Lumiere Cinema has been able to negotiate a longer term on its lease at the Music Hall’s Beverly Hills theater due to COVID tenant protections, and has reopened the three-screen venue with a program of independent films.
Distributor Blue Fox Entertainment, headed by James Huntsman, had hoped to begin renovations on the historic Wilshire Boulevard theater and reopen next October. But while Blue Fox was in the process of negotiating the handover, theaters were allowed to reopen and Lumiere was able to take advantage of Los Angeles County coronavirus support measures for small businesses and remain in the theater. The county’s temporary eviction moratorium for commercial and residential tenants expires June 30, 2021.
“We’re disappointed but we have engaged with theaters in other locations, and our strategy to expand into theatrical is still in play,” Huntsman said. “The Music Hall was the right fit, but there are other locations both in and outside of L.A. we would potentially consider.”
Former Laemmle employees Lauren Brown, Luis Orellana and Peter Ambrosio took over running the Music Hall in November 2019, just a few months before the pandemic forced theaters to close for a year. Lumiere has been running a GoFundMe campaign in hopes of staying afloat.
When Blue Fox announced its deal with Music Hall in February, Ambrosio disputed Blue Fox’s assertion that it had a deal and said his group was still in discussions with Music Hall’s landlord, Michael Mavadat, to remain the operator of the theater. On April 20, Ambrosio told Variety in an email that the Lumiere group has set a new “long-term” lease for the theater. He noted that the trio of partners had “saved it during this unprecedented pandemic.”
Ambrosio could not be reached for further comment.
Built in 1936, the Music Hall is in need of renovation, Huntsman said, so whoever operates the theater will eventually have to raise the funds for repairs and improvements.
Blue Fox was planning to work with theater designer Fred Dagdagan on the design and planning to host premieres, special screenings and bookings from the top specialty labels as well as Blue Fox’s own films. Blue Fox intended to retrofit the theater with new screens, reclining seats and add an expanded lobby and concession stand with beer, wine and food.