Elected officials joined patrons of the arts in South Los Angeles December 14, to kick off the reopening of Leimert Park’s Vision Theater, a move they hope will revitalize the small business community in the area. Bass, along with Coucilman Bernard Parks was instrumental in securing the almost 11 million dollars it will take to fully refurbish the facility, which was first built in the 1930s. By about 2011, the new theater will be opened for everything from school plays, to annual events like the Pan African Film Festival.
“Our goal is to close it once, fix it all and when it opens, it’s now an all purpose theater for the community,” Parks said.
“We’re so appreciative in the fact that this will become an economic center for this community. We’ll be able to have programming in such a fashion that our stores around in the village, will benefit from the ongoing activity in this area.”
“Reopening the doors of the Vision Theater will reopen the doors of opportunity for many of the businesses located here in Leimert Park like Eso Won bookstore around the corner from here,” Bass added.
“ The theater will serve as a catalyst to rebuilding the Leimert Park business community.”
There are more than fifty small business owners located in Lemiert, most of them Black
“By reestablishing the Vision Theater as a cultural centerpiece to this area we would help these small businesses and create an economic boom for the Leimert Park community. This is good for business as well as the community,” Bass said.
The theater was at its best, showing first run films for decades, until the 1980s when Jehovah’s Witnesses purchased it for a worship venue and renamed it the Watchtower. Actress Marla Gibbs bought it in the 90s and renamed it the Vision. Maintaining the theater became increasingly difficult however, after the 1992 riots, finally going into foreclosure by 1997 when the city of Los Angeles acquired it.
Phase one of the restoration project will deal with the infrastructure, the lighting, the sound system, the heating, “things that make the theater operational,” Parks said.
“Phase two is going to deal with reconstructing the stage to where it becomes a full service theater.”
The new Vision, Parks said, will have a second floor where young performing artists can practice and sharpen their craft and will also provide a space for what he called “start up acts,” people who are not “ready for the Kodak [theater] but can get their start.”
“Reopening the theater is just the first step,” Bass said.
“Together we must ensure, the Vision Theater will serve as one of the premiere cultural arts and entertainment venues in the community.”