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Bookstar from “Beverly Hills, 90210”

Feb 9th, 2018 | By | Category: 90210 & Beverly Hills, 90210 Filming Locations

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I have certainly been revisiting the past lately, as evidenced here, here, and here.  Maybe it has something to do with nostalgia hitting me after our recent move.  Whatever the reason, here I am yet again with yet another redux.  Today’s locale is a favorite, one that I originally covered in May 2008 – Bookstar, a former-theatre-turned-Barnes-&-Noble in Studio City.  Back in 1991, when the venue was operating as Mann’s Studio Theatre, Dylan McKay (Luke Perry) took Brenda Walsh (Shannen Doherty) there for their first date in the Season 1 episode of Beverly Hills, 90210 titled “Isn’t It Romantic?”  While I have visited the unique book shop countless times over the years, it was not until last December when I came across this post on Scouting Los Angeles (if you are not familiar with Scouting Los Angeles or its sister blog Scouting New York, be sure to check them out – they are hands-down two of the very best location sites out there!) that I realized how much of the property’s original theatrical detailing remains intact.  So I decided I just had to re-stalk the place and do another, more extensive write-up on it.

Originally established as the Studio City Theatre by the Laurel Theatres company, the understated Streamline Moderne-style structure was designed by architect Clifford A. Balch of Magnolia Theatre fame.  The 65-foot wide, 881-seat, single-screen venue celebrated its grand opening on June 11th, 1938 with a showing of MGM’s Test Pilot.  You can check out a photograph of the movie house shortly before it opened its doors here and another photo here taken in 1946 by which point its ticket booth had been overhauled and made more ornate.

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The arena hit a hiccup almost immediately.  Per the Los Angeles Movie Palaces website, Laurel Theatres sued Fox West Coast for excluding them from various distributions just a few weeks after the opening.  The lawsuit turned out to be rather ironic considering the fact that Fox (a division of the National General Pictures conglomerate) wound up managing the venue for many years after the Laurel Theatres group bowed out.  During Fox’s tenure, the site was known as Fox Studio City Theatre.  In 1973, when Mann Theatre Corporation took over the cinema portion of National General Pictures, which included the Studio City movie house, it was renamed Mann’s Studio Theatre.

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Sadly, by 1990 the ever-growing popularity of multiplexes had caused patronage of Mann’s Studio Theatre to wane.  The company chose not to renew their lease and the venue was shuttered in February 1991.  Instead of selling to developers as many locals feared, the site’s longtime owners, the Rothman family, decided to bring in a tenant that would not only take advantage of the place’s history, but also preserve its aesthetic.   The Rothmans’ real estate broker Bruce Bailey told the Los Angeles Times that despite generous offers from several builders, “they won’t change the property unless it is falling down.  They are against mini-malls.  They like the look of Studio City.  They’ve had tenants ask if they could clear a portion and they won’t do it.”  Those words are absolute music to my ears!  I wish more Los Angeles building owners shared that sentiment.  The Rothmans wound up finding exactly what they were looking for in Bookstar, a division of Barnes & Noble that had refurbished San Diego’s Loma Theatre into a book shop the year prior.  The result of the company’s efforts is a fabulous amalgamation of cinema and print.  Though the theatre’s lobby appointments and auditorium seating are now gone, pretty much every other original detail remains intact.

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That detailing includes the colorful exterior terrazzo flooring;

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the gilded ticket booth;

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 the marquee and “Studio City” signage;

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the ceiling lip above the former concessions stand, as well as the columns that flanked it (which you’ll see some screen captures of in a bit);

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the movie screen;

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 the ceiling art;

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and the projection booth, which, per Scouting Los Angeles, now houses the store’s offices.

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Paying homage to its original incarnation, all of Bookstar’s signage boasts cinematic and Art Deco styling.

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 It is easily one of the most unique spots to shop in L.A.

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Movie magic between the stacks!

