The Hollywood Legion Theater: How military
veterans are fighting to preserve 70mm
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The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Bill Steele, Theater Director, American Legion Hollywood
Legion Post 43 facade. The building is an L.A. Historic-Cultural Monument
designed by Weston & Weston architects, 1929. Photo: Taiyo Watanabe
Does one film show really matter?
That thought ran through my mind at a major film festival in Hollywood last year
as our theater darkened and curtains opened on one of the most revered films in
movie history, in 70mm. That’s right. 70mm. As project manager of the American
Legion Hollywood Post 43’s remodel of their historic theater, I was heavily
invested in the answer. This was our first-ever public screening of a 70mm film,
and I was first-date nervous. "The Sound of Music" might be a modern-day
Though we had opened the festival the night before with a flawless screening of
a 35mm print of Sergeant York, this time was different. 70mm is a tricky,
unforgiving format, and the tiniest error or misjudgment can spell disaster.
Adding to my anxiety, among the audience members were studio archivists,
festival executives, and technical bigwigs. Any error in presentation would
surely be noticed and harm our nascent reputation. Knowing all too well the
fragility of the film medium—I’ve seen beautiful archival prints get damaged or
destroyed at highly reputable theaters more than once—I prepared for the worst.
• Go to Gallery The Hollywood Legion Theater
Up in the projection booth, our chief projectionist, Taylor Umphenour, and our
engineer, Roger Addams, nervously eyed our 55-year-old
Norelco AAII machines for
any signs of trouble. Three years of exhaustive work, deal-making, false leads,
dead-ends, soul-searching, broken friendships, and personal sacrifice had all
come down to what felt like a decisive moment. Would this show end up defining
As the film began, I stood in the back of the 482-seat theater like a
superstitious actor before a performance, afraid if I sat down I might jinx not
only our shining moment in 70mm but also the improbable story of how a group of
military veterans dusted off a 90-year old Hollywood relic and elevated it into
a world-class facility.
But before I get into that story, it’s worth revisiting a bit of history.
The American Legion Post 43 dates back to the end of World War I, when a group
of returning army veterans who worked at the Famous Players-Lasky Studios (which
later became Paramount Pictures) chartered what was then referred to as the
“Motion Picture Post” in 1919. It is one of the oldest in the state of
California. Over the years, members have included Hollywood luminaries such as
Walter Long, Adolf Menjou, Clark Gable, Mickey Rooney, Gene Autry, Charlton
Heston, Ronald Reagan, Stan Lee and many others who have served in the military.
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Gallery The Hollywood Legion Theater
Ronald Rosbeek in
Theater. The upper areas of the side walls are covered in fabric panels with fiberglass insulation in the cavity behind. The red panels are wedge-shaped
and contribute to the visual character of the space, picking up on the Art
Deco theme in the building, but also offer a broader band of lower frequency
absorption due to their varying depths - Peter Grueneisen, architect. Photo:
The original purpose of the American Legion was to help post-discharge veterans
“preserve the memories and incidents” of their participation in the Great War.
Early on, the founders of Post 43 decided to build a memorial in honor of the
war’s dead. Needing an income source, the Post bought land on El Centro
Boulevard and built the Hollywood Legion Boxing Stadium in 1921. It soon became
wildly successful, a place where celebrities hung out. Charlie Chaplin had a
ringside seat. Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney were regulars. Many attended “Friday
night fights” to see movie stars as much as to watch boxing. The enormous gate
receipts of the boxing events enabled the post to build a massive, $300,000
memorial clubhouse on Highland Ave. in 1929.
Constructed of board-form concrete in the Egyptian-Revival style, the 30,000 sq.
ft. edifice featured an exercise room, trophy rooms, lounge areas, a speakeasy
bar, and an expansive “meeting hall” for member functions that doubled as a
movie theater. An ample projection room was built with steel-reinforced walls
eight inches thick. Though the building had undergone a few alterations over the
years, mostly to the downstairs bar area, when I joined the club in 2015 it was
At the time, I was residing in Lawrence, Kansas and occasionally flying to Los
Angeles to perform reserve duty with the U.S. Navy’s Hollywood liaison office.
