Renovations, Alcohol Coming to Silent Movie Theater (Maybe)
Recent filings with the L.A. Department of Building and Safety (DBS) indicate Cinefamily/Fairfax plans to begin renovations on the Silent Movie Theater. According to the city engineer overseeing the permit application, “they are doing some interior and exterior work to the existing theater.”
Construction cannot begin until DBS issues permits. At this time no permits have been issued. The city engineer rejected a permit application submitted in early April, indicating that corrections were needed. A revised plan has not yet been resubmitted. (An “early start permit” was issued to allow demolition of “non-bearing partitions,” but no new construction is allowed.) CinefamilyAccountability (CA) has previously reported on the quarter-million-dollar loan taken out by the Harkhams to fund these renovations.
Men Behaving Boozy
The biggest surprise in the plans for the renovated Cinefamily/Fairfax is that, according to the city engineer, they are “proposing a small bar at the rear.” City filings indicate they are also seeking to become a food service establishment. Former insiders expressed surprise: “I’m shocked,” said former office manager Jackie Gomez, “After all the problems and irresponsibility with alcohol at Cinefamily, they can't be trusted to serve alcohol.”
Many former staff and volunteers told CA of extensive problems with alcohol over the years, from underaged bartenders, to serving alcohol without a license, to serving minors and the intoxicated. Neighbors reportedly complained often, citing alcohol- and drug-fueled parties into the early morning hours. Former staff and volunteers have told CA that the presence of alcohol contributed to an abusive and hostile working environment, as detailed extensively in the press. According to former staff, Cinefamily was raided in 2016 by the LAPD Vice Squad.
Serving alcohol requires approval from both the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) and the L.A. City Planning Department, and generally involves at least one public hearing in L.A. If a zoning change is required, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) may also be triggered. According to staff at City Planning, the process typically takes six to nine months from when a business applies for a conditional use permit. There has been no CUP application from Cinefamily/Fairfax.
Double the Harkhams
CA has long heard rumors that Dan is not the only Harkham involved in the Cinefamily reboot. Dan’s older brother Sammy now writes to CA to report that “I am taking the reigns [sic]” of the project. Sammy had been a co-founder and director of Cinefamily. “I have wanted for a long time to go back to our initial inspiration . . . to make a cinema that I could stand behind, both creatively and personally,” he writes, touting his “goal” of “a transparent, accountable and healthy business for EVERYONE.”
Sources explain Sammy is already busy on the reboot, leading what one Harkham-watcher called “Cinefamily’s New York goodwill trip.” Two sources in the New York film community report that Sammy—along with Erin Henley and Kate Rouhandeh—were in New York recently sporting new Fairfax Theater business cards. “They were in town to meet people,” a participant in one such meeting reportedly said. No similar L.A.-based meetings have been reported.
The L.A. Film Community Waits
CA will continue to report on the problems that contributed to and were compounded by the Cinefamily closure, and CA hopes to provide a substantive update presently. Owner Dan Harkham and managing director Erin Hensley have both refused to talk with CA about either the past or the future. Sammy has more recently expressed a willingness “to get together for a coffee and a biscuit and a chat” next month.