20 Aug 2014
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The Sherman Theater: Where Grownup Tastes Ruled

The Sherman Oaks cinema, which survived nearly 40 years, catered to a mature crowd—and also screened some racy classics such as 'Barbarella' and 'Last Tango in Paris.'

The Sherman Theater: Where Grownup Tastes Ruled The Sherman Theater: Where Grownup Tastes Ruled

The Sherman theater, first built in the 1940s, was a classy showcase cinema that never became part of the children's matinee circuit, so the interior (namely the seats) was always in very nice condition. Many of the most famous "mature" movies of the 1960s and '70s played at the Sherman, and the theater was still going strong until the early 1980s when single-screen venues gave way to the cineplex concept.

The beautiful La Reina theater in Sherman Oaks met a similar fate in the '80s, but at least the facade of the La Reina was preserved. The Sherman was torn down in favor of building an expanded mini-mall on Ventura Boulevard and Noble Avenue, and in place of the theater stands the Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop and the popular El Rancho Mexican restaurant.

Former Encino resident David Cohen remembers the movies he saw at the Sherman in the late 1960s.

"The Sherman catered to adult audiences, so the films were adult-oriented.  It's been so long, but I do remember seeing The Thomas Crown Affair, I Love You Alice B. Toklas and The Party ... movies that were titillating. I think back then, even with the rating system issue, if you acted in an adult manner, you were allowed to do many adult things."

There is a scene in the 1982 movie Valley Girl, in which Nicolas Cage, having been spurned by his Valley girlfriend, poses as a ticket-taker at the Sherman theater when she comes there with her new boyfriend to see Romeo and Juliet. Many Sherman Oaks locales, including the Sherman theater, are seen in the film.

The Sherman marquee, with its neon discs, looked to me like a stack of records on a turntable, as on an old-fashioned hi-fi.

In 1968, I went there to see the Beatles' animated film Yellow Submarine, paired with the avant-garde Monkees film Head. At that time, I was in third grade at Hesby Street Elementary School, so seeing these grown-up movies was a big deal. I don't think they were inappropriate for young kids, despite some black humor and drug references that I didn't pick up on.

In the later years of the Sherman theater, there was a Sizzler steakhouse on the corner of Noble Avenue and Ventura Boulevard. I remember going to dinner at the Sizzler and taking in a movie at the Sherman with my parents and younger brother Bobby. In the early '70s, I saw a re-release of the James Bond movie Goldfinger. I was only 4 when the film was first released in 1964, so the Sherman showing was a kick for me.

I remember seeing so many movies playing there that I wasn't allowed to see at the time, like Last Tango in Paris and I Am Curious Yellow.

Whenever I watch Barbarella, one of my favorite sci-fi camp films of the '60s, I always think of Cohen, my former neighbor, telling me that "no matter how many people think of her as Hanoi Jane, to me, Jane Fonda will always be Barbarella!"

It was at the Sherman theater that many of these great '60s icons came to life on the silver screen, and afterward A&W Root Beer and Flooky's Hot Dogs were right up the street!

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