Off-duty, I frequented the city’s repertory cinemas and old movie palaces,
seeking ideas for an arts house cinema I hoped to build in Kansas. (It was an
effort that proved futile.)
I was at a low point when one evening in March 2015 a fellow navy reservist,
Fernando Rivero, invited me to have a cigar and drinks at a favorite hangout of
his in Beverly Hills. After downing a couple of Scotches, I shared my Cinema
Paradiso dreams. Fernando suddenly perked up and took a puff on his cigar. He
said he was spearheading a project to remodel an old theater at the Hollywood
American Legion, where he was a member and chaired their cinema committee.
Before the night was over, he asked if I would be interested in moving to
L.A. and helping him manage the project.
Deco bar. The wall in the far background is lined with original WWI posters.
Photo: Jon Endow
Though flattered by the offer, I politely
declined. The idea of remodeling a movie theater at an American Legion didn’t
sound very appealing. I envisioned a dank auditorium with a pulldown screen and
speakers propped up on poles. And my image of Legionnaires was firmly stuck in
the past: old men in funny hats waving tiny American flags on sticks at Veterans
Day parades. I wasn’t interested.
Two months passed and I was back in Los Angeles for more Navy duty. This time
Fernando invited me to come check out the Legion building. Somewhat reluctantly,
I accepted and drove over to the Highland Ave. location, just south of the
Hollywood Bowl. I met Fernando and the club’s historian, Mike Hjelmstad, in the
downstairs bar, a time capsule from the 1940s. I thought I knew what to expect
when we headed into the old theater but I was completely taken by surprise when
the heavy church-like oak doors were flung open. It was one of the most dramatic
entries I had ever experienced in architecture. Arched buttresses more than 40
feet high descended from the ceiling to enclose a space that seemed cavernous,
yet intimate. Not lavishly ornate like most 1920s-era grand theaters, this was
an unusual blend of stripped-down classical with a hint of art deco. A dark red
curtain hung across the 45-foot stage lent an air of elegance. I sensed
immediately that the room had the potential to become a movie palace unique in
cinema. I also knew this: that if my insanely unlikely dream of one day
exhibiting 70mm films was ever going to be realized, this was my chance.
Four months later, in September 2015, I quit my dead-end job in Kansas, kissed
my wife, and drove out west. I had just turned 51.
A sound option
While eager to get to work when I arrived in Los Angeles, the Post 43
organization was in no hurry to employ me. A byzantine approval process held up
my hiring for months, during which time I took a job doing data entry at an
entertainment payroll company to make ends meet. In the interim I became a
member of the post and joined the cinema committee, where I became acquainted
with an impressive group of member volunteers that Fernando had recruited for
the project, including an Iraq War veteran with an MBA, a retired construction
manager, and a retired project manager. When I was finally hired in December, we
had our work cut out for us. Our initial approved budget was $400,000 to remodel
a 90-year-old auditorium into a state-of-the-art high-end movie theater. It was
like asking NASA to build a spaceship with a set of woodworking tools.
Peter Grueneisen, Fernando Rivero, Bill Steele and John Bertram
It soon became clear that we needed to invest more in the project if we had any
hope of having a theater where we could rub shoulders with the likes of
Quentin Tarantino and
Christopher Nolan. Among the myriad problems that needed to be
overcome, one loomed largest: the acoustics. The room was not an acoustically
optimal shape, having ratios that were bad for standing waves and resonances,
and concrete surfaces that efficiently reflected sound waves. We conducted an
RT-60 test, revealing a reverb decay time of 2.4 seconds at 1kHz, an excessive
amount. In short, it was terrible for cinema and would likely require aggressive
and costly treatments to obtain acceptable results. The odds of success seemed
unlikely. Feeling deflated, I nearly lost hope.
