THE BLOG

Movie Night in Downtown LA

02/27/2015 02:18 am ET | Updated Apr 28, 2015

Tonight was movie night in downtown LA. And what a treat it was to find a seat near the front of the grand Million Dollar Theatre for Zócalo Public Square's free screening of the 1980 classic comedy, Airplane.

The theatre, opened by Sid Grauman in 1918, is a true movie palace, the kind of place everyone should have the pleasure of experiencing. Just like the adjacent Grand Central Market, the Bradbury Building and rapidly changing Broadway, LA's original theatre district.

While not everyone is thrilled with the 'gentrification' that is taking place along Broadway and throughout downtown, there is much to celebrate in the efforts of Mayor Garcetti and preservationists like Adele Yellin who owns the Market and the Theatre to give Los Angeles back its main street.

Just last week I had a polite but heated discussion with a well-known Los Angeles-raised planner who is less than delighted with the decline of what he sees as downtown LA's true zócalo for the city's Mexican and Central American residents. From the taquerias, bodegas and colorful bridal shops, to institutions like the Guadalupe Wedding Chapel, higher rents are changing and will continue to change the face of Broadway.

But I disagree with this critic and others who challenge the renaissance downtown. And tonite, it was a pleasure to meet Ms. Yellin who has believed in downtown through thick and thin and been its champion during decades when few owners and developers, let alone mayors, could have imagined the present transformation taking place.

Zócalo which teamed up with KCRW for its "My Favorite Movie" Series moderated by Madeleine Brand, is a particularly bright light in LA's crowded cultural/media landscape. And tonite's movie and panel discussion featuring Mayor Garcetti and Airplane's directors, writers and producers Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker was a hit.

My favorite part of the evening, aside from the movie, was hearing the Mayor quip how unbelievable it was to see how little LAX has changed since 1980 when Airplane was made. It was also refreshing as always to hear him tout expanded public transit -- from Main Street downtown to Main Street in Santa Monica and, someday, to the airport. And yes, in case you were wondering, our mayor does understand jive.

With so much of our country mired in the nonsensical pablum that has paralyzed Washington and the news media (think Rudy Giuliani, Brian Williams and Bill O"Reilly), it is refreshing listening to a mayor who understands jive but doesn't give it to us.

Yours in transit,
Joel