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Cinematheque 16

8818 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90069
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A 1970 view of the Cinematheque 16 that once appeared on the Mid Century Modern Facebook page.

Opened:  "L.A.'s First Underground Theatre" opened in the mid-60s as a storefront 16mm operation running nudie-cuties, underground, experimental and cult films. It was also known as the Cinematheque 16 Moviehouse.

It's perhaps best known as the site of a 1969 Norman Mailer fundraiser when he was running for president. By 1970 it had become a porno operation.

An October 1966 ad for the Cinematheque. The ad is reproduced with a series of Roger Delfont articles archived on the site Ad Sausage that analyze the film ads that appeared in the Los Angeles Free Press. His discussion about the Cinematheque:

"With the success of places such the the 800-seat Cinema Theatre on Western, and its popular 'Underground Cinema 12' program (put on by Michael Getz), L.A.'s underground film culture was gaining ground. In 1964 exploitation film producer Robert Lippard [sic -- possibly Lippert?] purchased a theater on the Sunset Strip. The theater only had 16mm capability and Lippard's intent was to screen nudie-cuties. But when the Strip became the destination for the hippie culture, his programming choice proved fruitless.

"The theater ('little more than an anonymous doorway under awnning') was taken over by Lewis Teague, an NYU graduate in film studies. Teague offered to run the theater as an art house, and after introducing new weekly programs (European art films), renamed it Cinematheque-16.

"The art films didn't fare much better than the previous nudies. Initial programming was certainly a mixed bag. In 1966, what was billed as 'A Horror Show', gave a stunned audience the following: 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari' (Robert Wiene, 1920), 'Triumph of the Will' (Leni Riefenstahl, 1935), 'Andalusian Dog,' and 'Way to Shadow Garden' (Stan Brakhage, 1954).

"But after adding Psychedelic Film Trips to its advertising, locals in the music and drug culture gave the theater new momentum. Comedian Lenny Bruce closed his last professional performance at San Francisco's Basin Street West, he allowed producer John Magnuson to capture the show. The result ended up becoming the 65-minute film 'Lenny Bruce' - shown at Cinematheque 16.

"Experimental filmmakers such Shirley Clarke, Jack Smith, Robert Kramer, Gregory J. Markopoulos, Thomas Reichman, Robert Downey and Kenneth Anger had their work shown; Downey's 'Chafed Elbows,' 'No More Excuses' and 'The Sweet Smell of Sex' ('A drama of people who claw their way to the bottom') and Anger's 'Scorpio Rising' all were given ample time at the Sunset cinema. Warhol movies found a home there, and 'Bike Boy' had its West Coast premiere.

"Doors' front man Jim Morrison premiered his 40-minute 'Feast of Friends,' along with Warhol's 'I, A Man.' This was followed some time later with readings from 'An American Prayer.' The success of Sunset Strip location spurned two more location; San Francisco and Pasadena (which didn't last long)."

A June 1967 ad. Note "The Exiles" on the bottom of the bill.

A September 1967 ad in the Free Press. 

April 1968. All these ads are from the Roger Delfont pieces collected on Ad Sausage

Status: Retail again. Book Soup has been in this spot since the late 80s.

Thanks to Bill Caffrey on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles for this view of Sunset and Holloway pre-Cinemateque 16. The theatre was on the left. Not the building with the columns but the one beyond. It's now Book Soup.

More information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Cinematheque 16.

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