True Independence on Hollywood Boulevard: Arena Cinema
August 19, 2016
The 92-seat Arena Cinema is the place in Los Angeles to see cutting edge, truly independent cinema – and it’s located right off Hollywood Boulevard. Located adjacent to and formerly a part of the iconic Egyptian Theater, CEO and founder Christian Meoli began the Arena Cinema in 2012.
Showcasing indie films in this historic theater space, Arena Cinema quickly became the go-to spot for an eclectic mix of genre films, foreign films, and documentaries, many film festival favorites. Meoli had a vision: to create a venue that accommodated the kinds of interesting filmmaking not seen at the average Cineplex.
“I saw a need for a screen dedicated to new independent films. I didn’t want to see new films released exclusively on digital platforms like iTunes. I wanted to influence and maintain the importance of film culture in Los Angeles. And so Arena Cinema was born,” Meoli explains.
Arena Cinema is run in conjunction with Theater of Arts, and Meoli describes the venue as a true art house with live drama and acting held at the venue during the daytime, and first run films at night and on weekends.
Meoli has been in the entertainment business for thirty years, influenced in part by growing up across the street from an art house cinema called The Ritz in Philadelphia. Acting and writing for stage and films, Meoli produced a multi-disciplinary live theatre-cinema platform named Cabaret Voltaire with a residency at Hollywood’s Steve Allen Theater. “Through producing we found we were adept at marketing,” Meoli notes, which has served him well as he’s brought Arena Cinema to life.
“We work in tandem with a majority of independent film distributors to bring these films to Los Angeles audiences. This has been a rewarding experience and has positioned us as a leader in the indie film marketplace,” he says.
The films Meoli choose to run draw a strong demographic of both men and women ages 24 to 55, which makes up approximately 75% of its audience. Films that appeal to just about everyone who loves film itself screen here.
“Our focus has been on new feature filmmakers since we started,” he asserts. “We have great long-standing relationships with the distribution companies who we work with to release these films in Los Angeles. And it’s vital to us that our community is reflected in our programming. We could easily program classic films and repertory all day long, but there are theaters that already do that. We invest our time presenting new filmmakers and it’s amazing how many are locally based and appreciate our genuine drive and enthusiasm to promote and present their films.”
Over the course of over four years in business, the Arena Cinema has presented over 1500 new films right in the heart of Hollywood. The theater offers a variety of special programming as well. “We have some of the best up and coming filmmakers and talent here every weekend for Q&As and special events,” Meoli says.
In April, the theater presented Bardchella, a free week of classic Shakespearean films as a way to “give back” to the community. The theater has also held live performances, including a recent production of Jason Weiss’ Enemy, presented by Theater of Arts, as well as industry-related seminars.
Being a relatively new independent film hot spot in the heart of Hollywood suits Meoli, who knew he was going to make the city his home the minute he set foot in it.
“We love Hollywood. We love its central location. We love what Hollywood represents to the rest of the world. Being a half-block off the boulevard, we consider ourselves a neighborhood cinema, although we’d love for tourists to find us more frequently as well.”
The small cinema is a gem on the indie landscape and in the Los Angeles film community in general, from its friendly staff to lively film selection.
“Our whole model represents the power of self-starting, and how a micro-cinema can make a major impact upon its broader community,” Meoli reports. “We have a great team and pride ourselves on being genuine and treating everyone the same. What we have accomplished is a testament to the driving, creative spirit of our locale which has been a major part of Hollywood for over a hundred years.”
Meoli strongly believes that Hollywood is just beginning its next exciting chapter.
“We want Arena Cinema to be integral to the community with the films we present and the projects we create, for decades to come.”
1625 N. Las Palmas Ave.
Genie Davis is a multi-published novelist and journalist, and produced screen and television writer. Passionate about everything-Los Angeles, you can see her work in the arts on her own www.diversionsLA.com.