Grand Intervention: The People’s Motion Picture Plaza

Grand Avenue Intervention:
Submissions Gallery

The People’s Motion Picture Plaza 

Submitted by Greg Ptacek, Co-Director, Silver Lake Film Festival

Only minutes after reading your essay in today’s "Current" section of the Los Angeles Times, I am inspired to respond to your invitation for public comment about how best to utilize the planned Grand Avenue project’s park space. My only hesitation in continuing is that my concept is more "idea" than "proposal." Nevertheless, I offer humbly the following for any and all to use as they will.


This park should reflect the arts and culture of this great city. Sculpture and other art should be everywhere. A large amphitheater should be constructed for evening concerts, plays and entertainment. A state-of-the-art video and sound system should be installed for special events.

Gerald Kobata
Los Angeles

My idea is to incorporate a motion picture viewing area in the park. The proposed People’s Motion Picture Plaza would reestablish the relationship between the city’s core and its most important industry, using the latest in technology to bring an innovative outdoor entertainment experience for all Angelenos to enjoy.

For many decades now there has been a distinct disconnect between the city’s largest employer ?  the film industry and its related ancillary businesses ? and its Downtown. That was not always the case. In the first half of the 20th century the partnership between Downtown and "Hollywood" (the industry, not the place) thrived with the Broadway Avenue movie palaces serving as the city’s primary venues for showcasing the latest in motion pictures.

The People’s Motion Picture Plaza of the Grand Avenue project, then, would end the 50-year divorce between Downtown and Hollywood. This time around, however, the relationship would emphasize showcasing films that the viewing public would not be able to see otherwise. I’m referring to independently made films, many of whose makers live right here in Los Angeles. I’m also referring to the myriad films from outside the U.S., of which only a small percentage ever makes it to our shores. Living as we do in a city that is among the world’s most culturally diverse, a regular multi-ethnic diet of world cinema ? viewed in a shared public experience that always has been integral to the magic of the movies ? would go a long way to bridging cultural differences. Our temperate weather would allow screenings to be held during most of the year. As a reference point, think of the wonderful, outdoor, free-to-the-public film screenings during the summer in the park space behind New York’s Public Library (5th Avenue between West 40th and West 42nd streets).

Envisioned, then, is a section of the Grand Avenue Park devoted to a plaza built around an amphitheater. A large screen would emerge from underground, and a control room with a state-of-the-art video projector would anchor the bottom and top ends of the amphitheater, respectively. Seating would be stadium style, following the park space’s natural contour as it slopes downhill from Grand Avenue to City Hall. A weather-proof compartment built into each seat would secure a digital audio/visual "smart" station. The computerized station would be multi-functional, providing the amphitheater goer: a) state-of-the-art sound via a headset that could offer voiceover translations of a film’s dialogue in multiple languages; b) a small flat screen that would provide additional information about the film and filmmakers (like the various channels of premium programming available on DVDs); and c) a keyboard that would allow audience members to participate, in real time, in a communal blog, "chatting" about the film
in progress.

An outdoor amplification system would be incorporated into the design for those times when a more shared aural experience is preferred. (Here I’m thinking of the innovative audio system designed by Frank Gehry for Chicago’s Millennium Park.)

Of course the amphitheater space could be used for other programming as well including performing arts, lectures, and even Web/digital art exhibitions.

Finally, I must note that I have a vested interest in this idea beyond being a Los Angeles citizen. I am the co-founder and a co-director of Silver Lake Film Festival, which currently has before various downtown groups a proposal for the first Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival. The People’s Motion Picture Plaza would be the ideal outdoor venue for such a festival.

Orpheum Theater photo courtesy of Ruth Wallach, USC Libraries.

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