You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hollywood renaissance plan faces uphill battle

Businesses ask if L.A. tourism will ever recover

HOLLYWOOD — If you build it, will they come? That’s the question waiting to be answered at Hollywood & Highland, but with the nation and the world reeling from an awful season of terrorism, war and recession, it’s probably one that won’t be answered for months, or even years.

The $600 million shopping, entertainment and tourism destination opened for business earlier this month, capping a decade of planning and construction that has made the site the emblem of the city’s hopes for a revitalized Hollywood.

Tourism was always the core of the business plan: the famous intersection, with its Walk of Stars and the hand- and footprints in the Mann’s Grauman’s Chinese Theater forecourt, was the second-most-visited spot in Southern California, attracting 10 million visitors each year by some counts, including millions of foreign travelers.

But most international tourism ended Sept. 11, and officials don’t expect it to recover to anything near regular levels for the better part of a year, at the earliest. That’s bad news for owners of businesses at the mall who had hoped the new destination would convince tourists to stay in Hollywood longer and spend more.

Slow recovery

“It’s a foregone conclusion that we’re not going to have a recovery of the foreign tourist market until next summer,” says Leron Gubler, president and CEO of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. “It stopped on Sept. 11, and it’s only just starting to trickle back now.”

In response to the sudden and sharp reduction of foreign and domestic tourism to Southern California, the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau has brought its focus closer to home. Retooling a $1.3 million advertising campaign, the bureau is targeting what travel industry experts call the drive market in California and Nevada .

“This is our biggest program ever, but we see it as the only way to go right now,” says Robert Barrett, vice president of domestic marketing for the convention bureau.

About half of the mall’s intended complement of some 70 retail shops, restaurants and nightclubs had moved in by opening day in early November. The rest are expected to open during the next few months, according to spokespeople. Most had to adjust expectations for sales somewhat, given the depressed tourist trade, and are shifting their hopes to the local market of area residents and entertainment industryites.

“Tourism is likely to be down, but that’s not a huge part of our business,” allows Bob Spivak, president and CEO of the Grill on Hollywood, sister restaurant to the upscale Beverly Hills industry eatery the Grill on the Alley. “We don’t believe our price structure lends itself to the tourist demographic.”

California Pizza Kitchen was hoping to draw in tourists who are becoming increasingly familiar with the 130-restaurant chain. Now, like all the businesses at Hollywood & Highland, it’ll have to rely on local diners to pick up a bigger part of the tab.

“California Pizza Kitchen is an everyday kind of place and this is our hometown,” says Sarah Goldsmith, senior v.p. of marketing and p.r. “We have great brand awareness here.”

Building new image

Apart from the acute economic and political problems, area business owners have other problems to overcome if they want to see Hollywood & Highland succeed, such as a long-held perception that the area is rundown and dangerous. The Hollywood Entertainment District, a consortium of area business and property owners, has already started to combat that image, most importantly by hiring armed security personnel to patrol the neighborhood.

While it remains to be seen whether the local populace will make Hollywood & Highland a regular stop on their shopping and dining rounds, there are already some positive signs: The new mall will likely benefit from a resurgence of trendy clubs and bars in the area.

“Nightlife is taking hold, and that’s a common precursor for revitalization of retail businesses and restaurants in a neighborhood,” says Kerry Morrison, entertainment district exec director.

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Jessica Biel Limetown Premiere

    Why 'Limetown' Star & Producer Jessica Biel Thought the Show Was Based on a True Story

    In a world of increasingly outlandish headlines, the story behind “Limetown” — in which an entire community in rural Tennessee disappears overnight — seems plausible. Even Jessica Biel, who executive produces and stars in the Facebook Watch television adaptation of the hit 2015 podcast, was initially convinced that it was real. “I just thought I [...]

  • Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Watchmen

    Yahya Abdul-Mateen II Talks 'Watchmen,' 'Matrix 4': 'I'm Not Nervous At All'

    Yahya Adbul-Mateen II is facing some serious pressure. The actor is in the middle of a massive career surge, taking on roles in HBO’s “Watchmen” and the upcoming “Matrix 4” — and with those roles, the expectations of their fans.  “I have the responsibility of upholding something that was already done while also bringing in [...]

  • David Lindelof Watchmen Premiere

    'Watchmen' Creator Damon Lindelof Weighs in on Martin Scorsese's Marvel Criticisms

    Damon Lindelof disagrees with Martin Scorsese about his recent claims that Marvel movies don’t qualify as cinema. The director’s proclamation, along with the polarized critical reception of “Joker,” are the latest salvos in a long history of questioning comic book movies’ place in cinematic history. The lingering question: Can superhero fare be considered “high art?” [...]

  • Anne Hathaway Modern Love

    Anne Hathaway Talks Mental Health Awareness, Playing a Bipolar Woman on Amazon's 'Modern Love'

    In Amazon Prime’s upcoming “Modern Love,” Anne Hathaway sheds light on an important facet of living with mental health issues, playing a bipolar woman who struggles with dating. “We’re all becoming more sensitive, wiser and more cognizant of gentility, and especially emotional gentility. I think those conversations are starting to happen. And I think the desire [...]

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Charlize Theron speaks at the GEANCO

    Charlize Theron Talks 'White Privilege,' Growing Up During Apartheid in South Africa

    Charlize Theron, during an onstage discussion with her “Gringo” costar David Oyelowo about philanthropy at Thursday’s annual fundraiser for Nigerian children’s educational and health program GEANCO, said she was a beneficiary of “white privilege” while growing up in Apartheid-torn South Africa. “I obviously am a white person who benefited from my white privilege,” Theron said [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content