Thursday, July 19, 2007

SHERMAN TORGAN, THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN OF THE NEW BEVERLY CINEMA, PASSES AWAY

Sherman Torgan in 2003 outside his own Hollywood movie palace (Photo by Ted Soqui)

From Hollywood Elsewhere.com comes sad news from the very heart of Hollywood. Sherman Torgan, owner and manager of The New Beverly Cinema, died unexpectedly yesterday while bicycling in Santa Monica.

According to Jeffrey Wells’ post, there are no plans for a funeral or tribute as yet, but Torgan’s friend and colleague Jeffrey Rosen has stated that “any ideas as to the latter (the tribute) would be greatly appreciated.”

Though Torgan’s son Michael has been instrumental in keeping the theater running over the past 10 years, Wells reports that no one is sure what Torgan’s death will mean for the theater itself. At any rate, that’s a concern for the future. Right now the Torgan family has a much sadder duty.

Here’s a link to the New Beverly’s contact page, which will surely be overwhelmed with comments and tributes to Mr. Torgan over the next few days. Please join me in adding to the deluge and recognizing the efforts of Sherman Torgan to keep the difficult day-to-day dream of repertory cinema in Los Angeles from altogether evaporating.

Rest in peace, Mr. Torgan. The audience, and the movies, will miss you greatly.

(Here's a link to a fine piece by Paul Cullum on Sherman Torgan and the New Beverly Cinema from July 2003 that will tell you lots about Mr. Torgan's devotion to the local repertory film scene. Thanks, Terry.)

UPDATE 7/19/07 2:08 p.m.: The LAist has a few more details, and both David Lowery and Blake Etheridge offer their thoughts on the New Beverly Cinema and what Sherman Torgan meant to the movies in Los Angeles. Many thanks to David Hudson and Green Cine Daily for the links.

UPDATE 7/20/07 10:16 a.m.: Here's Bob Westal's lovely tribute to what a revival house means to the true cinephile, as well as some equally appreciative and evocative thoughts about Mr. Torgan and the New Beverly.

7 comments:

stennie said...

This is sad news indeed. May he rest in peace.

Bob said...

Thanks for the link and kind words, Dennis.

I wish it was under happier circumstances -- though I'm glad to hear the NewBev is resuming its schedule today. More credit to the Torgan family and their friends and colleagues.

moi said...

I just went over to the New Beverlly, it says CLOSED with a note about death in the family. There are flowers, candles and notes and it is very sad.

Robert Fiore said...

A problem we have in Los Angeles is that a lot of our institutions depend on single individuals. When Otis Chandler decided to retire the Los Angeles Times was basically doomed as a great newspaper; when Gary Essert died that was the end of Filmex; same with Jeff Harvey and Z Channel. This sad occasion naturally leads to reflection on the whole phenomenon of the revival house. When I came to L.A. at the end of the 70s it seemed as though they were an institution that had been around for a long time, but they'd actually only become widespread a few years earlier, and they'd be all but dead ten years later. It's a weird thing. During the revival house era I think I had over an ten year period two opportunities to see the movies of Buster Keaton, once at the Silent Clowns series, and then another Buster Keaton series at the Nuart during the 80s. Now I can have the entire Buster Keaton ouvre in my mailbox in 24 hours. I remember thinking back in the 70s that there was this whole range of movies that would never again be seen uninterrupted or unedited, because they weren't notable enough to get into revival houses, or even the Z Channel, so you'd only see them on broadcast TV. And yet, somehow it seems to me it was more fun back then. There was a kind of romance of inaccessibility about revival house movies, and of course there was the advantage of seeing things on the big screen. There was the feeling of communal rediscovery. For that matter when you were watching an old black and white movie on the Late Show you had this anomalous feeling of sharing a solitary experience, you sensed these late night loners all over the city, people who were not going to be working the next day, dreaming this dream of long ago. It's hard to calculate whether between what's lost and what's gained we come out ahead, behind or even, in only because we take the things gained for granted and miss the things gone more sharply.

Bob said...

I just learned via Jim Emerson's blog that Michael Torgan has posted a message on the New Beverly's website that it will remain closed for the time being.

Brian/Grindhouse Film Festival said...

Just a note that the New Beverly will be re-opening on Tuesday, July 24th, for the scheduled Grindhouse Film Festival event and remaining open after that (for the time being, at least). Please come down Tuesday or any night after that to show your respect for Sherman and to support the theater during this difficult time.

Jonathan Lapper said...

Here's the link for the New Beverly at Cinema Treasures, a site dedicated to preserving and saving old movie rep and art houses ( http://cinematreasures.org/theater/1156/ )

I'm on the East Coast but anyone who lives near the New Beverly should definitely go there for the Grindhouse Film Festival and show your support with each successive week.

I live in the Maryland/D.C. area. Here's just the first 10 listings on Cinema Treasures for Maryland and their status:

213 Drive-In Church Hill, MD Closed

219 Drive-In Deer Park, MD Closed

235 Drive-In Lexington Park, MD Closed/Demolished

301 Drive-In Waldorf, MD Closed/Demolished

Abby Lane Theatre Dundalk, MD Closed

ABC Drive-In Oxon Hill, MD Closed

Academy Theatre Hagerstown, MD Closed

Aero Theatre Middle River, MD Closed/Demolished

AFI Silver Theatre Silver Spring, MD Open

Aldine Theatre Baltimore, MD Closed


Not until you get to the recently opened A.F.I. Theatre in Silver Spring, MD at number nine do you find one that hasn't been closed and/or demolished. It's the same for every state you search.

Movie Rep Houses often have to pay higher rental fees for films than the Megaplex distributors who get thousands of prints at discount rates. Rep Houses also don't have endless conssessions counters covering their costs. They need a constant flow of customer support to keep going. I never knew of Sherman Torgan until recently but I do know from my experience with revival houses that he surely gave many people a gift of seeing a classic, foreign or the ever unattainable short subject that they otherwise would have never had the chance to see. It's a great gift to give and I am sure he will be sorely missed.