Downtown Las Vegas’ new Beverly Theater arrives as an art house cinema lover’s dream

The Beverly Theater
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

We’re sitting in the Beverly Theater auditorium, noodling with the sound and lights. Kip Kelly, the theater’s chief experience officer, is standing in front of the screen, controlling the room’s various bells and whistles from an iPad; Beverly Rogers, the theater’s founder and benefactor, is seated a few rows down from me, beaming with pride. (Yes, the theater is named for her, and no, she didn’t choose it; Kelly and other members of her staff insisted.)

“There’s a lot of things in here you wouldn’t see in a traditional movie theater,” Kelly says, pointing out the theatrical lighting rig, the pencil mics that descend from the ceiling for post-screening Q&A sessions and the soundproofed sliding wall that opens to the building’s spacious courtyard with the push of a button. “We are purposefully designed for both films and shows.”

The Beverly Theater’s auditorium

The Beverly Theater’s auditorium

He’s underselling it. The Beverly Theater is, in fact, purposefully designed in nearly every aspect; judging from our hands-on tour, I’d rate the form and function of this stand-alone art house theater as close to ideal.

The building itself, with its textured metal accents and broad second-floor balcony, is a handsome counterpart to the Lucy complex just next door. Kelly declares the theater’s digital projector “the latest and greatest,” adding that there’s room in the projection window for a film projector, should they want to acquire one. The 7.1 surround audio system—the Constellation, built by Meyer Sound—boasts a granular level of adjustability: The auditorium can go completely neutral, or it can reverberate “like an 18th century London cathedral,” Kelly says, immediately demonstrating exactly that.

The box office and concessions are cashless, fully compatible with both Apple and Google’s digital payment platforms. The candy, snacks, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages aren’t contained behind a glass counter, but in a bodega-like nook that visitors can browse freely. (By the way, the snack and beverage assortment is unprecedented: I’ve never seen Pocky and Pringles in a movie theater concession stand, much less next to local craft beers.) And the backstage areas are every bit as carefully considered, with a full kitchen and an elegantly appointed performer’s green room.

It’s not a “multipurpose space”—Kelly bristles at the phrase, which to him conjures images of a soulless box—but the Beverly’s auditorium will nonetheless serve multiple purposes, while never feeling like a cinema that’s awkwardly offering literary events andlive music. “People need to feel like this is the premier place for their specific content,” Kelly says.

What that means is that it will be an ideal venue for the author readings that its immediate neighbor, the Writer’s Block, used to pack into its classroom space. Music fans will delight in the offbeat performers and genres that will be booked into the auditorium and enjoy a pristine sound mix—and, if needed, the auditorium’s 146 stadium-style seats can retract into the wall for standing shows, increasing the room’s capacity to 407.

And to Vegas’ cineastes, who have watched despondently for years as independent and international film flew right over this city on its way to the coasts, the Beverly Theater is a dream come true.

That said, it’s arriving at a moment when all cinemas, multiplexes and art houses alike, are fighting to stay open. Rogers and Kelly acknowledge that Vegas has struggled mightily to present indie film in the past—I talk up the Gold Coast Twin and the recently closed Regal Village Square, while Rogers invokes the old MGM Grand Theater—but they promise that their theater, a 501c3 nonprofit, is ready to earn Vegas’ often fickle loyalty.

“[Las Vegas entertainment] is competitive. There’s so much going on,” Rogers says.

“We can’t be the traditional exhibitor that just sits and waits for the studio to save their quarter. We’ve got to be proactive,” Kelly says. “We have to be a reliable brand, where people trust us [and just] show up because they know something good is coming. … We’re taking risks on some titles that we think need to be shown, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone’s going to come flooding in to watch them right away.”

Everyone should. The Beverly’s opening month overflows with risky and rewarding titles, from Celine Song’s acclaimed romantic drama Past Lives, to Laura Poitras’ Oscar-nominated Nan Goldin documentary All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, to a trove of revival-house gold that includes David Lynch’s Lost Highway and Wong Kar-wai’s swooningly gorgeous In the Mood for Love. The Writer’s Block is presenting Pulitzer Prize-shortlisted author Percival Everett, and Ekoh is playing a live set. That’s a lineup that would kill in LA or New York, and with any luck, Vegas will show up for it.

But even if the crowds are slow to appear, Beverly Rogers is more than ready to watch some movies. This dream began with her, and she’s thrilled to see it come true.

“I can hardly stand here and listen to Kip describing [this place] without crying,” she says. “That’s how emotional I am about it.”

The Beverly Theater 515 S. 6th Street, thebeverlytheater.com.

Photo of Geoff Carter

Geoff Carter

Experts in paleoanthropology believe that Geoff Carter began his career in journalism sometime in the early Grunge period, when he ...

Get more Geoff Carter
Top of Story