New Beverly Cinema 

New Beverly founder Sherman Torgan

The Beverly Cinema is Los Angeles last remaining fulltime revival cinema. The Beverly has been screening repertory double bills continuously since it opened in May, 1978.

The program has been a consistent presentation of two films each day, with a new double feature three times weekly. The variety of pairings runs the gamut from old Hollywood classics, recent independent film, European and Asian favorites, to the occasional silent or animated feature; Scorsese to Eisenstein with Hitchcock and Godard thrown in.

Reuters - Sherman Torgan, who founded and ran the last remaining full-time revival cinema in Los Angeles, died Wednesday of a heart attack while bicycling in Santa Monica. He was 63.july, 18, 2007.
here are lots of noble endeavors that could be characterized as Quixotic, but, when I hear the word in a contemporary context, I always think of the New Beverly Cinema, whose owner, Sherman Torgan, died suddenly last week of a heart attack.

Maybe it didnt seem like a crazy idea at first. Sherman started the New Beverly back in 1978 only in hindsight a miracle of bad timing. VCRs were on the market but were still in the early adopter stage; limited titles were available, and rental outlets barely existed. Cable was beginning to get a foothold, but, outside of the area served by the groundbreaking Z Channel, premium movie channels showed only recent releases. In short, if you wanted to see a subtitled film or an obscure cult favorite or even an uncut, commercial-free old classic, you had to wait until it showed up at a revival house.

The New Beverly was part of a boom in such venues. I arrived in L.A. just a few months after Torgan opened his doors. Back then film buffs also had the Rialto, the Fox Venice, the El Rey, the Vista, the Vagabond, the Loyola, the Sherman, and the Nuart (long before it switched to first-run programming); others came and went, as home video and cable took their toll. By the 90s, the New Beverly was the only one left that had continuously maintained fulltime revival programming.

The convenient access afforded by home video and cable is a wondrous thing, and the many compromises in terms of size, sound, and visual quality have become less significant with DVD and huge HDTVs. These systems may never match a projected 35mm print on a theatrical-size screen or maybe they will but there are other aspects of actual moviegoing that cant, by definition, be captured at home.

Sherman knew this: It isnt just the thrill of the big screen; theres also the experience of seeing a movie in a crowd of relative strangers. This is even more significant at a rep house, where those strangers have only one overriding bond theyve all been willing to go through the hassle of leaving their cocoons because they want to see this specific movie.

But Sherman couldnt avoid the fact that he was bucking the tides of history and technology, and he sounded increasingly discouraged over the years, some of which may have been the result of sheer physical exhaustion.

I had often wondered how he had managed to keep the theater afloat in such an unfriendly fiscal environment. Grants? Secret trust fund? Sticking up 7/11s?

No, he runs it on a shoestring, and he doesnt have a lavish lifestyle. Basically he keeps expenses low by doing almost everything himself, says Jeffrey Rosen, who worked with him on and off for 30 years. Im talking to him two days after Shermans death, but he reflexively speaks in the present tense. He does the booking, prints the calendar, picks up the prints ... everything except the projection. His son Michael helps out, but hes got a fulltime job. I consult on the programming.

Really, Sherman is the theater.

That characterization explains the only brief bad moment I had with Sherman in twentysome years of friendly professional contact. Some time in the 90s, I had written glowingly about the theater in an article about non-standard venues in Los Angeles. At the end, I mentioned its one real negative the uncomfortable seats.

I thought Sherman would be delighted with the write-up, but, the next time I spoke to him, his appreciation was almost completely ruined by my mention of the seats. His disappointment wasnt, I think, because I might have hurt his business. It was more like telling someone that he has great kids, but, whew!, talk about uggggly .

Just when the theater was (not for the first time) in really bad financial straits, last springs Grindhouse Festival, organized by Quentin Tarantino around the release of Grindhouse, was a great commercial boost; Tarantinos cache immediately guaranteed a level of press support Sherman could never have mustered on his own.

Whether the theater will be able to continue in his absence is still an open question. Family, friends, and colleagues are still too stunned by the suddenness of his death to concentrate on that. Its unimaginable that someone will show up with the same level of dedication and energy. On the other hand, it was unimaginable that Sherman could have kept it going all these years but he did.

In the meanwhile, so long, Sherman and thanks for all the films (ANDY KLEIN, The City Beat)


New Beverly Cinema Web Site

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