Malibu Seen

The Aero Theatre in pre-rehab days.


Local movie buffs are flying high these days with the long-awaited re-opening of the Aero Theater on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica. The Art Deco gem is being operated by American Cinematheque and will save us that long trek to Hollywood to view special screenings.

The historic theater was built by aviation ace Donald Douglas as a diversion for employees who worked long hours on the assembly line.

It has been a favorite among Westsiders as it remained one of the few intimate single-screen venues left in Los Angeles.

“The Aero is a neighborhood theater like the kind you’d find in the ‘Last Picture Show,'” says America Cinematheque Director Barbara Smith. “These types of theaters have almost become a thing of the past.”

In recent years, the place struggled to make a profit and fell into disrepair. It was closed in April 2003 and was set to reopen last summer. Despite numerous delays, Cinematheque execs said they are enormously pleased with the end result. “If you want to do things right, you have to be patient,” says Cinematheque board member Rick Nicita. “This was worth waiting for.”

In addition to a new projection and state-of-the-art sound system, the theater’s seating capacity was reduced from 600 to 400 to make way for more comfortable seats. The new screen, which stands 44-feet wide and 17-feet high is three times the size of the original.

Many of the Aero’s original deco touches remain. The familiar neon marquee is still in place, looking much like it did in the 1940s. The old-style ticket booth, clock, light fixtures and even ashtrays have been lovingly preserved.

The venue is great place to check out Oscar-nominated films such as “Sideways,” “A Very Long Engagement” and “Being Julia” as well as classics like “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” and “Hello Dolly.”

What’s more, the theater will provide the same special screenings, celebrity guests and film discussions that the Cinematheque offers at its Egyptian Theater location. Recent offerings included Jeremy Irons with a double bill of his Oscar-winning performance as Claus Von Bulow in “Reversal of Fortune” as well as the steamy 1997 remake of “Lolita.”

So check out the coming attractions on this old-time silver screen. The Aero makes it easy to say “Hooray for Hollywood!” right in our own backyard.