BY: GEMMA MATIN AND ANTHONY GARZA
Once a run-down derelict movie theatre clinging to life, the Long Beach Art Theatre has recently been restored to its original art deco glory. Since its opening in 1924, The Art Theatre has been a Long Beach landmark showcasing classic, independent, foreign and modern films. Located on 4th Street in the “Retro Row” area of Long Beach, the revived venue is more than just a movie theatre, and offers affordable prices for students looking to enjoy some free time in Long Beach.
Before co-owners Jan van Dijs and Mark Vidor got involved with the theatre in 2007, they said it was overrun by cats and was hardly the place you wanted to see with the lights on. As the Art Theatre struggled to survive, it fell on the laps of Vidor and van Dijs.
“We bought it and took it over as a leap of faith,” Vidor said. “We had no knowledge of the movie business.”
With all new renovations, The Art Theatre has been restored to its original 1934 art deco style and now includes a wine bar and a coffee shop adjacent to the movie theatre. Sustaining the local essence of its city, the theatre lobby décor includes works from local artists on the walls.
Being the last surviving single screen movie theatre in Long Beach is no easy task. The help of technology and Internet resources have helped the theatre maintain its popularity with film buffs, moviegoers and locals alike. It strives on the local essence of Long Beach, from both the filmmakers and the audience.
“With social media and other technology it’s been easier to gain new audiences,” said van Dijs. “Being connected to the community on an individual basis brings life to the street.”
Vidor and van Dijs’s priority is creating a “one of a kind experience” for audiences. Watching a show at The Art Theatre is unlike your average evening out at the movies. As you walk up to the theatre on 4th Street, you can hear the conversations of people talking about films and the clinking of wine glasses as people cheer to a night out.
“It goes back to the origins of going out,” said van Dijs. “We are the center for this district, and activity is what makes a community safe, but it has to be real.”
Art Du Vin offers food and a selection of craft beer and red and white varietals from wine rich parts of the world, including California. Both the food and drinks can be enjoyed on their outdoor, heated patio. Of course, the theatre also offers soft drink options as well as cinema-style popcorn, ice cream and candy.
The Art Theatre is also known for its midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The 1975 comedy-horror hybrid musical is shown in shadow cast, which involves a group of volunteer actors miming out parts of the action as the movie plays behind them, bringing real life authenticity to this popular classic. The Art Theatre continues to attract over 100 guests on Saturday nights for this show.