Tarantino Buys the New Beverly Cinema: Now What?

02.22.10 Marina Galperina

Quentin Tarantino has just purchased New Beverly Cinema, saving the struggling moviehouse from becoming a Super Cuts. The landmark is one of Los Angeles’s few cool culture hubs, but is it in danger of being smothered with Grindhouse kitsch or will the new landlord leave some breathing room for auteurs and masters?

Once a teeny Angelino myself, starved for culture and barf-sick of mall cineplexes, the New Beverly was my well-worn oasis. There were other retrospective cinemas scattered throughout that cement desert, but none as good and none with New Bev’s flavor. The blood red curtains creaked when drawn open, the seats smelled eternally of stale popcorn and $7 would land me inside a miraculous Fellini double feature. This is where I saw Eraserhead for the first time. This was a fun place. Apparently, Tarantino thought so too, and even though I’ve never seen him (how could anyone miss that grandiose troll?), he’s been going there since 1982.

A Torgan family business, the 200-seater has been playing classic, independent and foreign movies for over 30 years. Hosting too many unique events to mention, New Bev also threw bi-monthly Grindhouse-fests. A perfect place for Tarantino to strut benevolence on, the New Bev has been receiving a $5K monthly relief from the director since it’s patriarch, Sherman Torgan, died in 2007, and at the apex of the theater’s recent troubles, Tarantino saw an opportunity too good to miss.

Yes, he saved it from extinction when he purchased the place, but what is the extent of his “occasional input?” Tarantino owns the cinema; the Torgan family runs the daily operations and “do most of the booking” because he “lets” them. Aside from an Inglourious Basterds DVD screening event, Tarantino has already thrown an Angela Mao kung fu night and an “all blood” b-movie crapfest (not that there’s anything wrong with that.) This month, he’s gotten a festival circuit buddy to guest program. And, Tarantino has said “It is cool to have a theater that I can use to show what I like.” So let’s try not to confuse philanthropy with self-interest here.

Troubling to some, sure. But he owns the place and he has the right to do whatever the fuck he wants, even if that’s to turn the New Bev into a continuos survey course of “Movies I Recycle and You All Should Think Are Cool.” He’s determined to be the theater’s curmudgeon guardian angel as long as he’s “alive and rich,” so kudos! But all you peoples who weren’t trolling the New Beverly for guts and swords alone shouldn’t be surprised when Mr Tarantino decides to make the place an extension of his living room, a lot less “cinema” and much more “flick.” Unless he eventually gets bored. 

I hope he gets bored before we do.