Sherman Torgan, owner of LA's New Beverly Cinema, passed away last week at 63, and his passing has left a gap in LA's revival house circuit that may prove impossible to fill.
The New Beverly Cinema is one of the most endearing movie houses on the planet. For $7 or less, you get to see two great movies on the big screen, from Bergman to Cassavetes to Kubrick to Howard the Duck--nothing is off-limits at the New Bev. Every two or three days, there is a new double bill just begging you to check it out. It is better than the best video store, and cheaper. After all, Torgan was showing prints, complete with goofy trailers, popcorn ads, and those classic "Our Feature Presentation" clips Tarantino used in Kill Bill.
The theater might not have the bells and whistles most of us are used to--stadium seating, surround sound, cupholders, consistent air-conditioning--but what the New Beverly lacks in décor it makes up for in pure cinephilia. This place is for people who are too crazy about movies to bother with all that stuff.
Torgan loved all movies equally, highbrow and trash, and he knew how to present them to audiences. He treated programming double features like gourmands treat wine pairings. The theater didn't get new seats or curtains because that would make tickets more expensive, and Torgan believed that movie lovers would rather see great films on the big screen than have a retractable armrest. Sure, people would complain about the less-than-perfect accoutrements, but face it: where else would you get to see a Bertolucci double feature for seven bucks?
Torgan rubbed none of this in your face. He simply did what he loved. He wasn't appreciated as much as he should have been, but his following was intense. Every time you'd go to the theater, you'd see the same people--character actors, Hollywood assistants, writers, film school brats, normal people, scary people--they came out of the woodwork for the New Beverly. They came for the movies, and they came to be with other movie lovers. The greatest lover of them all had to be Torgan, and he devoted his life to sharing this love with others.
I never really met Torgan beyond the occasional hello, but my life is different because of him. That's what makes Torgan important: he touched more people than he could ever know. Friends and family have the privilege of knowing him, but so many more people have the privilege of being infected with his love for movies. The loss of this one film lover will prove to be a loss for all film lovers.
Here are my Top 5 Bills I saw at the New Beverly:
1. The Conformist & Last Tango in Paris
2. Minnie and Moskowitz & Husbands
3. Rosemary's Baby & Repulsion
4. Barry Lyndon
5. The Goonies & The Lost Boys
Sherman Torgan was the New Beverly Cinema, and the theater's future remains uncertain as Torgan's family determines how to proceed. Hopefully the theater will continue to touch generations of film lovers to come, but if it doesn't, then thanks for the wonderful memories, Sherman.
The New Beverly Cinema is located at 7165 W. Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA.