While New York has its own Broadway district boasting Tony Award-winning live theatre, Los Angeles’ Broadway is reminiscent of the Golden Age of Hollywood, when lavish architectural buildings hosted film premieres and glamorous events. These theatres have become historical landmarks that are still enjoyed to this day by the public at large, thanks to companies like Cinespia, which on February 14th, did a stellar job of running its annual Valentine’s Day gala at the last of these legendary 12 movie theatres to be built: the Los Angeles Theatre.
Finished in 1931, the multilevel and French Baroque-inspired theatre, which was designed by S. Charles Lee and Samuel Tilden Norton, and was interestingly a beneficiary of additional funding by Charlie Chaplin, whose “City Streets” film premiere christened it, was back in action for another night (since “officially” closing in 1994). On the agenda was a memorable screening of “Roman Holiday” (1953) presented by Amazon Studios.
Attended by 2,000 dapperly and exquisitely dressed individuals, many of whom began arriving around 7 p.m. into the chandelier-adorned lobby with a loved one, Cinespia’s special event featured much more than just the film itself. It, instead, allowed for a totally immersive affair – perhaps not very different than what we’d imagine a classic Hollywood party to be like.
Complimentary sparkling wine flowed handsomely courtesy of Freixenet Cava, as couples and friends alike danced in a disco-ball room and in the theatre prior to the screening, where a jazz band played lively tunes. Not to mention, a DJ could also be found entertaining the crowd on the bottom floor, where many stood in line to get their vintage “Roman Holiday” 5X7 black-and-white photos, which joyously entailed sitting on a Vespa – as Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck did – while a professional photographer snapped away.
As the clock struck 9:00 p.m., guests in formfitting suits or elegant dresses, with a positively agreeable mood to match, soon filtered into the breathtaking auditorium, as Cinespia’s founder, John Wyatt, engaged the audience with his personability. He first introduced the “World’s Best Whistler,” Molly Lewis, who pitch-perfectly whistled Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” to the roar of much-deserved applause.
After some technical difficulties, in which the attendees remained admirably patient, “Roman Holiday,” directed by William Wyler, was underway, eliciting genuine cheers and reactions, 65 years after its release. It was a sight to see Hepburn’s Hollywood debut in gloriously unaltered form, on not a Blu-ray disc, but rather a 35mm film print, which revealed the same signature dust specks that its original audiences watched.
It was like being transported to the 1950s, which was made all the more credible inside one of the very few venues that could give the experience the merit it needed. As the innocently beautiful narrative in Rome, Italy, unfolded, detailing the bittersweet, one-day romance between a visiting crown princess (Hepburn) and a conflicted news reporter (Peck), it became quickly apparent why the film earned three Academy Awards (for Best Writing, Actress, and Costume Design).
Without question, the film has achieved classic status because it is timeless — unblemished and undeterred by changing fashions, politics, and societal expectations. The comedy still garners a great many laughs, the drama remains moving, and the charm is undeniable. Even more so, we’re likely to find these qualities in “Roman Holiday” more impactful than ever as we look back and appreciate Hollywood’s halcyon days.
Overall, as previous years have proven with “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “Moulin Rouge,” and “The Notebook,” smiles and laughter abounded on Cupid’s favorite day inside one the most historic entertainment settings on the West Coast – the Los Angeles Theatre. On February 14th, 2018, Cinespia, now in its 17th year, not only refamiliarized its patrons with the disarming appeal of “Roman Holiday,” but provided a tasteful and comforting experience amid a refreshingly refined ambiance.
For more information about Cinespia and their supporting sponsor, Amazon Studios, please visit cinespia.org