Start your Los Angeles area historic theatre explorations by heading to one of these major sections:
| Downtown | Hollywood | Westside | Westwood/Brentwood | Along the Coast | [more] L.A. Movie Palaces |
To see what's recently been added to the mix visit the Theatres in Movies site and the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.

Navigating Your Tour of Historic Los Angeles Theatres

On a Mobile Device: If you're missing the right column navigation bar or links at the top you can go to the bottom of any page and click on "View Web Version." Still can't find what you're looking for? Send me an email at counterb@gmail.com. See you at the movies! -- Bill Counter

Downtown L.A. Historic Theatres

The survey page gives a rundown on the 20 major surviving theatre buildings in the Downtown Theatre District. There are links to pages about each of them for more detail. You might also want to consult alphabetical rundowns on pages for Hill St. and farther west, the Broadway Theatres, Spring St. Theatres and Main St. and farther east. Those pages give you more detail, including discussions about all the theatres that have vanished. In addition, there's a downtown alphabetical theatre list with alternate names and a theatre list by address.

Historic Hollywood Theatres

Hollywood wasn't just about the movies. Starting in the mid 20s it was also a center for legitimate theatre and musical revues at four newly built playhouses. You'll find an alphabetical list of the theatres in the district on the Hollywood Theatres overview page that includes a bit of data on each and links to pages for more details. Down below this list there's also an alternate name directory. Also of possible interest is a separate page with a list of theatres by street address.

 Westside Theatres

The Westside started booming with retail and housing in the mid 20s and the theatres followed. Many theatres along Wilshire Blvd., in Beverly Hills, and in other neighborhoods became prime venues for everything from small foreign films to major roadshows. It's a huge territory. The Westside Theatres overview page gives you both a list by neighborhood as well as a survey arranged alphabetically. Also see the list of Westside Theatres: by street address and the Westside Theatres: alphabetical list page which includes alternate names.

Westwood and Brentwood

Westwood Village was the third significant theatre district to evolve in Los Angeles, after Downtown and Hollywood. With the construction of the UCLA campus beginning in the late 20s there was a chance to develop a unique shopping and entertainment district for faculty and students. By the 1970's the area had evolved so that Westwood had the largest concentration of first run screens of any neighborhood in Los Angeles. The Westwood and Brentwood Theatres overview page will give you a tour of the area.

Theatres Along the Coast

Santa Monica had a vibrant theatrical life even in the days when it was a small town isolated from the rest of Los Angeles. And that's just the beginning. The Along the Coast section will give you links to discussion of theatres in Ocean Park, Venice, Hermosa Beach, San Pedro, Long Beach and other communities.

[more] L.A. Movie Palaces

This section fills in all the other areas of Los Angeles County. Hundreds of terrific theatres were being built by the studios and independents all over the L.A. area in the 20s and into the 30s.  You'll find coverage of theatres north and east of Downtown as well as in Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena, the San Gabriel Valley, Pomona, Whittier, Long Beach and many other far flung locations.   Some of those listings have been upgraded and appear on this site, many other links will take you to pages on an older site hosted on Google. The index page has links to all these theatres organized by area.

Searching by theatre name

If you don't find it in the right hand column, head for the Main Alphabetical List, which also includes the various alternate names each venue has used. This list includes those pages recently updated for this site (in bold face) as well as the write ups on an older website. For a narrower focus you'll also find separate lists for Westside and Downtown. As well, there are lists by name on the 10 survey pages for more limited areas like Pasadena, North of Downtown, Long Beach, etc. that are listed on the [more] Los Angeles Movie Palaces page.

Searching by address

If you know an address or street head to either the Main Theatre List by Address, the San Fernando Valley List by Address, the San Gabriel Valley, Pomona and Whittier List by Address or the Long Beach List. If what you're looking for isn't there, you should find a link to take you to a more localized list by address for Downtown, WestsideHollywood, etc. Also see the survey pages for more limited areas that are listed on the [more] Los Angeles Movie Palaces page.

Happy touring! Please contact me if you spot errors, links that don't work, etc.  

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El Monte Theatre

11006 Main St. El Monte, CA 91731 | map

Opened: 1939 as part of the Sanborn circuit. The building is on the south side of the street just east of Tyler Ave. Thanks to Chris Brame for his 1992 photo. He has it on Cinema Treasures. Before street renumbering, the theatre's address was 110 E. Valley Blvd. It later went through a period when it was called 11006 Valley Mall.  

Architect: Earl T. Heitschmidt. Thanks to Joe Vogel for the research. He notes that the project was announced in the February 3, 1939 issue of Southwest Builder & Contractor.

Seating: 900 originally.

This was perhaps the fourth theatre for Sanborn. His first theatre investment in the L.A. area had been c.1918, taking over a West Adams house called the LaSalle, later renamed the Adams Theatre. In 1921 he and partners opened the Rivoli Theatre at 4521 S. Western Ave. Later he took over the Rialto in El Monte, a house later called the Valley Theatre. It was about three blocks west of his new El Monte. 

The Sanborn family claims to be the oldest theatre operating company in the western United States. There's a history of the company on the website for their The Movie Experience location in San Luis Obispo. That operation appears to be their sole surviving location. 

