Monday, April 16, 2007

Interview: Barbara Stanton and the Wattstar Theatre

At a recent benefit screening, contributing writer Daood had a chance to talk to Ms. Barbara Stanton about the Wattstar Theatre and Education Center, a development in the Watts/Willowbrook communities...

Daood: Ms. Barbara Stanton, you attended a private benefit screening The Reaping March 23rd at the Mann’s Chinese Theatre for the Wattstar Theatre and Education Center. Can you tell us about the benefit screening?

Ms. Barbara Stanton: When everyone arrived, they received complimentary parking passes, their popcorn and soda, complements of Mann Theatres and socialized with our guests celebrities including Wesley Jonathan, known for his role in Roll, Bounce, stars of the upcoming film Redline Denyce Lawton and Nadia Bjorlin, Allan Louis of Stomp the Yard, Hawthorne James known as "Big Red", and former American Idol Contestant Sabrina Sloan.

Bob McNeely, who has just been promoted to Executive Vice President for Union Bank of California, received the "Corporate Wattstar of the Year" award and Bill Hertz of Mann Theatres kicked off the movie. Upon their exit, our guests received our Warner Bros. goodie bags, which included our Def Jam and City National Bank prizes and we proceeded to the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel for the after party.

Our after party started off with Janine Haydel of KJLH introducing "Wattstars Finest", an eclectic array of well known artists including Del Atkins on bass, Munjungo Jackson on percussions, Raymond Pounds on drums, and Larry Nash on piano, featuring T.C. Carson on vocals. UNTitled Dance Company performed an upbeat Hip Hop Dance and a socially-conscious songwriter, Brian Jacobs, then joined us.

Daood: Ms. Barbara Stanton how did the concept for the "Wattstar Theatre and Education Center" come into fruition?

Barbara Stanton: In 1992, I worked with Mann Theatres and Warner Bros. and the UCLA Black Student Union to bring the first African American Festival to the Westwood community on the corner of Wilshire and Gayley. Sixty vendors and musicians enjoyed the patronage of senior citizens, students and youth were rocked with jazz, blues and salsa, Caribbean and African food. It was a great cultural event. The next question I had for Mann Theatres and Warner Bros. was, "How can we bring a movie theatre to our community?" When combining the needs of job training and small business creation, The Wattstar Theatre and Education Center was born.

Daood: What are some of the plans other than showing films in which the facility will be utilized for?

Barbara Stanton: The U.S. Department of Commerce is providing nearly two million dollars for equipment that will provide training in production and postproduction, global communications, and business incubation.

Daood: How essential is this project to the development of Watts/Willowbrook communities?

Barbara Stanton: We have not had a movie theatre in our community since the 1965 rebellion and clearly the economic development opportunities and educational embellishment are critically needed. The Wattstar is a catalytic project that will revitalize the entire community.

Daood: Ms. Barbara Stanton, for individuals or entities who would like to get involved with further [development in] this project, how can they get in contact with you?

Barbara Stanton: You can always pull up our web site at or call me at (323) 757-7506.

Daood: By the way, how was the film The Reaping?

Barbara Stanton: The special effects were incredible and Hillary Swank and Idris Elba are wonderful actors to see on the big screen.

Daood: This opportunity is greatly appreciated and has been extremely informative.

Barbara Stanton: Thank you for the opportunity.

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