Shortly thereafter, while reading a book about acoustics in historic buildings,
I came upon a passage that stopped me cold: back in the 1950s and 60s, the
American Legion hall had become a highly sought-after recording location for
classical music. The composer Salvador “Tutti” Camarata, who wrote many of the
classic Walt Disney melodies, had recorded interpretations of Cinderalla and
Bambi there, and Stravinsky had recorded many of his greatest classical works
there for Columbia Records. They all raved about the sound of the hall. How
could this be? My attitude about the acoustics did a 180. Instead of
aggressively deadening the space—which would surely destroy its architectural
character—I thought that if we could somehow preserve the hall’s exceptional
acoustic properties we might create something truly magical in cinema sound. We
just needed to find the right architect to do it.
Based on a referral from John Bertram, a modernist architect known for his work
restoring Richard Neutra houses, we hired Peter Grueneisen in May 2016. A
Swiss-born architect, Peter specializes in designing sound studios for recording
artists, and has done a lot of projects for Hans Zimmer. Though Peter had
written a book on architecture and music and knows more about acoustics than
most architects, he recommended that we hire an acoustical engineering firm,
Arup, to model the hall for his proposed acoustic treatments. The goal was to
bring down the RT- 60 values across a broad bandwidth, with a reverb time of
about one second.
Early in the design development phase, Peter, Fernando, myself and a few others
on our cinema committee were invited to Arup’s Soundlab in Santa Monica for an
acoustical simulation. Technicians played an audio track from a scene in "Back to
the Future" as they virtually applied various treatments to our theater’s
acoustical model. Although it was just an aural impression, it became obvious
that if we didn’t acoustically dampen the ceiling we would be unable to follow
the soundtrack. The voice intelligibility difference between treated and
untreated was night and day. Once again, my heart sank.
Theater. Photo: Taiyo Watanabe
Our revised budget for the remodel—which took months to get approved—was $1.75
million, and that didn’t include the cost to treat the ceiling. When we got the
estimate for that, our eyes nearly popped out of our heads. More surprises were
to follow. It turned out that our initial cost estimates were overly optimistic.
Expenditures were already starting to go over budget, and we hadn’t even started
construction. Compounding my nervousness was the fact that we had only budgeted
for a DCI-compliant digital projection system with Dolby 7.1 sound. Our business
plan was based on studio rentals and other Hollywood screenings, not running
film, let alone 70mm film.
Meanwhile, many AV contractors and other experts I was dealing with warned me
against doing changeover 35/70mm. They told tales of lost time, lost money, and
wrecked reputations with associates. They wanted nothing to do with 35/70—not
planning it, installing it, supporting it, anything. Despite this discouragement
I was undaunted. After all, one of the main reasons I got involved in the Legion
project was for the thrill of 70mm. And frankly, the notion that such a
magnificent historic theater in the heart of Hollywood wouldn’t have film
capability was simply inconceivable to me. I felt it was my patriotic duty to
install film projectors.
Thankfully, Fernando was willing to support my Trojan Horse scheme. A talented
filmmaker in his own right who worked as a trailer producer for the FX TV
network, he fell in love with the movies after seeing
"Lawrence of Arabia" in 70mm
as a teenager. By now Fernando was serving on the post’s executive committee and
was next in line to become commander. With his salesmanship skills, our
“fearless leader” was able to mobilize considerable internal support for the theater remodel, despite naysaying by skeptical Legion members. This helped
buffer my growing alarm over costs and the feasibility of pulling off 70mm.
Search and destroy
Shortly before we were to start construction in the summer of 2017, Alarm bells
went off when I got a phone call from my film consultant, Jess Daily. A retired
chief projectionist at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, Jess and I were
close friends and had spent many nights by the campfire devising the ultimate
projectionist-friendly booth. He had called to provide comments on Peter’s
finalized architectural plans I had sent for the baffle wall speaker placement.
He noticed that the plans called for three screen channels, not five. In my
naivete and desire to keep costs down, I had assumed with our smaller screen
size—38 feet—that three channels would be good enough for 70mm.
“If you can’t have five channels it’s
not even worth doing 70mm,” Jess said. “I wouldn’t do it.”
