Crest Westwood Theatre
Photos by Don Solosan
Brett Steele, dean of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, and Kristy Edmunds, artistic and executive director of Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA, stand in front of the Crest Theater. Photo: Kylie Carrigan/UCLA
THE LATEST NEWS
The Crest Westwood has been acquired by the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture along with its performing arts program, the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. Details are still being worked out, all we know now is that the Crest will be renamed the UCLA Nimoy Theater in honor of Leonard Nimoy, a long time supporter of the performing arts at UCLA. His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, and an anonymous donor made major gifts towards the purchase of the Crest. To quote the UCLA Newsroom article: " The UCLA Nimoy Theater is envisioned as a much-needed public platform for emerging contemporary performing artists across all disciplines whose work seeks an intimate scale, including extraordinary UCLA students and recent alumni, independent practitioners throughout Los Angeles, and national and international visiting artists."
LAHTF has reached out to UCLA and will advocate for preservation of historic elements of the theatre. We hope to be a resource to the new owners as the Crest Theater returns to its roots as a live performing arts venue.
The Crest Westwood opened as the 500-seat UCLAN Theatre in late 1940, and was built with a stage for live performance in addition to movie screenings. Frances Seymour Fonda, wife of Henry and mother of Jane and Peter, financed the theatre. Architect Arthur W. Hawes, also known for designing the Hollywood Reporter Building, designed the Crest in an austere Art Deco & Moderne style.
Within two years of opening, in 1942, management turned-over to the Dietrich & Feldstein independent circuit seeing the theatre switch to fulltime movie programming. The Crest became a popular neighborhood go-to spot for newsreel screenings for the remainder of WWII.
Following the war the theatre became one of the first theatres in Los Angeles dedicated to showing foreign films. In 1955 the Fonda family sold their interest in the theatre, Dietrich & Feldstein continued to manage, and the name was changed to the Crest Theatre. It became home to avant-garde films by young Hollywood directors and was later managed by several operators including Statewide Theatres and Century Theatres. Movies that had their first Los Angeles screenings at the Crest included “Dr. Strangelove” (1964 – Columbia Pictures).
Loew’s acquired the theatre in 1967, renaming it “Loew’s Crest” but continuing the special screenings including “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice” (1969 – Columbia Pictures), and “Goodbye, Columbus” (1969 – Willow Tree).
General Cinema took over in 1972, and then in 1977 Sterling Recreation Organization (SRO) became the new owners and renamed the theatre the “SRO Crest”. Partnering with MGM, SRO did some renovations in 1983 including new seating, 70mm projection, and Dolby sound, reopening it as the “Metro Theatre”.
Pacific Theatres purchased the theatre in 1985, renaming it “Pacific’s Crest”. Pacific executed a major renovation in 1987/8 in conjunction with part owner Disney, who had come onboard with Pacific to manage the theatre in 1986. The renovation included upgrading the original Moderne façade with an intricately stepped Art Deco movie palace façade. Joseph Musil, who would go on to restore Disney’s El Capitan theatre in Hollywood, oversaw the project. Musil designed a cycloramic mural spanning both side and back walls of the theatre interior, a diorama of Hollywood in the late 1930s. The murals were painted by scenic artist Bill Anderson as a highly stylized cityscape, including fluorescent paints which glowed under hidden black lights. Among the landmarks depicted were the Pantages theatre, the Brown Derby restaurant, and the Hollywood sign. In 1987 the theatre was the first of Pacific Theatre’s chain to meet the stringent requirements to be certified for Dolby THX sound technology.
In 2001 an investment group purchased the theatre, intending to turn it into a nightclub, however in 2003 film buff Robert Bucksbaum purchased the Crest for $3.2 million and renamed it the Majestic Crest Theater, inspired by the movie “The Majestic” (2001 – Castle Rock Entertainment). Bucksbaum placed a movie poster from “The Majestic” on permanent display in the theatre’s lobby. The theatre was designated a historic-cultural monument by the City of Los Angeles in May 2008. The theatre operated at a loss for several years before Bucksbaum sold to Bigfoot Entertainment in 2010. The Carmike Cinemas chain managed the theatre on behalf of Bigfoot under the new name “Bigfoot Crest Theater”, installing a digital 4K projector, however in early 2011 Bigfoot closed the theatre “for renovations” and later put the theatre up for sale at the end of 2011.
The theatre was reopened in 2013 with a company staging ballet and opera screenings; the building still being owned by Bigfoot. The lease lapsed at the end of 2016 and in early 2017 the Crest was listed for sale. As of now the Crest’s future is uncertain.
Crest Westwood, 1262 Westwood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90024
- UCLA Newsroom Article
- Los Angeles Conservancy
- Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majestic_Crest_Theatre
- Los Angeles Times
- Los Angeles Theatres https://losangelestheatres.blogspot.com/2017/03/crest-theatre.html
- Historic-Cultural Monument application http://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2008/08-0989_rpt_chc_4-22-08.pdf