By Anthony Saenz
Seven screens, 500 seats, and two floors. The Laemmle Newhall, an art-house movie theater, plays host to a modern and newly built interior. Greg Laemmle, the co-owner and operator of the theater chain, opened the doors of the Newhall location in April of 2021.
Now, over a year later, the Old Town Newhall location of the esteemed theater chain is playing an integral part in creating and building upon the rich history of the area it now calls home.
Initially grappling with the prospect of selling the theater franchise in 2019 amid the declining attendance of movies, Greg and his family decided to continue their pursuit of movie distribution and held firm in their decision, even amidst the onset of the pandemic.
The Laemmle name has been a staple within the world of film since the family’s initial entrance in 1906 with Carl Laemmle’s opening of a nickelodeon in Chicago and then his formation of Universal Productions in 1912.
Greg Laemmle stated in his interview with the Santa Clarita Valley Signal that “there really has been a Laemmle in the film business ever since there has been a film business.”
The current generation of the Laemmle’s is using their prestige and love for the independent world of filmmaking to preach the word of films falling within the category.
The Laemmle Newhall’s Facebook page details the past and upcoming events being held at the location. The theater presented Q&A sessions with Greg himself following the showing of the documentary, “Only in Theaters,” about the Laemmle theater chain and the future of cinema. The Laemmle Newhall also hosted the second annual Santa Clarita International Film Festival, a festival showcasing films made by local talent and creatives from the greater LA area.
These events pave the road for the artistic expression that will make history in the realm of independent films.
Along with conducting community-driven events, the movie selection available at the Laemmle works in combination with an environment bolstered by its employees. According to David Melnarik, a current manager at the Laemmle Newhall who has been with the location since its opening in April of 2021, his passion for anything film-related drove him to seek out employment at the movie theater.
“I had more of an interest in movies, not just making them, but also the distribution end of filmmaking,” he said. “I love being around movies. I like being able to watch movies for free and I also like talking to all the customers we get.”
Ben Cole, a fellow employee of the Laemmle Newhall, had similar sentiments to share in regard to the environment he and his coworkers work in and help create.
“I enjoy this work environment a lot more than I would at any other theater,” Cole said. “We try to be more personable, that’s one of the biggest differences I have felt. Being a smaller staff we all know each other pretty well, making us friendlier towards our customers.”
Cole continued building upon the effect the Laemmle theater has on its surroundings. He details the impact he is noticing by stating, “I think the Laemmle has created this entire new environment within Old Town. The city has definitely been trying to make (Main Street) a more viable spot to go on an evening out, and we have definitely played a part in that. We are a big part in bringing new life to Old Town and Main Street.”
Accompanying the sentiments shared by the staff, the patrons of the Laemmle Newhall sing its praises. Arman Rudolph and Brooke Aloe, a Santa Clarita couple who frequents the theater, shared their familiarity with the atmosphere and offerings of the location.
“I was actually introduced to the Laemmle through my good friend,” Rudolph said. “He is a cinephile and definitely puts me on movies that I wouldn’t normally hear about, let alone bother watching. Living in the area I also saw them constructing it and it sparked my interest.”
Brooke explains the couple’s reasoning for being new regulars in the theater. She says, “The vibes are immaculate of both the exterior of the building and the individual theaters. It’s a more relaxed and homey movie-watching experience for me.”
With the modernization of Newhall’s Old Town and all the additions to Main Street, the Laemmle theater’s involvement is evident. A noticeable shift is taking place among staff and customers alike as the historic area is again bearing the fruits of a true art district.
“I think that the impact (of the Laemmle) will be shown slowly and over time,” Melnarik said. “Every week is a little bit busier than the last.”
Citizens of Newhall and Santa Clarita are experiencing and impacting the vibrant history of the area. The Laemmle name itself brings a deep-rooted past in an art form that has seen drastic peaks and valleys within the last three years. Although the future is ever-changing, it is safe to say the Laemmle Newhall shall continue etching itself into the hearts and minds of Santa Clarita Valley’s residents.