To those of us in the Theater World, the Samuel French bookshop is the Apple Store for theater geeks and professionals. The one-stop shopping mecca for theater books, scripts, casting notices, dialect tapes, and all things Broadway and beyond. The 182 year- old company has two stores in Los Angeles (Studio City and Hollywood), shops in New York and London, and markets theater books and scripts online worldwide.
The Samuel French bookstore in Studio City will close its doors on Feb. 20.
The Ventura Boulevard location, which opened in 1986, will add its remaining stock to French’s larger store at 7623 Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood.
French is framing the closure as “consolidating”. Phrases such as “combining” and “join forces” are being used in lieu of the word “close.”
Feels a bit like a company saying it is “downsizing” instead of “laying people off”.
“I’ve always thought of the stores as one stock,” manager Joyce Mehess explained. “So we’re combining them; the Hollywood store will have everything that the customer is looking for.
“The book business has changed so much that we don’t need the two stores,” Mehess said. “And the stores are only four-and-a-half miles from each other, just over Laurel Canyon.”
Mr. French started his book company in New York in 1823. The first store in L.A. opened downtown in 1929. That moved in 1947 to the Sunset Boulevard building, which Samuel French Inc. owns.
Modern market forces, of course, had some impact on the decision to vacate the rented Studio City space. But the dire state of the brick-and-mortar bookstore business in the Amazon.com age wasn’t necessarily the key reason for this consolidation.
“There is no denying the fact that consumer demand has changed dramatically over the past decade, first with the popularity of e-retailers and second with the advent of eBooks,” Samuel French Inc. Director of Operations Kenneth Dingledine said in an email.
“Although our stores have been impacted by this shift, because of the preferences of the professionals in our niche industry, we are not experiencing declines in sales to the same degree that other book stores may be experiencing.
The consolidation will let the bookstore upgrade its facility, offer more author events and expand hours, Dingledine continued.
The Hollywood store has recently been repainted and installed new lighting, Mehess said. She also plans to open the Sunset location from noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays, when it’s traditionally been closed but Studio City has been open.
That was cold comfort to some Ventura Boulevard customers.
“It’ll bum me out if I have to go to Sunset,” 16-year-old Reseda resident Tyler Melville said while picking up a Sam French edition of “Biloxi Blues” for a production he’ll be in at Champs Charter High School.
“It’s sad to see a store closing, especially when it’s so convenient for a lot of us, being right next to CBS Studios here on Radford, where a lot of us actors are currently employed,” added Burbank-based Brandon Larkins.
Others were more resigned to the new situation.
“This is my go-to place when I need things for acting preparation,” said Woodland Hills actress Renee Suran. “I live in the Valley, so this is obviously much more convenient for me than Sunset. However, I do go over there frequently, so ultimately, I guess, it doesn’t matter.”
As a kind of parting gift, a huge stock-reduction sale is now underway at Studio City. Everything 50% off or more! If you’re looking for that hard-to-find copy of your favorite play or musical, now’s the time to swing by the Studio City store and grab it. Bring a tote bag and stock up your shelves at home.
And bid farewell to an old theater friend in the Valley.