Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Netflix Purchases the Historic Egyptian Theatre

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Mary Anne Butler
Mary Anne Butler (Mab) has been part of the fast-paced world of journalism since she was 15, getting her start in album reviews and live concert coverage for a nationally published (print) music magazine. She eventually transitioned to online media, writing for such sites as UGO/IGN, ComicsOnline, Geek Magazine, Ace of Geeks, Aggressive Comix (where she is still Editor-in-Chief), Bleeding Cool (where she was News Editor), and now NerdBot as News Editor. Over the past 10 years, she’s built a reputation at conventions across the globe as a cosplayer (occasionally), photographer (constantly), panelist and moderator (mostly), and reporter (always). Interviews, reviews, observations, breaking news, and objective reporting are the name of the game for the founder of Harkonnen Knife Fight, a Dune-themed band with an international presence. Though she be but little, she is fierce.

Netflix has been looking to outright purchase a movie theater for sometime. There were rumors swirling that they had been looking into an entire chain, as a place to host their original film screenings.

In the summer of 2019, word came down that the streaming giant had set their sights on the historic Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, and as of today, it’s a done deal.

Netflix has outright purchased the theater.

The Historic Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. Photo by and courtesy of Keri Kilgo

For those concerned, nonprofit American Cinematheque will keep their curation team intact and work with Netflix. Netflix will invest in the theatre’s renovation, and will use the space for special events, screenings and premieres during the week in addition to the Cinematheque schedule of films and additional events.

Chairman of the American Cinematheque Rick Nicita said in a statement about the news:

“The American Cinematheque was honored to bring the Egyptian back to life in 1998, and together with Netflix we are thrilled to continue this stewardship by restoring it once again for a new generation of film fans to experience movies on the big screen. The Egyptian Theatre remains our Hollywood home and we are grateful to both the City of Los Angeles and the Attorney General of the State of California as we accept this incredible opportunity that will greatly benefit the American Cinematheque.”

The Cinematheque will continue to program and operate a second historic theater, the Aero in Santa Monica, without Netflix ownership (for now).

Head of Netflix Films Scott Stuber said:

“The Egyptian Theatre is an incredible part of Hollywood history and has been treasured by the Los Angeles film community for nearly a century. We’re honored to partner with the American Cinematheque to preserve the theater’s storied legacy and continue providing remarkable film experiences for audiences. We look forward to expanding programming at the theater in ways that will benefit both cinema lovers and the community.”

This news has been met with no small amount of public concern, complete with a Change.org petition calling for transparency about the sale.

According to the language within the petition, the concern is about the undisclosed price of the sale, as well as the “long held belief that the landmark was held in the public trust, and the building could not be sold without the approval of the California State Charities Registry and the Attorney General. We wish this process had been public, and the justification for approving the sale explained to the community.”

The theater was built in 1922, and has underdone a few upgrades and restorations.  In 2016, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Turner Classic Movies, and The Film Foundation, retrofitted the projection booth at the Egyptian Theatre to screen rare 35mm nitrate movies. This brought the Egyptian Theater into a company of only four theaters in the United States capable of showing the ultra fragile (and flammable) rare film stock.

As a recent transplant to Los Angeles, one of my favorite things I’ve been able to experience was the Noir City Film Festival, with several screenings at the Egyptian. Additional funds being used to preserve the location and augment Cinematheque’s ability to host events is a grand thing, and it does sound like Netflix has the best interest of the theater at heart.

We’ll let you know what we hear about the future of this historic building.

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