Check out the great article about Hollywood Theatre Row…
Hollywood Theatre Row prepares for its time to shine in the spotlight
Groups band together to promote local venues
Although Los Angeles may be known for the silver screen, it’s the actors on the stage that are ready for their close-up along what is known to many as Hollywood Theatre Row.
Theatres located along Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, like The Blank Theatre, are hoping a new initiative gives them more exposure. (photo by Jonathan Van Dyke)
Last week, Los Angeles city councilmen Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, and Tom LaBonge, 4th District, introduced a motion for city staff to begin the process of creating signage to officially denote the intersection of Santa Monica Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue as Hollywood Theatre Row.
The stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard roughly between McCadden Place and El Centro Avenue has more than a dozen live theatres. Venues including the Blank Theatre, Elephant Theatre, the LGBT Center’s Renberg Theatre and Hudson Theatre are well known there, and the infamous Hollywood Fringe Festival takes the area over each year.
While an official designation and some signage might not be a huge deal to some, theatre members in the area said it was well worth it to them.
“We have been trying to get that motion for 30 years,” said Daniel Henning, founding artistic director of the Blank Theatre. “Everyone knows about this, but not everyone really knows about this. We want to let them know what is going on in their own backyards. We want to make sure that no theatres are closed, because that has been happening a lot and we want to encourage developers to build theatres in these new developments.”
In November, Henning and other theatre supporters celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Stayin’ Live initiative, which is now overseen by the Hollywood Arts Council.
“It is a coalition of theatre, government, community, business and real estate leaders looking to create the assured future of live theatre in Hollywood,” Henning said. “And what’s happened now is that it has turned into a movement.”
O’Farrell was the keynote speaker at the latest Stayin’ Live summit, and the councilman said he himself was honored to perform in the venues along Hollywood Theatre Row when he was younger.
“More and more people are coming there than ever before,” O’Farrell said. “I think what we need is an infusion of city attention to help support what theatre, gallery and restaurant owners are already doing.”
Officials noted that Hollywood Theatre Row is where a lot of big-screen actors received their starts including George Clooney, Octavia Spencer, Noah Wyle, Chris Pine, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jack Black, Molly Shannon and Sherri Shepherd.
“If you look at the list of actors who started on theatre row — there are hundreds more,” Henning said. “We are the proving ground for the big boys in film and television. We are generally groundbreaking and we give people the ability to stretch and grow and become who they are as artists.”
Stayin’ Live partners with groups beyond just Hollywood Theatre Row. Also included in the coalition is Hollywood Heritage, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, Pantages Theatre Hollywood/Nederlander and the Hollywood Media District Property Owners Association.
“Now, we’re all working together to achieve these things that separately none of us could achieve,” Henning said.
Stayin’ Live will combine the marketing efforts of those groups to better position the theatres as a whole. The collective can also better lobby to expand parking opportunities in the district, officials said.
Santa Monica Boulevard is still considered a state highway, and because of that improvements must be made by Caltrans at the state level.
“We’re working with Caltrans on how we can do that,” O’Farrell said. “And we are exploring ways to identify additional funding we can contribute in that effort.”
In a couple of years, proponents said they are hoping for new pedestrian crossings, better street lighting and some new landscaping.
On the marketing front, Henning said include something as simple as Food Truck Fridays, where patrons can eat at a favorite food truck before going into a theatre. The group is also in the midst of creating a website portal that would use the combined marketing of all the theatres to create a single stop for theatre fans.
Some of those marketing tools will come from the Hollywood Media District Property Owners Association.
“From the BID’s standpoint, we think those theatres are great to have, and it makes us unique,” said Steven Whiddon, district executive director. “We would love to see them flourish and we would love to see more eateries that support theatres and more feet on the ground in our area.”
Whiddon also said a major prong of attack is to have the state relinquish control of Santa Monica Boulevard, which would allow the group to more directly work with city officials and even invest BID money into it.
“We know that is the best way for us to be helpful to theatre row and all of our stakeholders,” Whiddon said.
Two years ago, Jennifer Wolfson started working on Hollywood Theatre Row as manager of both the McCadden and Lex theatres. Both seat approximately 50 people, and could use the attention, she said, but back then, there wasn’t anywhere to turn.
“It’s a battle, and I have to say I felt very alone in it … but I see it now,” she said. “Theatre Row has been unifying. Over the last couple of years, I’ve noticed big changes.”