Historic movie theater in Highland Park closes after 100 years

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A historic movie theater in Highland Park has closed after nearly 100 years of operation, the business owner and the landlord confirmed Friday.

The owner of Highland Theatre, Dan Akarakian, said that the theater officially shut its doors and stopped showing movies Thursday after it struggled to bounce back economically from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The last titles to screen at the triplex were Sony Pictures’ superhero film “Madame Web,” Paramount Pictures’ Bob Marley biopic “One Love” and Focus Features’ quirky horror flick “Lisa Frankenstein.”

“It’s not the community’s fault or our fault,” Akarakian said. “It’s just the industry has been so bad that the theater was losing money every single week.”

“We want to thank all the people who’ve been patronizing this theater and supporting it,” he added.

During the height of the pandemic, Highland Theatre shut down temporarily from March 2020 to May 2021.

“When it reopened, it didn’t have the punch that it had before,” Akarakian said, noting that ticket sales plummeted by 70%.

“People had different outlets for entertainment, and this theater and others in the city couldn’t afford operating.”

The landlord of the property, Cyrus Etemad, said that his priority is to preserve the building as a theater and that he is exploring “primarily cinema and music uses” for the space. Etemad, who allowed Akarakian to continue operating the theater on the premises rent-free for a year after the lease expired last February, added that the building is in need of a major renovation.

The Highland Theatre closure comes about a week after a coalition of filmmakers led by “Juno” director Jason Reitman joined forces to purchase the 93-year-old Village Theater in Westwood. Oscar-winning writer-director Quentin Tarantino similarly bought another Los Angeles landmark, the Vista Theatre in Los Feliz, in 2021.

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