming from his massive personal print archive.
That print archive will likely be the source of a lot of the New Beverly's programming, because Tarantino is rolling the theater back to film only. It's a move that is, frankly, a little crazy in the modern climate, but also exciting. The theater installed a digital projector recently out of sheer necessity - studios simply no longer make prints of films. But Tarantino will be getting rid of that projector and showing only film prints, despite the fact that this will severly limit what he can show. Talking to the LA Weekly, Tarantino said:
I want the New Beverly to be a bastion for 35 millimeter films. I want it to stand for something. When you see a film on the New Beverly calendar, you don’t have to ask whether it’s going to be shown in DCP [Digital Cinema Projection] or in 35 millimeter. You know it’s playing in 35 because it’s the New Beverly.
Michael brought in digital for the simple fact that besides being a revival house, the New Beverly is an art film second-run house. So, if Frances Ha does well in general release, a month or two later, it plays at the New Beverly, along with something similar. But the companies that release those kinds of movies don’t even make prints anymore. My feeling is, ‘Fuck those guys.' I want young filmmakers to want their movie to screen at the New Beverly so badly that they demand a print as part of the deal they make with Magnolia or Roadside Attractions or whoever. ‘You have to strike a 35 millimeter print so we can show it at the New Beverly! You’re not paying me jack-shit, you’re ripping me off, but that’s one thing you can do!’ [Laughs. Heartily.]
That's a bold stance to take in this day and age, but it's also an exciting one. Look, there's no way anybody's getting Magnolia to strike a print to play at one theater in Los Angeles, but I admire the attitude... even if it means the New Bev will likely never screen another modern indie movie.
I don't know much about what happened behind the scenes with Michael and Tarantino, and Tarantino declined to comment to the Weekly about it. I am sad that the New Beverly will be passing out of the Torgan family, and in many ways the end of August, when the theater shut down for renovations, was the end of an era. But I am hopeful for what Tarantino will do with the theater; he's one of the great cineastes of all time, and having him unleashed for three solid months is exciting. His tastes are wild and divergent, and I hope that he programs many discoveries - little seen films that aren't easily available on home video, obscure oddities as well as old favorites. I'm hopeful that this weird, sort of bullheaded experiment works out.
The New Beverly will re-open in October.