Of course, he was right. What was I thinking? I
began to question my commitment to the format. The costs steadily mounted as the
invoices kept coming in: custom-machined shafts, rollers, spacers, adapters,
custom-made projector bases. At one point our finance officer, Terrence Pallend,
a former marine and Iraq veteran, began to question all the money being spent up
in the booth. “What is all this stuff for 70mm?” he pointedly asked. Seeing an
opportunity, I asked him if he’d ever watched a film in 70mm before. No, he
said, what’s the big deal?
booth circa the 1930s
As it just so happened, Dunkirk was out in theaters and Jess was projecting it
on the side at an AMC 16 in Burbank. I invited Terrence to come see what all the
fuss was about. He agreed and off we went the next day. We got a tour of Boston
Light & Sound’s innovative platterized projection system and then watched the
movie in the theater. Terrence came away impressed not only with the beauty of
70mm but also the technical aspects of film projection.
“Dude, I had no idea what you guys
were doing,” he said. “Now I get it.” It was the validation I
needed at the time.
We were far from out of the woods, however. Jess and I were still on a search
and destroy mission to find a decent pair of Norelco AAII machines and all the
necessary parts. This was getting harder and harder by the day. A small pool of
eccentric and unreliable equipment hoarders had cornered the market on nearly
everything. One infamous projectionist had collected nearly
20 AAIIs in Illinois, with lots of spare parts, but became impossible to negotiate with.
Then there was Charles Massa, who possessed a motherlode of 70mm film equipment
in Sun Valley. A sweet, elfin fellow with a crinkly smile, Charles sizes up his
customers like a shady art dealer, and prices accordingly. Our search continued.
Jess eventually located a pair of AAIIs at the LA Center Studios downtown, which
we purchased in August 2018. We disassembled the machines and had them shipped
across town. I made sure that each projector head—weighing more than 300
pounds—was coddled like a baby. The equipment was craned into the booth as a
small crowd of members and film devotees watched. (See
video) One onlooker
observed, “It’s rare to see film projectors going into a building--usually it’s
just the opposite!” Jess and I were elated and relieved to reach this milestone,
but we had inherited a total mess.
The Norelcos were not operational after we reassembled them. The electrical
system was a rat’s nest of wires that had to be stripped of modifications made
by previous owners. The motor drive clutches on both projectors were frozen.
Parts were missing that had to be found or manufactured. We desperately needed
someone who knew how to rebuild the machines.
Problem was, finding someone who had the specialized knowledge and availability
was like trying to find a black cat in a coal mine. But as it turned out, the
cat dragged in just who we were looking for.
Cut to Roger “Norelco” Addams rolling into our parking lot early one morning in
a hulking, bug-smeared RV straight out of Breaking Bad central casting. A former
AMC projection engineer and stock market short-seller, Roger lived out of his
nicotine-stained mobile home and had contacted us after hearing rumors we
planned to do 70mm. If ever I had my doubts that this would work, this was the
moment that might have topped them all. I wondered, have I gone too far? Have I
completely lost my mind? To my amazement, however, within an hour of arriving at
the post Roger had the Norelcos up and running. Nevertheless, an extensive
amount of work lay ahead to perfect them. Both the 35mm and 70mm gates, for
example, were not the original matching gates for the projectors. One of them
had to be re-machined to fit properly and be correctly aligned. The projectors
had the wrong size lamphouse base, requiring an expensive trip to Massa’s
warehouse. Furthermore, the Kinoton lamphouses—a donation from
Deluxe-Technicolor—needed numerous modifications and were a nightmare to mount
and align. All of this required time and money, which was increasingly in short
supply and was to soon run out.
Booth 2020. Photo: Taiyo Watanabe
In addition to the theater remodel, which was almost done, we were also updating
other spaces in the building. This effort was seriously lagging. I struggled to
keep up with the demands of project managing the theater and helping supervise
the house renovations. Up in the projection room, the situation had devolved
into a quagmire. There were problems with the HVAC system, lighting, electrical
and plumbing. My relationship with Jess was starting to fray over differences in
expectations that manifested in battles over minor details like electrical
outlets and track lights. Finally, early one morning Jess had had enough and
came to visit me in my office.
