The news that the Arclight Cinemas are closing permanently — part of the larger closure that includes Pacific Theaters in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic — hit the film industry, and the greater Los Angeles community, like a shockwave.
Filmmaker John August was one of the first to tweet about the news: “Oh no. ArcLight Hollywood is my favorite place to see movies.”
Actor Ben Schwartz echoed that feeling. “The Arclight Hollywood was my most favorite theatre in the world to see movies,” he tweeted. “I saw my first movie in LA there when I moved here in 2009 and the last movie before the pandemic there. Truly a bummer.
Writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood tweeted that the Arclight was her “go-to” and praised the theater’s sound, seating, and popcorn.
Writer-producer Liz Hannah called the news “truly devastating” and underlined the emotional connection she shared with so many about the theater: “I know I’m not alone in feeling that the Arclight shaped so much of my experience and friendships in Los Angeles.”
The original Arclight location opened in 2002 in the heart of Hollywood on Sunset Blvd., incorporating the iconic Cinerama dome into a 15-screen, two-level multiplex. The theater’s amenities — like assigned seating, an in-house bar and restaurant, introductions by Arclight employees, and 21-and-over screenings with alcohol — became popular features with other, larger movie chains. Over the years, Arclight also opened locations in San Diego, Chicago, Boston, and the Washington D.C. area.
But with six total locations in the greater Los Angeles area by the time it closed, it’s difficult to overstate how central the Arclight had become to L.A. movie culture. On opening weekend, Q&As with a film’s director and stars were regular fixtures, especially at the Hollywood location. The Arclight was one of the most popular locations to inaugurate an independent film’s platform release, and the theater would frequently host advance press screenings, FYC events, and movie premieres.
More than anything, the comfortable seats, large screens, and premium sound and projection made the Arclight for many the best location possible to see a highly anticipated movie. The loss of the theater just as the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to be abating — and movie theaters in L.A. were beginning to reopen — makes the loss that much more painful to bear.
On Twitter, many mourned the Arclight by sharing some of their favorite memories from seeing movies there.
Hannah recalled seeing J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” in 2009 and how the audience burst into applause when they saw the Enterprise for the first time, and seeing revival screenings of “The Silence of the Lambs” and “In the Heat of the Night” introduced by their respective stars, Jodie Foster and Sidney Poitier.
TV writer Eric Haywood tweeted about the experience of seeing “Black Panther” on opening night at the Arclight: “Whew you had to be there.”
Writer and podcaster Jessie Maltin, daughter of esteemed film critic Leonard Maltin, remembered taking her husband to the Arclight when he first moved to the country, and many friends of hers who had worked at the theater as a way to embrace their love of movies.
Maltin also expressed a common feeling among the Arclight’s fans: “I have to believe that someone will figure out a way to save the Hollywood location and more importantly, The Cinerama Dome,” she tweeted. “It needs to be a landmark.”
Indeed, with Arclight and Pacific theaters taking up so much southern California movie real estate — Pacific ran multiplexes at the Grove and the Americana, two massively popular L.A.-area shopping centers — it’s hard to fathom how damaging a hit the closure will be for an already enfeebled theatrical business. Already, some have started to speculate whether at least some of the Arclight locations could be saved, either through acquisition by a streaming company like Netflix, Amazon or Apple, or through some kind of consortium of studios (legally possible now with the recent end to the Paramount Consent Decrees that barred this kind of arrangement).
The dust has not yet settled on the news, and any definitive verdict on the ultimate fate of the Arclight will be settled in the days and weeks to come. For now, at least, what is unmistakably clear is that the Arclight was as close to the beating heart of the movie business as any company could hope to be, and its departure is excruciating for just about every facet of the industry.
Jasmine Tangcay and Angelique Jackson contributed to this story.