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Mann’s Studio Theatre pops up three times in “Isn’t It Romantic?”  At the beginning of the episode, Brenda tags along with her twin brother, Brandon (Jason Priestley), and his BFF Dylan for a showing of Animal Crackers at the venue.  Watching the show, you can really get a feel for how little the space has changed since Bookstar took over.  As I mentioned above, though the concession stand has been removed, the pillars that once flanked it as well as the curved ceiling lip above it remain in place.

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 Even the decorative outline carvings on the ceiling are still intact!

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 The staircase visible to the right of the concession stand in the scene also remains, but is now largely obscured by displays.

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A better view of it is pictured below.

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Later in “Isn’t It Romantic?”, Dylan, Brenda, and Brandon make plans to catch another Marx Brothers movie at Mann’s Studio Theatre, but Brandon gets sick, leaving Brenda to go out with Dylan alone, much to her father, Jim Walsh’s (James Eckhouse), chagrin.

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 While waiting in line for tickets, the two decide to, as Dylan says, “shine on the movie” and instead go back to his suite at the L’Ermitage, where they kiss for the first time.

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Something I’ve always found amusing about the scene is that the establishing footage of the theatre shown in it is actually re-used from the third segment of the episode that takes place at Mann’s.  Though you don’t see her from the front, Brenda is visible pacing away from the camera in the fabulous navy and pink outfit she wears for her date with Dylan in the later scene.

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In the theatre’s third “Isn’t It Romantic?” appearance, Dylan and Brenda make another date to see another Marx Brothers flick at the cinema, but, devastatingly, he stands her up, leaving her to pace in front of the venue for hours until the movie lets out.  Brenda is so upset over the experience that she stays home from school the following Monday.  Have no fear, though – it all works out in the end.  Well, until that little home-wrecker Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) steps in and ruins things in Season 3.  But I digress.

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 It is so amazing that despite the changeover from theatre to bookstore and the passage of almost thirty years, the locale looks pretty much just as it did when the episode was filmed.

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Bookstar has popped up in a couple of other productions, as well.  It appears as the the theatre “near Olympic and Western” where Sergeant Joe Friday (Jack Webb) and Officer Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan) investigate a juvenile assault with a deadly weapon at the beginning of the Season 2 episode of Dragnet titled “The Grenade,” which aired in 1967.  Only the exterior of the venue was utilized in the scene.  Interiors were filmed on a set.

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Thanks to fellow stalker Al, I learned that the site is featured in Wang Chung’s 1985 “Fire in the Twilight” music video, which you can watch here.

The theatre is also seen very briefly in the 1988 comedy Earth Girls Are Easy in the scene in which Wiploc (Jim Carrey) meets some “Finland babes” while cruising Ventura Boulevard.

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Jerry Seinfeld and Miranda Sings (Colleen Ballinger) briefly park in front of Bookstar at the end of the Season 5 episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee titled “Happy Thanksgiving, Miranda,” which aired in 2014.

According to commenter YMike on the Cinema Treasures blog, Mann’s Studio Theatre also appears in an episode of the 1985 version of The Twilight Zone television series.  I am unsure of which episode, though, and scanned through a copious amount of them in preparation for today’s post, but did not see it pop up anywhere.  If anyone happens to know, please fill me in!

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For more stalking fun, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Los Angeles magazine and Discover Los Angeles.

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 Until next time, Happy Stalking!  Smile

Stalk It: Bookstar, from the “Isn’t It Romantic?” episode of Beverly Hills, 90210, is located at 12136 Ventura Boulevard in Studio City.  You can visit the shop’s official website here.

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4 comments

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  1. Ashley says:

    How cool! I was actually shopping in here in 2016 and bought a magazine. Can’t believe I didn’t notice the movie screen was still there! A really unique store and great post!

  2. Al says:

    Love the thorough history. This location was also used for Wang Chung’s Fire in the Twilight music video which was used for the Breakfast Club movie. Nearby locations of Studio City were also used in that film.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WusfE2M5KU

  3. Richard Yokley says:

    HA! my first thought when reading this was that there is one in San Diego then you mention it. So glad that things/facilities get repurposed


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