Former Magic Johnson Theaters reopens as Rave Cinemas
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The comeback of the former Magic Johnson Theaters is set to be complete Tuesday as the cineplex at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza reopens as Rave Cinemas 15.
First to be shown in the new Rave location off Crenshaw Boulevard: “Transformers: Dark of the Moon.”
The complex closed last year and a $10-million makeover began. It added full stadium seating and digital technology that can project in 3-D and bring in broadcasts of live events.
Magic Johnson Theaters opened to fanfare in 1995 and enjoyed years of success as a neighborhood institution. The theater complex drew 1 million visitors a year in its heyday and was sometimes the top-performing theater in the county when it screened movies of particular interest to African Americans, such as “Waiting to Exhale” in 1995. Such movies became communal events that attracted people from miles around.
“Magic Johnson Theaters were state of the art in the heart of what’s considered the black community,” City Councilman Bernard C. Parks said in December. “People didn’t have to drive to other areas to view first-run movies.”
Former Los Angeles Lakers basketball star Johnson and his partner, Ken Lombard, decided to sell their theater business to Loews Cineplex Entertainment Corp. in 2004. The move opened the door to more profitable ventures for both men, who are no longer in business together, but led to the decline of the once-popular theaters.
Under terms of the sale, Lombard and Johnson allowed the new owners to use the name “Magic” on the Baldwin Hills theaters until the complex’s lease at the mall expired last year. Lombard is now an executive at Capri Capital Partners, the Chicago real estate investment firm that has owned Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza since 2006. He is overseeing a $30-million upgrade of the mall
-- Roger Vincent