Ed Fuentes previews Last Remaining Seats for 2014

last-remaining-seats-laco-2012.jpgRory Cunningham greets guests at Last Remaining Seats in 2012. Flickr photo: Barry Schwartz.

It's been said that downtown's revival is now so mainstream, a real coolness evades the city. For more pushback, LA Weekly carried a story that used a headline stating downtown will never be cool. I challenge that claim with three words; Last Remaining Seats.

By opening the historical palaces of Broadway, it was a whisper in the ears of Angelenos that someday things will get better. It has, and the Los Angeles Conservancy's annual summer film series has kept downtown cool since 1987.

The full 2014 schedule has been rolled out. Expect filmgoers dressing up to mirror the mood of the movie, or the wear period fashion from last time downtown was a real destination. My annual list of dining and dress options also shows downtown has more places to be at, and is fulfilling the romantic promises of the Los Angeles Conservancy.

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Los Angeles Theatre (1931)
"The Lady Eve" (1941)
Wednesday, June 11, 8 p.m.

Ah, if only the ship shaped Coca-Cola bottling plant, a 1939 Streamline Moderne downtown marvel, had a pop-up café inside. It would be the perfect spot to dine before "The Lady Eve," the Preston Sturges screwball comedy that begins on a cruise ship and follows the testy romance between Jean Harrington, a con-woman (Barbara Stanwyck), and Charles Pike, a well-to-do ophiologist (Henry Fonda). If there was a Rainforest Café nearby, that would be the obvious choice to mark the Amazon trip taken by Pike. Thankfully there isn't, so you can have a real intimate dinner by scampering to the dining gem Cicada. Since "The Lady Eve" was the first "high-fashion picture" for Stanwyck, so claimed by the film's costume designer, Edith Head, dress in classic style and shoulder pads. Gentlemen, just try not to look too ruffled at any advances you may encounter.

"I need him like the ax needs the turkey." - Jean Harrington (Barbara Stanwyck)

Trailer: The Lady Eve

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The Music Center's Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (1964)
"West Side Story" (1961)
Saturday, June 14, 8 p.m.

The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the grand lady of Grand Avenue, and "West Side Story," made their debut in the early 1960s. Besides that shared timeline, there is a redevelopment footnote. One reason Bunker Hill was razed was so the Music Center could add elegance to downtown. The boarded tenements seen in the film were to be demolished to make room for The Lincoln Center (but that was delayed until their scenes as gritty backdrop were completed). As for this screening, local Sharks and Jets can dress in their best dance-in-the-gym street-smart elegance, and do their best finger snapping moves by the Music Center Fountain. Instead of a pick for thematic dining, I propose the Los Angeles restaurants that serve Puerto Rican dishes have a taste-off on Grand Avenue, a real fried green plantains and pork chicharrón rumble.

"Play it cool boy, real cool." - Ice (Tucker Smith)

Trailer: West Side Story

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Orpheum Theatre (1926)
Footlight Parade (1933)
Wednesday, June 18, 8 p.m.

"Footlight Parade" is Busby Berkeley's 1933 musical extravaganza -- starring James Cagney and Joan Blondell -- with an aquacade highlight flock of chorus girls in caps and bathing suits. There's nothing subtle in this pre-code motion picture. It's all dancing, all music, and in the 15-minute musical number "By a Waterfall," all wet. That scene, and others, are given proper scale and scope on The Orpheum's big screen. To fulfill the "Footlight Parade" trailer's promise of witnessing one of the "most magnificent spectacles ever conceived," do your pre or post screen dining and drinking at The Rooftop at The Standard, Downtown LA.

"Aw, talking pictures, it's just a fad." Chester Kent (James Cagney)

Trailer: Footlight Parade

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The Theatre at Ace Hotel (former United Artists Theatre, 1927)
"Back to the Future" (1985)
Saturday June 21, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Bringing Back Broadway's latest trip to its future was the opening of the Ace Hotel, and this screening gives filmgoers a chance to dress retro 1980s, or jump back even further to the 1950s. The in-house brasserie, L.A. Chapter, has a menu and hours that caters the two screening schedule.

But the real honor goes to the silver-haired doctor who ran on faith, a touch of eccentricity, and maybe a little madness. I'm not talking about Dr. Emmett Lathrop "Doc" Brown (Christopher Lloyd), the sidekick to Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), armed with a flux capacitor and a time machine built out of DeLorean. I speak of the late Dr. Gene Scott, who kept the pulse of the United Artist Theater alive as a broadcast site for his television ministry, and nabbed two "Jesus Saves" neon signs in 1989. The Ace Hotel kept one, and it will remain part of downtown's former ambiance. Need one more film reference? The neon signs were installed on the roof of the Church of the Open Door at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles at 6th Street and Hope, and dedicated in 1935. In 1985, the year "Back to the Future" was released, The Church of the Open Door held its final services, and "Jesus Saves" neon became lit archives (before placed in storage in 1988). As Doc Brown may have said: "Great Gene Scott!"

"I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet. But your kids are gonna love it." Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox)

YouTube: Back to the Future

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Palace Theatre (1911)
"El Gran Calavera" [English translation: The Great Madcap] (1949)
Wednesday, June 25, 8 p.m.
Co-presented with the Latin American Cinemateca of Los Angeles

Surrealist Spanish filmmaker Luis Buñuel needed a comeback project after being blacklisted from Hollywood, and forced out of Spain during their civil war. In comes dark comedy "El Gran Calavera," a satire about a family trying to change the spending habits of patriarch Ramiro de la Mata (Fernando Soler) by making him believe he lost his wealth. Ramiro gets wise to the deception and fools them right back to expose their slacking ways. Of all the films on the slate, this poke at social order could be remade downtown. Of course, the Eastside and Westside debate can be used as subtext, while Broadway is used as a backdrop of clashing classes. Something to discuss over dishes from Tacos Tumbras A Tomas at the changing Grand Central Market, or while dining on the dishes from Baco Mercat that have their own Spanish subtext.

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Orpheum Theatre (1926)
"Citizen Kane" (1941)
Saturday June 21, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The restored opulence of The Orpheum Theatre makes it the Citizen Kane of historic venues on Broadway. This would be the film and venue to be dressed in stunning 1940's era finery and fedoras. An after-party at the Julia Morgan-designed Herald Examiner building would complete the evening, but don't expect that to happen. To mark an evening screening of a landmark within a landmark, there is ALMA. It's walkable to The Orpheum and was Bon Appétit's "Best New Restaurant in America 2013." Book it now. Reservations are a month out.

"You can't buy a bag of peanuts in this town without someone writing a song about you." - Charles Foster Kane

Trailer: Citizen Kane

The 28th annual Last Remaining Seats season will be June 11 through June 28, 2014.
Tickets will go on sale Wednesday, March 26 to Conservancy members and Wednesday, April 9 to the general public. Tickets are $16 for L.A. Conservancy members and $20 for the general public.

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