Laemmle's Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre

8556  Wilshire Blvd.   | map |   

Beverly Hills, CA 90211



The news:  Laemmle Theatres is managing the Fine Arts again after a September 18, 2015 re-opening. Their blog post about the company's return to the venue noted the new name, the Ahrya Fine Arts. The name is that of the eldest son of the building's new owner, Shawn Far. Mr. Far is in the clothing business downtown (Vertigo USA) and lives in Beverly Hills.

Original opening:  April 21, 1937 as the Wilshire Regina Theatre. On the screen was "That Girl From Paris" and "Black Legion" plus a March of Time newsreel and a cartoon. 

The construction cost was $75,000. The building once sported a nice vertical sign at the center of the facade.  According to TJ Edwards on Cinema Tour the opening day advertising mentioned a "Magic Fountain for Young and Old" and a "Theaterette in Ladies Lounge." 

Seating: 433 currently, 700 after the 1948 remodel, allegedly 800 at the opening.

Architect:  Seattle-based B. Marcus Priteca, who was primarily known for his earlier work in many cities for the Pantages circuit. In the L.A. area, he also did three houses for Warner Brothers in San Pedro (still going strong), Beverly Hills (demolished) and Huntington Park (a retail conversion).

Priteca is credited in an October 2013 City of Beverly Hills Cultural Heritage Commission report that started the landmarking process for the theatre. The Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres in Los Angeles" has a photo of the Fine Arts on page 84 and their copy says the building was designed by B. Marcus Priteca and S.E. Sonnichen, the latter probably being the local "associate architect."

Status: Alive and well again under Laemmle management. It's still a single screen house.

History: The name was changed to the Fine Arts Theatre in December, 1948 after a renovation by Fox West Coast Theatres. The opening attraction on December 28 was "The Red Shoes" with lots of stars attending.

The Fine Arts continued to be operated by Fox West Coast (then National General and finally Mann Theatres) until December 1985, then by Laemmle Theatres.  Laemmle had purchased the building in 1984 after Mann declined. The theatre was operated by Laemmle until 1993.

In 1993 Italian Film distributor Cecci Gori purchased the building from Laemmle. After Laemmle's exit, Landmark Theatres was then the operator for a while.

Joseph Musil, who also designed the renovations of the El Capitan and Crest, supervised a 1994 renovation for Cecci Gori. after the renovation the theatre was known as the Cecci Gori Fine Arts.

The lobby was pushed into the auditorium a bit and larger screen (14' x 33') installed in front of the proscenium. The concession area was expanded and restrooms enlarged using what had been adjacent retail space.

It closed in 2004 and was then leased to Screening Services Group / Classic Movie Theatres in 2005.  This operation ran a few films commercially but then the theatre just became a venue open for screenings and special events and got equipped for 2K digital. In 2009 it again became the Cecci Gori Fine Arts Cinema and for a while was undergoing renovation work.

In 2010 the building was sold to Singaporean conglomerate Spice Global for $4 million. They had intended to triplex the venue and run Bollywood films. In 2012, those plans were abandoned and the theatre was put up for sale again. Curbed LA posted the story at the time, which they picked up from the Daniel Miller story in Hollywood Reporter.

The theatre was purchased in March, 2014 by philanthropist Paula Kent Meehan with the intention of preserving it as a community resource. But Ms. Meehan died at age 82 in June, 2014. The L.A. Times ran an obituary. The listing on Loopnet had reported an asking price of $4 million for the 7,767 s.f. building on the 9,281 s.f. lot. Another report had listed the building size as 6,862 s.f. The 2014 sale price was not disclosed but was for less than the asking price.

Martha Groves discussed the sale and outlined the history of the theatre in a March 25 L.A. Times story. She reported at the time that the new owner planned to reopen the theatre and "let it evolve." Sadly, she didn't get the chance. With her death, it went back on the market.

Ms. Meehan, who made her fortune with the Redken hair products line, had been in the news earlier for buying the local Beverly Hills Courier, covered in an April 2014 story in the L.A. Times. Her philanthropic endeavors had included substantial donations for restoration of the Beverly Hills Post Office and toward construction of the adjacent Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. See the Wikipedia article on Ms. Meehan for more career details.

Major Films: Due to the convenient Wilshire Blvd. location, the house was a favorite for premieres. The Fine Arts premiered George Stevens' "A Place in the Sun" in 1951.  "Room at the Top" ran 6 months in 1959.

In the 60s and 70s, the Fine Arts was one of the major Los Angeles Art houses. "David and Lisa," "Never on Sunday," "That Man From Rio," "Belle de Jour," "Zorba the Greek," "Persona," and "Last Tango in Paris" all had their initial engagements here.

In 1974 "The Exorcist" had lines around the block for months, to the ire of local residents. The Fine Arts had 70mm capability with two Norelco DP70s that had come out of the National Theatre in Westwood.

