Sherman Torgan, owner of the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles for 29 years, died July 18 after suffering a heart attack on a bike ride in Santa Monica. He was 63.
Torgan turned the former adult film theater into a repertory house showing classics, foreign titles and cult films. While several repertory cinemas operated in Los Angeles through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the New Beverly was one of the very few in the area to keep the repertory format as most filmgoers turned to viewing classic films on video and DVDs.
The somewhat threadbare theater didn’t offer the plush amenities of the multiplexes, but Torgan kept ticket prices low and attracted a wide range of cinephiles to his creative programming, including Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino organized a festival of grindhouse films at the theater this year in conjunction with the release of his own tribute to the genre, “Grindhouse.”
Born in Philadelphia, Torgan moved to Los Angeles in the mid-1960s and graduated UCLA. He worked as a location scout in San Francisco and then returned to Los Angeles where he opened the New Beverly Cinema with friends Martin Ford and Donald Rappaport in 1978. Torgan took it over a year later.
He is survived by his wife Mary; son Michael, who worked with him at the theater; and a brother.