11. BRUIN THEATER PREMIERE, 1948: Glittering Hollywood film premieres have attracted throngs of movie fans to Westwood Village since the 1930s, eager to catch a glimpse of their favorite stars. Here the “Adventures of Casanova” gets the Hollywood red carpet treatment in 1948 in a simultaneous double premiere at both the Bruin and Fox Westwood Village Theaters. The Bruin Theater opened across the street opposite the Fox Theater in 1937, as the second movie theater in the Village. This City Historic-Cultural Monument was designed by renowned theater architect S. Charles Lee in Streamline Moderne style, with UCLA inspired blue-and-gold neon flashing along the sweeping curve of its Art Deco style theater marquee. Photo and caption courtesy of Steven Sann.
Silver Lake. Echo Park. Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Highland Park. These are just some of L.A.’s trendiest neighborhoods in 2013. But long before any of these places were on the mental maps of hipsters and taste-makers, there was Westwood Village in West Los Angeles.
The Village, which was first developed in the 1920s by the Janns Investment Corporation, was for decades a tasteful shopping district serving the then new UCLA campus and nearby affluent neighborhoods like Bel Air and Holmby Hills. An inviting atmosphere was created in the neighborhood through an urban design and architectural master plan, featuring Mediterranean-style buildings and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks.
But in the 1960s and 70s, Westwood Village traded gentility for gloss, reinventing itself as a regional entertainment center, featuring nightclubs, restaurants, marquee stores and lots of movie theaters. People flocked to the neighborhood from across Southern California to shop, people watch and have a good time.
But Westwood Village’s glory days are long past. Since the late 1980s, Westwood has experienced a long commercial decline. The Village is far from a ghost town, but if you walk the streets of Westwood today, especially, Westwood Boulevard, you’ll pass one vacant store after another. In the evenings, streets and sidewalks that once buzzed with life can feel empty.