Friday, July 27, 2012

Grace in the Face of Change

I just learned today that the Laemmle Sunset 5, a theater famous for showing independent films, shut down late last year. The theater's website explains the theater's demise:
Eventually, new multiplexes such as the Arclight and the Grove opened nearby and began nabbing the artful specialty films that had long been the Sunset 5’s exclusive domain.
When a small business closes in the face of competition from larger firms, it's common to hear complaints about the capitalist system -- along with calls for subsidies or government protection (such as having the location designated a "historical landmark"). So I was pleasantly surprised to read the next line:
Such is the forward motion of time and commerce.
I appreciate and respect the owners' choice to accept the theater's fate with equanimity.

For those worried about the lack of venues for independent films, two things: First, as the quote above indicates, the Arclight and Grove theaters were able to squeeze out the Laemmle Sunset 5 in part because they offered independent fare in addition to the usual major-studio movies. And second, the Sunset 5 has been acquired by Robert Redford's Sundance Cinemas, which is currently renovating the theater. As Tom Bernard, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics, says in the linked article: "Maybe fresh blood will bring new life into the theater and come new cash too. A face lift on the theater may attract new audiences and make it a place to be." Only time will tell.

UPDATE (added immediately after posting): Before anybody says it, I should point out that the Laemmle family will do just fine. They have other theaters, including new ones opening elsewhere in the L.A. area. Obviously, it would be harder for someone who owned only one location to greet the news with such equanimity. Nevertheless, I respect how the Laemmles responded. Moreover, the usual calls for subsidy and protection don't just come from the small business owners, but from people who have an interest in the business, including suppliers (like indie producers) and devoted customers. I'm pleased that apparently didn't happen here.

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