The Crest Theater in L.A.’s Westwood section has been sold for the second time in under a year, this time to a Netco exec paying $3.2 million to preserve the 60-year-old art deco venue as a first-run movie house.
Robert Bucksbaum, 40, said he bought the property after hearing it might be sold and converted from its present use.
“I live in the community of Westwood, and it made me sick to my stomach to think of losing that theater,” Bucksbaum said. “It was the first theater I went to when I arrived in L.A.”
Coming to the city in 1986, Bucksbaum worked for most of a decade at box office tracker Exhibitor Relations. In 1994, he launched a similar resource online as ReelSource.com.
As something of a hobbyist’s sideline, he bought a single-screen venue in the Central Valley community of Wofford Heights a few years ago. So, though Pacific Theatres currently manages the 465-seat Crest, Bucksbaum said he’s more than willing to run the place himself should Pacific choose to ankle the relationship when its current contract expires at year’s end.
“We do a lot of promotions to stimulate business at the other theater, and we’d probably do a lot of the same kind of things at the Crest,” he suggested. “You have to — it’s tough to get people off of the couch and into the theaters these days.”
But apparently not so difficult to turn a profit as a Netco, conventional wisdom notwithstanding.
“ReelSource has always been profitable,” Bucksbaum said. “That’s how I was able to afford buying the Crest.”
The single-screen venue has always enjoyed a close relationship with Disney and is playing Mouse’s family drama “The Rookie.” Bucksbaum said he expected that relationship to continue.
“I don’t want to change a thing about the Crest,” he said.
Bucksbaum — who bought the company from Icarus, which acquired the property last July on spec of turning it into a nightclub — said he would consider reselling only if a new owner would promise to keep it a theater. He noted that Westwood’s decades-long rep as a prime exhibition neighborhood has lost a bit of luster of late, with several smaller theaters either recently shuttered or set for conversion.
“I think the general view of Westwood is that it’s not doing as well as it could because they’ve lost a lost of theaters,” he said. “And the restaurants and stores and theaters all feed off of one another.”
Westwood community activist Steve Sann applauded Bucksbaum’s preservation-minded stance.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to know that the Crest will remain a single-screen theater,” Sann said. “We’ve been losing theaters (and) don’t want to lose any more in Westwood. So, this guy is a hero to us.”