Arena Cinelounge Re-Opens; Seating Reserved for 2 Classics

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Arena Cinelounge Sunset, Hollywood’s acclaimed home for arthouse, genre, and independent cinema, will open it’s doors on Friday, June 19, with the classic BAFTA and Independent Spirit Award winner “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” and the 2020 festival winner “Babyteeth,” starring Ben Mendelsohn.

Christian Meoli

And theater owner Christian Meoli has done everything that he–and public health officials–could think of to give moviegoers the confidence to return.

“We’re designing a smooth contactless individual/group entry experience for our guests that minimizes touch points,” Meoli told Goweho. Check out the updated entry policies here.

“All of our concessions are prepackaged,” he added. The seating is reserved, the 60-seat house is maxed at 15 seats per show.

“We’ve closed rows.  We’ve added two medical-grade air purifiers and ionizers to the venue.  Sanitizing restrooms, rails, counters every 30 minutes. We maintain a clean, inviting, safe venue.”

Like the rest of the country, Meoli was devastated when the theater was forced to shut down because of the pandemic. His indie theater was among businesses featured in an LA Times article.

“I pivoted to what we could sell,” said Meoli, “which was our signature gourmet popcorn online.”

Meoli altered his business model by creating distinctive gourmet popcorn in nine flavors. Each was named to appeal to the true cinephile, with names including Natural Corn Killers, APOPalypse Now, Popcorn of the Living Dead and Once Upon a Time in Popcorn.
“As an independent theater owner, I’ve had to be creative about the survival and expansion of my business,” Meoli said. “I’ve taken my love and curation of new films, and directed that energy to a true gourmet cinematic experience [non-GMO, Vegan, dairy and nut-free]. We’re now even selling the popcorn successfully online.”

Featured in Entertainment Weekly, Arena Cinelounge’s signature gourmet popcorn can be purchased online, at the theater, and boutique markets in Los Angeles, including Joan’s on Third.

A Need for Indie Films in Hollywood

Meoli originally founded Arena Cinelounge in 2012, when he saw the need for an art house cinema devoted to new indie films in Hollywood, and began exhibiting films in a 99-seat theatre located next to The Egyptian Theatre (the former iconic Egyptian Theater 2 & 3 that closed in 1992).

Now housed in a state-of-the-art new concept cinema at 6464 Sunset Blvd., Arena Cinelounge is an Academy Award qualifying theater that has shown over 2000 new titles, with 1-2 premieres a weekend for new titles. Cinelounge works with premier industry institutions such as Amazon, HBO, Google, IFC, Sony, Lionsgate, Participant Media, YouTube, and Conde Nast.

Meoli also created the Cinelounge Unlimited app, which offers audiences a base monthly subscription service with perks such as free concessions, free parking, and access to private special events and premieres. Cinelounge Unlimited gives audiences the opportunity to experience new content and support great new filmmakers with the convenience of one low price.

Asked whether he believes there’s a future for indie movie theaters such as Arena Cinelounge, Meoli replied, “Absolutely.”

“Cinelounge Sunset is our concept cinema of how we envision for-profit neighborhood cinemas returning to cities,” he said. “Community to me means bringing people together.

“There are so many films made per year and only a fraction of them get seen in a theater.  These storytellers are using film–arguably the definitive art form of our time–to tell their stories.  Most of these do not play theaters.  To me that’s a crime. So basically I program my screens like it’s a 6-plex.  Instead of showing one movie six times per day, I choose to play 5-6 movies once or twice a day.”

More about this weekend’s special engagement films that mark the Grand Re-opening (through June 25):
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Beautiful 4K restoration of this cinema classic romance, directed by Philip Kaufman, written by Kaufman and Jean-Claude Carriere. Based on the novel by Milan Kundera. Produced by Saul Zaentz. From Orion Pictures (color, 1988, USA, 171 minutes, rated R). Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Juliette Binoche, Lena Olin, Erland Josephson, Derek De Lint, Pavel Landovsky. Tomas is a doctor and a lady-killer in 1960s Czechoslovakia, an apolitical man who is struck with love for the bookish country girl Tereza; his more sophisticated sometime lover Sabina eventually accepts their relationship and the two women form an electric friendship. The three are caught up in the events of the Prague Spring; Pingyao (1968), until the Soviet tanks crush the non-violent rebels; their illusions are shattered and their lives change forever. “Richly satisfying…. Absolutely enchanting.” (Variety). Winner of the Film Independent Spirit Award; BAFTA Award; Boston Society of Film Critics Awards; National Society of Film Critics Awards; National Board of Review Award.
  • Babyteeth – A comedy/drama directed by Shannon Murphy, written by Rita Kalnejais and produced by Alex White; from IFC Films (color, 2020, Australia, 118 minutes, not rated). Starring Eliza Scanlen, Ben Mendelsohn, Toby Wallace, Essie Davis, Andrea Demetriades, Emily Barclay. When seriously ill teenager Milla falls madly in love with smalltime drug dealer Moses, it’s her parents’ worst nightmare. But as Milla’s first brush with love brings her a new lust for life, things get messy and traditional morals go out the window. Milla soon shows everyone in her orbit – her parents, Moses, a sensitive music teacher, a budding child violinist, and a disarmingly honest pregnant neighbor – how to live like you have nothing to lose. What might have been a disaster for the Finlay family instead leads to letting go and finding grace in the glorious chaos of life. Babyteeth joyously explores how good it is not to be dead yet and how far we will go for love. Winner- Palm Springs International Film Festival; FEST International Film Festival; Luxembourg City Film Festival; Marrakech International Film Festival; Pingyao International Film Festival; Sao Paulo International Film Festival; Venice Film Festival; Zurich Film Festival.
Both special engagements will run June 19- June 25 at Arena Cinelounge Sunset, 6464 Sunset Blvd., Lobby Level, Hollywood. Contact venue for show times. Admission: $16 each feature-length film. Matinees: $10. Information: (323) 924-1644.  Theater reservations are suggested and available online, as seating for each screening is limited, in compliance with current health directives.  For new info on policies, click HERE.

Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and produces content via Saving Grace Films.

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