Blue Fox, a 6-year old company based in Century City, sees taking over a long-term lease on the theater as a natural extension of its independent film distribution and sales business. Blue Fox owner James Huntsman says “People are going to be blown away” when they see the new design for the theater, which is the only multiplex operating in the city of Beverly Hills.
Built in 1936 and opened in 1937, the art deco landmark had been part of Laemmle Theaters until 2019, when a trio of Laemmle vets took over briefly to run it as the Lumiere until the COVID pandemic closed down theaters.
Huntsman says there’s a need in Los Angeles for space for premieres, special screenings and four-wall bookings. The Blue Fox Theater will also program foreign and arthouse films from Blue Fox and other distributors, and Huntsman hopes the remodeled theater will prove attractive to bookers from the most prominent specialty labels.
“The renovation is quite extensive,” Huntsman says, and will include an expanded lobby and totally reimagined concession stand with unique offerings of beer, wine and food. All three auditoriums will be retrofitted with new screens and fully reclining seats.
The centrally-located theater on Wilshire Boulevard at Doheny will be a natural fit for Q&As and panels and other special events, according to Huntsman, “We want to connect filmmakers with the community.”
The largest auditorium currently has a 35mm projection system which will be retained for use during special screenings.
Designed by architect Wilfred B. Verity, the theater had been in continuous use until the pandemic, and also served as a studio for KLAC in the 1950s, where Betty White’s first sitcom, “Life With Elizabeth,” and “The Liberace Show” were filmed. It was originally known as the Elite and became the Music Hall in 1945.
“We believe there is strong demand for ‘a night at the movies’ and are fully committed to invest in its future,” Huntsman says.
William Gruenberg, theatrical distribution advisor for Blue Fox, will oversee film buying. Theater designer Fred Dagdagan, whose credits include the Television Academy Theater in North Hollywood and the Steven J. Ross Theater on the Warner Bros lot, is handling the renovation.
Blue Fox has distributed films including “Young Hearts,” Julie Delpy’s “My Zoe,” “Sometimes Always Never,” “Abe,” “A Simple Wedding” and “Killerman.”