The Fine Arts movie house on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills has been dark for five years, but Laemmle Theatres announced today it's taking over. The single-screen house reopens Sept. 18 as the Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre, showing first-run films. Laemmle ran the Fine Arts from 1985 to 1993, mostly showing foreign films then, the company says on its blog.
The theater opened in 1937 as the Wilshire Regina. The original auditorium had 800 seats, but Laemmle says the new house will seat about 400.
It was taken over by Fox West Coast Theatres in 1948 and renamed Fine Arts Theatre (occasionally referred to as the Fox Fine Arts Theatre and a tall vertical sign with that name was added to the center of the façade (it has since been removed). In 1951 it hosted the World Premiere of George Stevens' “A Place in the Sun”. In 1959 “Room at the Top”, (‘The Most Daring Film in a Decade’), played there for over six months. Some time after the 1950’s, the original small forecourt and free-standing boxoffice were eliminated for an interior lobby….
The Cecchi Gori film company took over and renovated in 1993. Theatre designer Joseph Musil, who also redesigned the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood and the Crest Theatre in Westwood, brought his colorful theatrical flair to the new Cecchi Gori Fine Arts Theatre. The lobby has been further enlarged by moving in the back wall of the auditorium. A new 14' by 33' screen was installed several feet in front of the old proscenium to accommodate wider aspect ratios. This re-configuring, and the use of somewhat wider seats, reduced the theatre’s capacity to 410. The Cecci Gori people originally wanted an Italian street scene painted onto the screen curtain, but later decided against it. That is is why there is a flat black curtain instead of traditional gathered drapes.
Two stores that flanked the theatre were converted into a full concession stand and an expansion of the ladies room (no ‘theatrette’, just more toilets). The box office window is now located between the front entrance doors. Changes to the interior have been substantial enough to make it difficult to attribute the theatre’s current overall look to any one person, although Joseph Musil’s design touches are everywhere. The theatre’s original marquee and facade remain essentially unaltered.