The Aero Theatre: A Quaint Movie House Saves the World One Film at a Time

— by Caroline on Crack

Aero Marquee

For a city that’s always on the move with an eye on the next hottest thing, we really have no sense of history here. Things are built up, neglected, fall into disrepair and then are torn down and built over. Thank goodness for conservancy groups that restore and renovate so that we can hold onto beautiful reminders of the past, like the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.

The Aero was opened in 1939 by Donald Douglas (yes, of Santa Monica Airport fame) and had screened movies 24 hours a day to accommodate Douglas’ employees’ schedules at the aircraft plant. Robert Redford had grown up watching movies there and wanted to take it over for his ill-fated Sundance Cinemas project. But after its sale to AMC the theater closed in 2003 and as the last of the neighborhood theaters it was in danger of closing forever. That is until American Cinematheque adopted it, restored it and reopened it in January 2005. And like its AC sister The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, the Aero is dedicated to screening cinema treasures.

I just missed the Alfred Hitchcock retrospective where they showed a double feature of Psycho and Rear Window. D’oh! But right now they’re screening Roman Polanski movies through September 24. I’m looking forward to the screening of Repulsion (September 24 at 5pm), Polanski’s second feature film and Catherine Deneuve’s English-language debut. Leave it to Polanski to be able to turn a gorgeous woman like Deneuve into an on-screen terror.

Another series to lo0k forward to is the tribute (September 30th-October 6th) to Sergio Leone, the well-known auteur of spaghetti westerns (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West).

And to benefit the victims of Hurricane Katrina, there will be a special screening of The Big Easy, starring Dennis Quaid (remember when he was sexy?) and Ellen Barkin, on Monday, September 19th at 7:30pm. Admission is free and donations will be collected at the door. I just caught this film the other night on late-night TV and it was such a great portrayal of New Orleans filled with such vibrant Cajun music. It would be a bittersweet experience to watch it at the Aero.

In the modern world where Blockbusters and mall theaters run rampant, the Aero is a quaint reminder of what seeing a movie used to be about: going to the local theater for some good, cheap entertainment.

Unless you’re an American Cinematheque member, you have to buy tickets from the box office which doesn’t sell them until the day of the screening; and the office doesn’t open til two hours before the show. That’s OK, just buy your tickets and then head over to Father’s Office to kill time with a beer and burger.

1328 Montana Ave
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 395-4990
Cross Street: 14th Street
Admission: $9