End credits rolling for Pasadena's Rialto

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Another one bites the dust. The Rialto Theatre, one of the last remaining single-screen movie palaces in the Los Angeles area, will turn off its lights Sunday, another victim of the multiplex and neglect.

"Making a single-screen theater profitable is tough to begin with, but when you have competition (from multiscreen complexes) and when you have an aging facility, which is what we have, it makes it very difficult to make it work," Landmark Theatres CEO Bill Banowsky said. "It was getting to a point that people would choose not to go there, as much as they love the fact that the Rialto was in their community and remained opened. They would drive by it and go down to the other theaters in Pasadena. We were losing money."

The theater, designed by L.A. Smith in the Spanish Baroque style with Egyptian flourishes, was prominently used in films and commercials, most notably in Robert Altman's "The Player" (where Tim Robbins commits his murder) and in the opening sequence of "Scream 2."

Timothy Hillman, who worked as the location manager for "Scream 2" and is a Pasadena resident, recalled needing to fix up the theater during the 1998 production.

"The vertical sign needed work and we redid one side of it; we had to fix it up to make it work," Hillman said. "It's a tired, beautiful theater that needs a David Geffen to come in and say, 'We want to save this place.' "

Landmark, acknowledging that the building needs a seven-figure face-lift, said that it would like to see the Rialto remain a movie theater in some form. If that's not possible, then the retail or restaurant world beckons.

"We are going to continue talking with developers who are interested in redeveloping that downtown South Pasadena area where the Rialto may or may not be a key part of the redevelopment plan," Banowsky said.

AFCI offers incentives to learn

The Association of Film Commissioners International will launch the latest phase of its Global Initiatives in Professional Development at the 32nd annual AFCI Cineposium International Conference, set for Aug. 26-30 in Santa Fe, N.M.

The New Mexico Film Office, one of the entities behind the state that is a leader in film incentives, is hosting the event.

The initiatives were unveiled at April's AFCI Trade Show and aim to educate budding and established film commissions worldwide on how to run a commission. More importantly, they are slowly setting standards in the 43 countries that are represented in the organization.

The AFCI in July launched its first online course, "Film Commission Fundamentals," that gives the basics of working as a commissioner or film liaison. So far, more than 60 people have completed the course. And in a sign that the AFCI is serious about setting standards, the course must be completed by new film commissions who are applying for membership in the organization and must be done before attending the Film Commission Professional courses at Cineposium 2007.

The latest phase of Global Initiatives is the launch of two of four professional courses in what is billed as a master class series.

First up is "Marketing for Film Commissioners," a one-day course that will show how to develop an effective marketing program and will include lessons on how to develop effective advertising strategies and public relations campaigns, among other topics.

Also up is "The Film Commissioner as Economic Developer" that offers lessons on ways to assess and develop key business relationships to create community value.

"There's been a great big leap forward this year in terms of opportunity for formal professional development leading to qualification," AFCI president Robin James said. "This is reflected in the masters classes, which ultimately will lead to the qualification of certified film commissioners, which for the first time in the film industry's history means that film commissioners can have formal qualification that are recognized worldwide and are highly portable."

The other two courses will be unveiled at next year's AFCI trade show.

Also reflecting the growing environmental consciousness of the entertainment industry, one of the big special presentation courses at this month's event is called "Going Green -- Leaving a Light Footprint on Our Environment." It is only natural that commissioners, who want to protect their locations, would join the cause.

"A lot of people in the film industry are very concerned about the impact that production activity has on climate change," James said. "Even commissioners feels compelled to make their contribution towards minimizing that impact.
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