“I quit,” he announced. “I can’t
take it anymore.”
I was stunned. The person I relied on most to
develop an archive-quality film projection operation was gone. Making matters
worse, I was scheduled to interview one of Jess’s recommended projectionist
candidates—our first crucial hire—twenty minutes after he quit. I wondered if
the candidate would even show up. I thought, this is it. Game over.
To my astonishment, the projectionist, Taylor Umphenour, arrived as scheduled
despite receiving a text message from Jess that he had just quit the Legion job.
A 34-year-old former IMAX projectionist and Rhode Island School of Design grad,
Taylor was a union projectionist working part-time at the American
Cinematheque’s Aero Theater in Santa Monica. He was fast-talking, quick-witted,
and direct. We instantly hit it off. Like me, he saw a rare opportunity with the
Legion Theater to build something extraordinary and relished the seemingly
insurmountable challenge that lay ahead. I hired him on the spot. In a sudden
turn of events, what felt like the end was merely the beginning of a remarkable
turnaround where all the pieces started to fit together like Tetris blocks. If
one piece had been different, the entire affair might have collapsed under its
By late fall of 2018 our penchant for creeping sophistication and red ink had
finally caught up to us. Overall expenditures had ballooned to nearly $5
million. We had exhausted our borrowed funds and employees were furloughed for
two months. I was devastated; as project manager I felt largely responsible for
the cost overruns and construction delays. I pondered the selfishness of my
decisions, which had put a 100-year-old organization in financial jeopardy.
Meanwhile, I had broken promises to my wife and strained our marriage to the
breaking point. Although the thought of quitting entered my mind, I decided to
double down on my commitment and pay it forward with the organization. Taylor
and Roger also shared the same commitment and were willing to work temporarily
without pay to keep going. Never let a crisis go to waste.
Umphenour and Leonard Maltin. Photo: Carol Ann Van Natten
Ironically, running out of money was a blessing in disguise. We now had room to
focus on getting the film system operational, which had taken a back burner to
running digital shows as our theater gradually opened. We also had new target to
shoot for: The Turner Classic Film Festival, held each April in Hollywood. Early
on in the project, organizers of the festival got wind of our remodeling plans
and made a number of site visits in hopes of adding us as a new venue to their
roster, which includes the Chinese and Egyptian theaters. When they learned that
we could potentially run film they became keenly interested.
In late December, I got an email from the festival’s managing director, who
asked if we could have 70mm ready in time for the festival. Going completely out
on a limb, I replied yes. Without fully realizing it, I had just cinched a noose
around my neck. We were nowhere near ready for 70mm or any film gauge for that
matter. The lamphouses still had no 3-phase power. We had the wrong reflectors,
the wrong lenses, and we needed a new intermittent sprocket, gate pad roller
assembly, DTS player and aperture plates. The list went on and on. Well, I
figured, we’ve got about two months to work it all out. We’ll get there.
While enjoying a relaxing holiday break back in Kansas, sipping a glass of wine
with my wife, I received an email reminder about an event scheduled in the
theater for the middle of January, two weeks away. It was a demo of our Alcons
Audio sound system and 70mm capabilities to an audience of International Cinema
Technology Association professionals! I had completely forgotten about my casual
offer to run 70mm to the event planners made months earlier. In a panic, I cut
my vacation short and flew back to L.A.
The next two weeks were a blur. While Roger and Taylor labored to get light on
the screen, I furiously hunted down the necessary equipment. Luckily, we only
needed to get one projector working to run a reel of film for the demo.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t find an odd reel of 70mm to save our lives. The
situation became critical. At the last minute, we were able to borrow a spare
test reel of Kenneth Branagh’s
"Murder on the Orient
Express" thanks to our
friends at Kodak and Fotokem. We picked up the reel the day of the event and ran
it just in time for the roughly 100 ICTA audience members. Though we had
aperture plates that looked like they had been filed by a lumberjack, the
overall picture was bright, beautiful, and seductive—just as 70mm should be.
