An organization that strives to promote budding artists and filmmakers has opened a theatre in West Hollywood, hoping to provide a big screen venue for those filmmakers and patrons interested in art and independent films.
Sundance Sunset, one of six Sundance Cinemas theatres, opened three weeks ago at 8000 W. Sunset Blvd. after an extensive renovation of the former Laemmle Sunset 5 Theatre, vice president of marketing Nancy Gribler said.
“We’ve always wanted to have a Los Angeles location,” she said, adding that the idea became reality after the Laemmle family opted not to renew their lease in West Hollywood. “We just jumped at the opportunity.”
Sundance Cinemas operates under the umbrella of Sundance Group, which hosts the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, annually. Gribler said 50 percent of the films shown at Sundance Cinemas are from the film festival. The organization also has film buyers that work with distributors and select films from other festivals, she said, adding that the theatre is close to the Sundance Institute, which also makes recommendations.
“It’s part of a constant conversation,” Gribler said. “We feel it’s very important to support emerging filmmakers.”
She referenced “Trouble the Water”, a 2009 documentary that followed a handful of Katrina victims in New Orleans. The documentary started at the Sundance Institute and eventually opened for the film festival, Gribler said. It received an Academy Award nomination for best documentary.
“To me, this kind of cycle of life for a film is very exciting,” Gribler added.
Philip Sokoloski, vice president of integrated communications for Film LA, said he believes the addition of Sundance Cinemas to West Hollywood will be of benefit to local artists.
“It’s really fantastic to see the Sundance Group making a direct investment in L.A. County,” he said. “As you know, Los Angeles is home to scores of independent artists and filmmakers.”
Sokoloski said he hasn’t been to the theatre yet, but praised the extensive renovations that created local job opportunities. Workers installed new stadium seating in the theatre, which can show digital and 35-millimeter films. The theatre also has a new concession stand and bar.
“It’s certainly a sign of encouragement — that the folks who work in the industry are seeing the Sundance Group making a long-term investment in Los Angeles,” he added. “I’m excited to go take a look at it.”
Gribler said filmmakers have appreciated the opportunity to have their creations show at the Sundance theatres.
“I know from speaking with them that there’s absolutely nothing like seeing their films on the big screen,” she said.
While the theatre may produce new opportunities for local filmmakers, the Robert Redford-owned Sundance Group is also excited about the experience the theatre will create for local film enthusiasts.
Gribler said the theatre will host question-and-answer sessions with filmmakers, in hopes of creating an “extra special” evening for patrons.
“It’s a situation where it’s quite possible you’re going to see a filmmaker or someone from the film [at the theatre],” she said, adding that attendance has been good thus far.
The Sundance Cinemas location in West Hollywood has five screens showing five different movies at a time, and the theatres do not show commercials. Tickets are reserved, and patrons can purchase tickets at the kiosk or online. Gribler said the organization is seeking to create a calmer movie-going experience.
“You can actually show up at show time,” she said.
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