More Information:  Take a look at Sandi Hemmerlein's Avoiding Regret photo essay "The Last Movie Theatre of Beverly Hills," by which she means the one remaining single-screen neighborhood style house. Sandi has some nice marquee views and shots of interior details to share.

See the Cinema Treasures page on the Fine Arts for many interesting submissions. Of special interest are the posts by Vokoban from the L.A. Times and other sources. See the story about Peter Lorre posted in February 2006.

We're indebted to a detailed history of the theatre by TJ Edwards on Cinema Tour (also showing up on Cinema Treasures).  The Cinema Tour page also has some nice photos, including interior views.

     K Blood on Flickr

A 2005 view when the Fine Arts
was a rental venue.
full size view

     Early Beverly Hills    

A 1938 view of the Fine Arts, then known as
 the Regina Theatre, from the Marc Wanamaker
It's featured in his Arcadia Press book
"Early Beverly Hills" (2005) on page 112. 

Google doesn't want to show it to us anymore
 so go look at the version Kimberly Vinokur Reiss
 posted on the LAHTF Facebook page.

Thanks, Kimberly!

     In 70mm

A photo of the Fine Arts booth on Thomas Hauerslev's
 DP70s in California page.
  Theatre operator Michael Hall
 is seen with two Norelco DP70 35/70mm machines he bought
when the National in Westwood closed. When his lease
was up, he left them in the booth.

     Los Angeles Times

Corina Knoll did a nice story in the Los Angeles Times on
November 13, 2012 about the difficulties faced by the Fine Arts
Theatre: "Historic Theatre in Beverly Hills an Empty Shell."
The photo here is by Michael Robinson Chavez.
The photo reappeared in a March 2014 story about
 theatres trying out discounted admissions one day a week.
 Of course, there was no chance at the time of buying a
ticket at any price to the Fine Arts as it was closed.

     Ken McIntyre on Photobucket

A 1959 view when the Fine Arts was in the
19th week of their run of "Room at the Top."
full size view | on Photobucket

It's also on the blog My Love of Old Hollywood. They found
it in the Arcadia Publishing book by Marc Wanamaker
 "Postcards of America - Beverly Hills 1930-2005."

The photo above also appears in the
collection of Hollywood Historic Photos.

Also on the Hollywood Historic Photos site:
| "A Place in the Sun" - 1952 | "The Group" - 1965 |
| "Dracula" - 1938 | "The Ghoul" - 1939 |

A 2008 view by Ken looking east.
 full size view

Also discovered by Ken:
1950 ad - "Cyrano"  

     Photos of Los Angeles

A 1952 photo posted by Ken McIntyre
on Photos of Los Angeles.

full size view

    Tejana on Flickr  

A 2006 view of marquee soffit of the Fine Arts
by Tejana as part of the Wilshire Beauty set. 
full size view

A great detail of the marquee neon. full size view

Also by Tejana:

 | marquee | another neon detail |

A view of the Fine Arts facade.

photo: Bill Counter - 2007

[ click either photo to enlarge ]

The neon's lit up on a rainy afternoon.

photo: Bill Counter - 2010

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     Beverly Hills Heritage

A 1942 view of the Fine Arts added to the Beverly
Hills Heritage page in 2013 by Kimberly Vinokur
 Reiss. The occasion was the beginning of the
landmarking process for the building.
 full size view | on BH Heritage

They're running a newsreels + feature policy.
Here "Juke Box Jenny" is the feature film. The
photo also appears on the Facebook page of the
 Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation.

    Cezar Del Valle - Theatre Talks    

A 2002 Betty Sword photo of the Fine Arts.
from Cezar Del Valle's Theatre Talks collection.
 full size view

     Thomas Hawk on Flickr

A 2009 night view by Thomas nicely
showing off the neon. full size view

There are lots more great pictures
in his Los Angeles Neon set.

     Kirstography on Flickr

A great interior view from Kirstography's
Los Angeles photo set.
full size view

A view toward the rear of the house.
 full size view

     L.A. Public Library Collection

A 1949 view with the vertical
still in place. 
full size view

Another exterior view, here from 1948.
Note that the area around boxoffice area
hadn't yet been enclosed.
full size view

A 1978 marquee shot by Anne Laskey.
full size view

Also in the collection:
  | from across the street - 1978 - Anne Laskey  |

     Mid Century Modern

"Jessica" from 1962 featured Angie Dickinson
as a character who rode around on a scooter.
full size view

     Ken Roe on Cinema Treasures

A 2002 look at the auditorium by Ken Roe.
A lobby photo by Mr. Roe, also from 2002.
Mr. Roe also has several other interior shots on
the Cinema Treasures page about the Fine Arts.

     So Cal Historic Architecture

Nick Faitos snapped this photo
of the Fine Arts in April 1974.
full size view