The historic United Artists Theater at the Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles is getting a second act. The theater will host its first movie premiere in 25 years, when A24 debuts its Scarlett Johansson sci-fi thriller “Under the Skin” there on Tuesday.
Director Jonathan Glazer (“Sexy Beast”) will attend the screening in the classic movie palace, which was built in 1927 as the flagship theater for the studio formed by Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. It was the first major movie theater built in Los Angeles rather than New York.
The screening is a hot ticket. The 1,600-seat theater was sold out in 20 minutes, according to John Wyatt, founder of Cinespia, the company behind the screening. Cinespia hosts screenings of classic films in and around Los Angeles, including the popular summer series at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Wayne has hosted a series of screenings in the downtown L.A. Theater district, and plans to launch a film series in the restored theater soon.
Wyatt thought that “Under the Skin,” which begins a limited run in the U.S. on April 4 and features Johansson as an alien in human form on the prowl in Scotland, was perfect for the theater’s rebirth.
“I saw it in Toronto and I really, really loved it because it’s unique — and very scary,” Wyatt told TheWrap. “We were focused on finding something that matches the style and attitude of the hotel, and also was a little daring, and we think we did. We want to have an art house edge.”
The screening will be the first at the theater since 1989, when pastor Gene Scott took over the building and turned it into the Los Angeles University Cathedral, which for years had a giant “Jesus Saves” sign on its roof. When Scott died, his widow Melissa Scott sold the building to the real estate investment firm Greenfield Partners, who renovated it and opened the Ace Hotel in January. The theater occupies three floors of the 13-story building.
“The Scotts and the church did a terrific job of maintaining the property, and were working with the L.A. Historic Theater Foundation during the entire period that they owned it” Wyatt said, “When she sold it, she insisted that it go to someone who was going to take care of it.”
The theater is located in L.A.’s historic Broadway district, which for years was known for its seediness and as a haven for the homeless. But it’s currently undergoing a renaissance.
“Under the Skin” is the third film for Glazer, who directed 2004’s “Birth” and “Sexy Beast” in 2000.
Since the event is sold out, here’s a look at ‘Under the Skin”: