Read About Two Santa Monica High School Boys Who Worked At the Aero When It First Opened In 1940!



Contact: Margot Gerber

323.461.2020, ext. 115 (press calls only) 






Hollywood – The American Cinematheque has expanded its critically acclaimed film programming to the newly renovated Max Palevsky Theatre at the Aero, located at 1328 Montana Avenue (at 14th Street), in Santa Monica. A $500,000 contribution from computer industry pioneer, film producer, philanthropist, political activist and art collector, Max Palevsky provided major under-writing for the Cinematheque’s portion of the renovation of the Aero Theatre which includes such upgrades as: a high performance Klipsch sound system, improved acoustics, expansion of the screen to three times the existing size, upgraded projection equipment including 70 MM projection, a new concession counter and seats. The 23-year-old non-profit organization previously launched weekly specialty film programming at the legendary Grauman’s 1922 Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame, upon completion of restoration/rehabilitation work, in December 1998.

"The American Cinematheque has been a major cultural resource whose influence extends far beyond the Hollywood community," says American Cinematheque Board President Rick Nicita. "The addition of the Aero to the already successful operation at the Egyptian will allow many more movie fans to see great films on the west side of town." Rick Nicita is Co-Chairman of the Los Angeles based literary and talent agency, Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

"At our opening last week, we were overwhelmed by the excitement of the people in the neighborhood," says Barbara Smith, the Director of the American Cinematheque. "The Aero is clearly a beloved neighborhood cinema and the residents are quite thrilled to have it in operation once again. We already have a base of regulars and are looking forward to seeing many new faces."

"Movies are important cultural documents, equal to novels or poetry," says Max Palevsky. "There should be a place where people can always go to experience them onscreen. Movies were very important to my generation. It was our way of learning about the world before there was TV." Palevsky, was part of the original group that launched the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles in the early 1980’s. While the Cinematheque pursued securing a permanent location, Palevsky moved on to, provide funds for an on campus theatre run by the Documentary Film Group at his alma mater, the University of Chicago (Class of ’48), and two theatres in Telluride. "When the Aero came up, I was interested in the project because I believe there should be a Westside Cinematheque to cater to this area."

Upcoming programs include a series of 70 MM films presented on the Aero’s brand new enlarged screen, using new 70 MM equipment , Three Films By Renowned Filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky and The Films of Marlene Dietrich and Joseph von Sternberg. Most series and individual film programs will play at both theatres, on different days, giving patrons more than one opportunity to see them. The theatre will generally be open Wednesday through Sunday with some days each week available for rent.

The Aero Theatre and its adjoining retail spaces, built in the style of French Norman architecture, by Donald W. Douglas of Douglas Aircraft fame, opened for business on January 10, 1940. The theatre, designed by architect R.M. Woolpert, operated with a small staff, seven nights per week. Aero programming consisted of double features (that changed three times weekly), Kiddie Matinees and drawings for sets of depression glass dishes prior to the Saturday night show. People walked to the Aero 65 years ago, just as they do today. The theatre remained in the Douglas family for quite some time. Jim Rosenfield, President of J.S. Rosenfield & Co, Inc., a Montana Avenue based retail real estate company specializing in renovating unique retail properties, purchased the Aero Theatre with his Chicago-based partner John Bucksbaum, from Sandy Allen in 1997, and they remain the current owners. In addition to the Aero Theatre, J.S. Rosenfield & Co. owns the Waterworks building on Montana Avenue and the Brentwood Country Mart in Brentwood.

Rosenfield, a long-time resident of the Montana Avenue area, often walked to the Aero to see movies. When the theatre went up for sale, he feared that a developer would buy it, and in an attempt to maximize income, would turn it into retail space. "I grew up going to the La Reina Theatre in Sherman Oaks," remarks Rosenfield, "first it became a GAP and now it is a flea market. I didn’t want to see that happen to the Aero. It is so integral to a community to have goods and services that are part of the neighborhood. This is what is so appealing to me about Montana Avenue."

After a great deal of contemplation about the challenges of preserving an historic building, Rosenfield (who sat on the Santa Monica Landmark Commission for many years) decided that there was cultural value in his mission to preserve the Aero as a single screen theatre, so, he and his partner purchased the Aero Theatre on November 8, 1997. He then embarked on an 8-year odyssey to find the right operator for the theatre. His quest took him around the world and among others, included talks with London’s Nick Jones of the Soho House, The Irish Film Institute, Robert Redford’s planned Sundance Theatre Chain with General Cinema, and the Laemmle Theatres. It was Bob Laemmle who suggested to Rosenfield that he pursue his talks with the American Cinematheque, an organization with a track record for adaptively re-using a historic cinema to great technical and cultural effect. And like Hollywood Boulevard, Montana Avenue is among the last of the great walking streets in the greater Los Angeles area.

Rosenfield felt that the mission of the American Cinematheque coincided with his own, so in 2003, his company signed a 15-year lease with the American Cinematheque to operate the theatre. "I grew up with a mother who was always trying to save beloved institutions, like Ship’s or Dolores Restaurants, so I acquired a sentimentality for older things," says Rosenfield. Ultimately, his take on the project is, "There are some things you do for reasons other than money. I was committed to preserving the theatre, and working with a non-profit seemed like the best scenario. I am forgoing maximum income potential for the building, and that is okay."

The American Cinematheque once again worked with Architects Hodgetts + Fung (who previously renovated the Egyptian), engineers Englekirk & Sabol and McKay, Conant, Brook to bring the Aero Theatre’s sound and picture up to its high standards. The theatre is now equipped with 70 MM projection capabilities and a 45 ‘ x 25’ screen that is the maximum size it can be. The projectors are the unmatchable, European made Norelco DP 70’s designed by Michael Todd in the 1950’s, primarily for American theatres. The projectors are outfitted with the newest Schneider Premiere Series optic lenses. The new high performance Klipsch sound system has over 10,000 watts and features individually adjustable high, mid-range and low frequency tuners that are enhanced by the construction of a new baffle wall. Renovations were also made to comply with contemporary ADA requirements to make the theatre accessible to patrons in wheelchairs.

A new gray and maroon color scheme in the lobby features giant painted letters that begin to spell AERO, as they cascade down the east wall and finish on the floor, cut out in alternating pieces of carpet that match the paint colors. The renovated theatre has 437 seats.

Rosenfield refurbished the downstairs bathroom and added a bathroom upstairs, carefully replicating the original 1940’s style of the original. He renovated the marquee, re-roofed, provided seating for the handicaped and re-painted the exterior.

The iconic ticket booth, silver Art Deco ladies adorning each row of seats and the neon clock all remain a part of this beloved neighborhood theatre.

The American Cinematheque recently launched a fundraising campaign which provides naming opportunities on plaques on the back of the theatre seats. Donors can inscribe their name as an enduring part of Hollywood Cinema History, by naming a seat for themselves or a loved one at either the Aero or the Egyptian Theatre. Seats are available for $1000. Interested persons can call Mann Productions at 323.314.7000.

Established in 1981, the American Cinematheque, is a non-profit, viewer-supported film exhibition and cultural organization dedicated to the celebration of the Moving Picture in all its forms. The Cinematheque presents film and video programming which ranges from the classics and world cinemas to the outer frontiers of the art form at the Egyptian Theatre. Exhibition of rare works, special prints within our series, etc., combined with fascinating post-screening discussions with the filmmakers who created the work, are a Cinematheque tradition that keep audiences coming back for once-in-a-lifetime cinema experiences. The American Cinematheque renovated and re-opened (on December 4, 1998), the historic 1922 Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Boulevard as a permanent home. Two state-of-the-art theatres, the 616-seat Lloyd E. Rigler theatre and the 78-seat Spielberg Theatre are housed within Sid Grauman’s first grand movie palace on Hollywood Boulevard. The exotic courtyard is fully restored to its 1922 grandeur. The Egyptian was the home of the very first Hollywood movie premiere in 1922.

Please call for photos or press kits. Please refer to the American Cinematheque’s Theatres as the Max Palevsky Theatre at the Aero and The Lloyd E. Rigler Theatre at the Egyptian.

The general public can learn more about contributing to the Cinematheque’s on-going Capital Campaign by calling 323.314.7000. To get current information about the programs of the American Cinematheque see: or or Note: All webs addresses lead to the same site. Our public information line is 323.466.FILM.


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