April 29, 2011 | 3 comments | 8044 views
The last picture show?
A week after Long Beach Cinemas goes dark, more questions than answers
On April 1, Long Beach resident George Ennis, who hosts the annual George Ennis Film Festival, said he had booked Long Beach Cinemas, at 179 E. Park Ave., for a pre-screening of the festival’s short films on May 25.
Ennis said that the pre-screening — a lead-in to the film festival on June 5 at the Cabana, which raises money for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation — was expected to attract about 150 people to watch 10 to 12 short films showcasing the work of amateur and professional filmmakers.
“A lot of people were looking forward to it,” Ennis said. “Having [the pre-screening] at the theater put a little bit more legitimacy to the film festival.”
So, Ennis said, it came as a shock when the movie theater manager told him on April 28 that the event would have to be canceled. The manager, Ennis said, informed him that the theater’s owner had abruptly closed the business the night before. Last Thursday, the theater’s coming attraction posters and movie listings were removed, and the lights inside the building were off.
“I went by and wanted to ask a question,” Ennis said. “When I saw there was no coming attraction signs, I knew something was fishy.”
The manager later contacted him to apologize and explain what had happened, Ennis said. “Evidently the owners came in the middle of the night and said, ‘We’re wrapping it up,’” he recounted. “Who knew that two days ago, driving by the theater, that they were going to pull the rug out?”
Long Beach Cinemas was the only remaining movie theater in Long Beach — which once boasted four. The theater, which has four screens, is on the former site of the Lido Theater, according to Carole Shahda Geraci of the Long Beach Historical and Preservation Society.
“Around 1927, there was a recollection of someone going to the Lido to see an all talkie movie,” Geraci said, adding that the former owner, Ann Stampfel, who now owns the Malvern Cinema, sold Long Beach Cinemas roughly a decade ago.
Some residents, however, said the theater became known mostly for charging higher prices than other area theaters, which offered a better selection of movies. “It was too expensive,” said resident Alyson Goodman, 27. “They had no deals. If it were to reopen, hopefully they’ll offer better prices and deals for local residents.”