Together with the powerful and precise Alcons ribbon-based system, the result
was very impressive. We all went down to the bar after the event and felt we had
pulled off a miracle.
Our next challenge came about a month later when TCM’s technical director,
Chapin Cutler, arrived to assess our readiness for film projection. By this time
we had made significant improvements to our 70mm kit. Notable was the innovative
work done by our AV integrator, Levi Joos, to replace Dolby’s ancient CP200
cinema processor, the 70mm mainstay for years. Using a new Q-SYS Core 510
processor, Levi figured we could apply the same filters and crossovers for each
of the individual 70mm formats as the CP200 provided if we followed Dolby’s
original specs. With help from Dolby’s Gary Meissner and Dustin Hudson, Levi
created a signal path that was all-digital throughout. This greatly improved the
sound quality. We ran some 70mm changeover reels for Chapin and awaited his
“I’ve got some bad news for you, Bill,”
Chapin barked as I sat in the middle of the theater. I let out a sigh
and braced for a technical take-down. Wearing his trademark corduroy jacket
and jeans, Chapin made his way over to me, hands in his pockets.
“Congratulations,” he said softly, extending his hands for a handshake.
“That was fantastic.”
A few weeks later, after it was announced that the Legion Theater would be added
to the TCM Film Festival, we got our show schedule: 15 titles, half of them on
35mm, and a 70mm screening of "The Sound of Music". We were ecstatic, but we also
knew we were about to get hit by a freight train. We still had unfinished work
to do on the film system, we were woefully understaffed, and the only person who
could save us from doom was the projectionist. I asked Taylor if we were
expecting too much from him.
A unique element of the Legion Theater is the use of the
customized wood wall panels at the ear level of the audience. The idea was
to use images from war movies and to pixelate them to abstraction, then use
the resulting patterns to cut holes into the wood. Complemented with
acoustically absorbent materials behind the panels, the pattern provides
both absorption and reflections, while infusing the space with the imagery
related to the Legion’s military veteran membership - Peter Grueneisen,
architect. Photo: Taiyo Watanabe
“Bill, when I’ve reached my limit I’ll let
you know,” he said.
In the days leading up to our 70mm debut, that
limit would be tested. With multiple formats to project, our problems were
magnified--literally. Our attempts to cut aperture plates for 1.33, 1.37, 1.85
and 2.20 were a maddening exercise in frustration, and at the same time we were
having issues with "The Sound of Music" print. The 70mm reels we received from the
Fox archive looked dim on our 1.0 gain screen, leading us to think there was
something wrong with our equipment or setup. Roger, Taylor, Boston Light &
Sound’s Diana Caldwell, and Fox archivists spent days trying to resolve the
problem. Alas, a mix-up had occurred, and the wrong print was sent. We got the
replacement—a pristine show print straight from the vault--just in time for the
Before the Friday evening screening, the mood in the booth was tense. Roger was
busy making final adjustments to our Frankensteined projectors, and Taylor was
feeling besieged with a torrent of people coming in and out of the room. At this
point, we were just hoping to avert a show-stopping disaster. Earlier in the
week, we had been beset by all manner of happenings: wispy smoke emanating from
a lamphouse; a small fire outside the projection booth; an oil leak coming from
Projector #2. On top of this, somehow a moth got into the theater and was
flickering around the port glass, interrupting the light path and casting
shadows on the picture. This went on for a number of days. We could not
exterminate this unwelcome guest and lived in constant dread of his
reappearance. Typical festival chaos, but in the context of us being a new venue
with high aspirations in a make-or-break moment, highly unnerving.
