An executive with the American Film Market called on Santa Monica Thursday to make good on promises to renovate the historic Civic Auditorium and build a new updated downtown movie theater—projects the executive called "the centerpiece" of the film market's future.
The projects were a big part of what lured the market, a week-long industry event for studios to close acquisition and distribution deals, back to Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel after being courted by L.A. Live in 2011.
The trade group that puts on the market, the Independent Film & Television Alliance, wants to expand its flagship event—which is estimated to bring $20 million to the local economy every year—to include a film festival. AFM is the only major market that doesn't also include a public festival, according to managing director Jonathan Wolf.
"Our goal is to bring a world class event to Santa Monica," Wolf said. "This can only happen when The Civic is ready for the red carpet."
Wolf's comments came during Thursday's 2013 State of the City Address as he accepted the Chamber of Commerce's "Economic Excellence Award Honoree" award on behalf of the alliance. They were remarks he has made in private, but never before in public, he told the audience.
Plans to renovate Santa Monica's Civic Auditorium, which in its livelier days staged the Academy Awards and some of the biggest rock bands in history, were called off earlier this year because of city budget woes. It will close temporarily starting this summer.
As for the new downtown theater, AMC has backed out of negotiations to open a a 70,000-square-foot theater with 2,167 seats on city-owned land at Fourth Street and Arizona, where Parking Structure 3 stands today. City staffers are trying to find another theater operator for the site.
“In Santa Monica, the AFM will soon have access to a new 12-screen multiplex, a 2,000-plus seat world class venue for red-carpet premieres, more hotel rooms, light rail transportation to Los Angeles and Hollywood, and even a spectacular new park across from the Loews,” Wolf said in late 2011, when the market announced it had inked a new five-year deal with Loews.
The deal was not contigent on The Civic and new theater moving forward, Wolf told local reporters Thursday morning. But there were "promises and aspirations of city leaders."
"This is great news for Santa Monica and the Westside," then-Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom said then in a statement. "AFM brings another level of international visibility to our creative industry while contributing an estimated $20 million and many good jobs to our local economy every year."
In an interview with the Santa Monica Daily Press, president and CEO of the local tourism bureau, Misti Kerns, said city leaders might have to consider selling naming rights to The Civic in order to get it back up and running.
“We may just have to get more comfortable with having it be privatized from a naming standpoint,” she told the Daily Press. “I’m not suggesting we have a Staples Center in Santa Monica, but there are businesses that have that interest who could work hand-in-hand to get what we all want and need.”