Theater Location: 10887 Lindbrook Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Theater Chain: United Artists Theatres
Theater Open Date: April 11, 1969
Theater Status: Vacant, Closed July 30, 2009 (Designated Historical Landmark July 30, 1992)
- None (pre-Audience Participation)
The United Artists Theater Westwood was located on Lindbrook Drive in Westwood Village, CA, a West Los Angeles community surrounding UCLA. Westwood Village was (and remains) a hub of movie premieres. In mid to late 20th century, the small town was a major destination for film-goers, with over 20 screens. The midsize UA Theater (commonly referred to as "The UA Westwood") opened in 1969 in a refurbished 1929 Ralph's supermarket, one of Westwood Village's first six buildings. It was simple, yet comfortable, making it perfect for debuts that were less likely to be a block-buster.
The unprecedented success in Westwood Village a year before for the 20th Century Fox film Phantom of the Paradise at a neighboring theater (Mann's National) signaled to Fox that the UA Westwood was a good spot to host the exclusive US debut of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In a unique move for the time, tickets were sold in advance via mail order in special envelopes that were available at the theater and other "hip" locations around town. This technique had worked favorably for The Rocky Horror Show when it opened at The Roxy Theatre the year before. The opening night, Friday, September 26, 1975, was a complete sell out, and it has been reported that Tim Curry was on hand to sign autographs at the 8:30 PM show. It is also rumored that Andy Warhol, Mick and Bianca Jagger were turned away for not having advance tickets for that same performance. From the first night it played, The Rocky Horror Picture Show had midnight screenings as part of its schedule.
The initial week of its run was exclusive to the UA Westwood, and included the Super Heroes Cut of the film. Observing the downbeat ending's effect on the audience, Lou Adler requested the ending be updated to what became the standard version for the film from October 1975 until the 1990s, when it was added back in to most prints.
On Friday, October 3, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was scheduled to open in as many as 10 other theaters, but failed to attract an audience (in addition to losing at least 1 booking). In Westwood, it remained the opposite. The screenings occasionally sold out, but it was also noted that many of the same people were coming over and over to see it. Enthusiastic audience members familiar with the play started making callbacks to the screen (sometimes mimicking lines from the Roxy Cast album) in its initial run at the UA Westwood. It was there that the first documented Audience Participation was born. Additionally, the first known Dr. Frank-N-Furter impersonator, Michael Wolfson of The Rocky Horror Revue began creating his costume while returning to multiple screenings at the UA Westwood in its initial run in 1975.
As part of the opening, a giant, 6-foot cut out of Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter (a photo from a Roxy Cast photo session) was unveiled in the lobby. Another opening night publicity stunt had a visit from the canine star of the forthcoming theatrical comedy Won Ton Ton-The Dog That Saved Hollywood at the Midnight show.
Rocky Horror remained at the UA Westwood until December 25, 1975, when it moved to its sister theater, the UA Cinema Center, just outside of Westwood Village, where it played several times a day until March 20, 1976 when it moved to the Holly Theater on Hollywood Blvd. It returned in early October of 1976 (as a regular feature) and in spring of 1977, became exclusively a midnight movie at that location.
On June 21, 1988, the building was designated as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #360 by the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission. It was added to the National Register Of Historic Places on July 30, 1992.
In the 1990s, the UA Westwood (which had morphed into The UA Egyptian, and then the Odeon Cinema) was sold to the Mann theater chain, and it was remodeled and renamed the Festival. Although the Festival still stands, it has been vacant since 2009. Because the building that houses the theater is a historic landmark, the theater could be repurposed at some point, but it can not be demolished.
On October 30, 2015, the City of Los Angles officially declared the day as Rocky Horror Picture Show Day in celebration of the 40th anniversary of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. A ceremony presenting a historic marker for the UA Westwood took place. Lou Adler, Tim Curry and Sal Piro were on hand to accept the plaque, which will be mounted on one of the pillars outside the theater. Because of the building's historic landmark status, the marker will remain as long as the structure is protected by the city.