The moment had finally arrived. As I stood in the back of the theater and
watched the opening scene, I kept my fingers crossed and prayed… and my prayers
were answered. The show went perfectly from beginning to end, presenting "The
Sound of Music" as close as practically possible to the filmmakers’ original
intent given today’s technology and the sheer passage of time. The original
6-channel Todd-AO mix rendered via
DTS sounded fantastic. Audience members
cheered and clapped between musical numbers. The 70mm print was cut from the
original camera negative and possessed that breath of life that only traditional
photochemical processing can truly convey. It looked absolutely stunning. Up to
this point, my reference for 70mm had been Robert Harris’ pristine, albeit dupe,
print of "Lawrence of Arabia", which I was fortunate to see projected by the great
James Bond (his real name) at Roger Ebert’s annual film festival, Ebertfest, in
2004. It was the screening that changed my life and ultimately led me to move to
Addams at work on the AAII's optical sound heads. Photo: Bill Steele
When the show ended, I hustled up to the booth to give Taylor a hug. Largely
thanks to his tremendous energy level, stamina, and persistence, we had achieved
what only months earlier had seemed impossible, and I couldn’t have been prouder
of him. “You nailed it!” I exclaimed. “It was the perfect show!” Indeed, after
the festival wrapped, Fernando received some technical feedback from head Fox
archivist Schawn Belston, who was not able to attend the screening, relayed from
his Fox colleagues who were able to attend. They described it to him as simply,
“the best technical presentation of "The Sound of Music" they’d ever seen.” The
Legion Theater had received the blessing of the high priests of cinema. I was
overjoyed. Taylor was over the moon. Fernando was ecstatic. His vision of
reviving Post 43’s moribund theater, and making veterans relevant again in
Hollywood, had come to fruition. We had done it, and proven that one film show
can, especially if it’s in 70mm, matter more than anything.
Following last year’s TCM Film Festival, the Hollywood Legion Theater went on to
host a number of notable screenings and events, including a sold-out
presentation of Peter Jackson’s WWI documentary "They Shall Not Grow Old" in
partnership with the UCLA Film & Television Archive; a private cast-and-crew
screening of Quentin Tarantino’s
"Once Upon a Time... in
Hollywood" in 35mm; Fox
Searchlight’s premiere of "JoJo Rabbit"; a Veterans Day screening of
Right Stuff” with director Phil Kaufman on stage in partnership with the American Cinematheque; a special screening of
"1917" hosted by the Veterans and Military
Affairs office at Universal Pictures; and a sold-out screening of Charlie
Chaplin’s "The Gold Rush" in 35mm with live musical accompaniment, done in
partnership with Retroformat Silent Films.
On March 10, just before the COVID-19 shutdown of the theater, we showed "Act of
Violence" and "Somewhere in the Night", both in 35mm, as part of the Noir City:
Hollywood film festival. We had hoped to start regular repertory programming
following the TCM Film Festival in April but were forced to put those plans on
hold. In the meantime, as we continue to await the reopening of movie theaters
in Los Angeles, we have converted our parking lot into a drive-in cinema,
the first-ever to open in the heart of Hollywood. The Legion Drive-In
features a 38 ft. screen--the same size as our indoor theater--and has DCI-compliant
4K projection. We are already making plans to do 35mm changeover projection.
We have established a
film fund to finance installation of the film system.
In the booth, we also have made incremental improvements to the film system.
These include installing new multi-phase motors with variable speed controllers,
a top-to-bottom realignment of both projectors, and most recently, the addition
of Rosbeek-Techniek gate runners for 70mm. These have further improved picture
Sound-wise, Roger performed multiple surgeries on the sound heads and
experimented with different wires to reduce noise in our optical signal path.
This has significantly improved the optical sound quality. Nevertheless, work
still remains to be done with our 4- and 6-track magnetic sound.
Operationally, Taylor remains our chief projectionist, with Scott Duvall and Tim
Kennelly rounding out the projection team. Roger continues to provide his superb
engineering support. Last year I was promoted to theater director, and my wife
joined me in Los Angeles this year while on sabbatical. Last year we also had
the great fortune to have noted author and film historian Alan K. Rode join our
coterie. Alan is the director-treasurer of the Film Noir Foundation who has
programmed and hosted local and national events for decades. A retired navy
veteran, he joined Hollywood Post 43 last year and currently serves as our
cinema committee chair and resident film nut.
The future, as they say, looks bright.
For more information about the Legion Theater visit their
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