Monday, April 16, 2007

Farewell to the National

Reports are out there that the Mann National, the theater in Westwood Village that can be seen when you're driving past on Wilshire, will be closing down by the end of the week. The theater, which seats 1112, first opened in March of 1970 and helped make Westwood Village the hot spot for all the big movies of the New Hollywood--some footage of lines at the theater waiting to see THE EXORCIST can be found on that DVD. That movie apparently played there for six months.

Probably one of the few single-screen theaters left from that era, the National can be easily recognized playing a San Francisco theater in ZODIAC, where several of the characters go to see DIRTY HARRY. It was never the veritable palace that the Westwood Village still is, but it always exuded a cool 70s vibe, even if it probably did need a paint job over the past few years.

By the time I got here in the early 90s Westwood Village was already dying down but I got to see plenty of movies there during my first few years. Off the top of my head I can remember SLIVER, THE FIRM, RISING SUN, FLESH AND BONE, A PERFECT WORLD, INTERSECTION, BEVERLY HILLS COP III, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE, HIGHLANDER: THE FINAL DIMENSION, THE BRADY BUNCH MOVIE, BYE BYE LOVE, CLUELESS, SHOWGIRLS, GOLDENEYE, FAIR GAME, COPYCAT, THE FIRST WIVES' CLUB, HEAVEN'S PRISONERS, THE POSTMAN, A NIGHT AT THE, not too many good ones in there. At the end of '99 I saw THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY there on Christmas Day...then I didn't go again until the press screening of THE FANTASTIC FOUR two years ago. I haven't been back and I guess I won't get another chance. Many, myself included, have turned their back on Westwood Village. There are all sorts of reasons for that but it's a shame that the National had to be a casualty. It will be missed.

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