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stumbley
stumbley commented about Regency Village Theatre on Jul 14, 2022 at 3:12 am

I stumbled on this website not long ago, and was intrigued by all the comments on the Village.

I was Assistant Manager for about 3 ½ years in the early 70’s, when Westwood was considered the “hot” film place. We had a number of premiere events, and the theater was very busy.

I was among the first in Los Angeles (outside of the studio) to see “The Godfather” prior to its debut at the Village. Al Ruddy (one of the producers) brought the film to the theater one afternoon before the premiere to check out how the film would play at the Village. Ruddy, the projectionist, and I were the only people in the theater at the time. After seeing the movie, I knew we’d be VERY busy for a long time.

At the premiere, about halfway through the presentation, Mario Puzo emerged from the theater into the lobby with about a foot-long, inch diameter cigar, and lit up. We had an interesting conversation about the film, the book, and how he was doing since the book’s popularity. He shook his head sadly, and admitted that he “had gambled away everything I made on the book and the film” and that he was compelled to “write the crap screenplay for ‘Earthquake’” in order to pay off his debts. I asked whether he had been worried about offending organized crime with his depiction of “the Mob,” and he replied that “no, I had a lot of help from that corner.”

Some other tidbits:

Walter Matthau and his son PAID to see Matthau in “Plaza Suite” when it played at the Village.

We often had lines round the block for popular movies. At one point, Groucho Marx came by with his companion, Erin Fleming, and requested to be let in before the line. He said “You wouldn’t deny admission to a living legend, would you?”

We had the premiere of “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” at the Village, for which Neil Diamond wrote the soundtrack. The film was so poorly received that one night, for the prime-time showing, no one had purchased a ticket by the time the show was supposed to start. The projectionist ran the film through the projector without firing up the carbon arc, to save carbon (the rods would actually burn up and had to be periodically replaced). Neil Diamond arrived at the theater about 15 minutes into the show, and we quickly informed the projectionist to start the arc, just in time for Diamond to enter the theater. He came out about 5 minutes later and asked “Am I the only person in the show?” When I answered “Yes” he shook his head and started to walk away. I told him that I thought the music was really good, but the film was crap, and he agreed. He said “I wish I’d never been involved in this junk.”

Finally, one of the commenters down thread had asked “What became of the former manager Jim Peters?” I can answer that question. He was let go after it was revealed that he had been faking refunds and pocketing the money. One of the cashiers and I had informed the District Manager that he was raking in about $20-$30 per night doing this. Small potatoes per day, but it added up. Peters claimed that he was using the money to renovate the Manager’s office, but the District Manager didn’t necessarily believe that story. However, Peters wasn’t actually fired, just moved to a smaller, less important theater. The cashier and I had to work with Peters for about 2 weeks after informing on him (before he was transferred) and I can tell you, it was NOT FUN. But since he had basically forced the cashier to participate (she had to sign the refund forms) she would have been complicit in the crime, and I didn’t want her to be implicated.

Many more stories about Westwood and the theaters there at that time; it was a “happening place”. I often contemplated writing a book!