The El Monte was later operated as a Spanish language house by Metropolitan Theatres. Some of the programming included Mexican plays and vaudeville. They twinned the theatre sometime in the 1980s.

Closing: It closed in the mid-1990s.   

Status: It's been gutted and is now retail and office space.

 
An interior view:

This auditorium shot is from a collage appearing on the website of Sanborn's The Movie Experience in San Luis Obispo.
 
 
More exterior views: 
 
 
 
1949 - "That Wonderful Urge" was a December 1948 release. "Criss Cross" was out in February 1949.  It's a photo from the Sanborn collection that appears on the website of The Movie Experience in San Luis Obispo. 
 
 
 
1984 - Running as a Spanish language house operated by Metropolitan, at this time still a single screen operation. Thanks to American Classic Images for the photo from their collection.  
 
 
 
1992 - Another fine photo by Chris Brame of the house as a twin. It's on Cinema Treasures


 
2003 - Thanks to Adam Martin for this post-closing view. It appears on the Cinema Tour page about the theatre.  


 
2003 - An entrance detail. Thanks to Adam Martin for the photo. Head to the Cinema Tour page for five additional views.
 
 

2007 - A photo from a Loopnet listing for the theatre as it was getting rehabbed. They noted that the building is 22,000 sf. 
 
 

2011 - The building repurposed for retail use. Photo: Google Maps

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the El Monte for fine research by Joe Vogel and other contributors. Cinema Tour has seven 2003 exterior views by Adam Martin.

The 1923 city directory had a listing for an El Monte Theatre at 331 W. Main St. It was perhaps a mistaken listing for the new Rialto/Valley Theatre, opening in 1923 with an address across the street at 326 W. Main.

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El Rey Theatre

335 W. Main St. Alhambra, CA 91801 | map |

Opened: December 1921 as the Temple Theatre, owned by Walter Paul Temple. It was on the north side of the street just east of 4th St. The photo is from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. "Man Power" was a July 1927 release with Richard Dix and Mary Brian.

Architects: Walker and Eisen. Joe Vogel did the research: "Southwest Builder and Contractor of 6/3/1921 says that architects Walker (Albert Raymond) and Eisen (Percy Augustus) were preparing the plans for the theater. The building was to be 60' by 150' and would have a seating capacity of 800. The estimated cost was $50,000."

Thanks to Joe for locating this rendering for a post on Cinema Treasures. He notes: "This rendering of Walter Temple’s theater at Alhambra was published as part of a portfolio of the work of architectural firm Walker & Eisen in the October, 1922, issue of The Building Review."

Seating: 861 was the number after a 40s re-seating. 

Thanks to Joe Vogel for researching the opening. He reports: "The opening of this theater was announced in the Los Angeles Times issue of 12/25/1921, under the headline 'Mr. Temple’s new theater opens in Alhambra.' This was Walter Paul Temple, local landowner and developer, who would later develop Temple City. The paper also announced that the new theater would be leased by a Mr. O.H. Schleusener, who was already the manager of another movie house in Alhambra."

In the 1923 L.A. city directory the Temple is listed as being at 319 W. Main and at 335 in the 1925 through 1931 directories. There's no 1932 listing. In the Alhambra directory it's the El Rey Theatre at 335 W. Main St. from 1932 onward.

In the 1940s and 50s the theatre was operated by Fox West Coast. The Edwards circuit took over in the 60s and did a remodel which, among other things covered up the facade and replaced the marquee.

Closing: It was closed following damage from the 1987 Whittier Narrows earthquake.

Status: The building was demolished around 1990.  
 
 

1923 - "We are showing The Third Alarm" says the banner. The December 1922 release starred Ralph Lewis, Johnnie Walker and Ella Hall. Thanks to Elmorovivo for locating the trade magazine photo for a post on Cinema Treasures. The original caption: "In front of the Temple Theatre, Alhambra, Cal., after the record dash of the firemen. Manager Rudy Schleusner did this stunt for 'The Third Alarm.'"
 
 
 
1928 - The Temple vertical and a banner for "The Gaucho" hung from it are in the center of this detail from a photo looking west that was taken by Harold A. Parker. It's from the Huntington Library collection. The full photo appears on the website of the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration.
 

1928 - The theatre, again with the banner for "The Gaucho." The film had finished its twelve week run at the Chinese on January 22, 1928. It's another Harold A. Parker photo in the Huntington Library collection. That's 4th St. and a funeral parlor to the left of the theatre. 
 
 
 
1928 - A detail from Harold Parker's photo. 


1951 - We get a glimpse of a replacement El Rey marquee in this photo looking east on Main St. It's a MacArthur "welcome home" parade. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding this in the Examiner Negatives Collection of the USC Digital Library
 

 1951 - A detail from the Examiner photo.
 

1973 - A view looking west showing the effects of the Edwards facade remodel. Thanks to American Classic Images for the photo from their collection. 
 

 
1983 - A facade view ten years later from American Classic Images
 
 
 
2019 - A look east across 4th St. The theatre was once over on the left just a bit beyond the corner. Photo: Google Maps

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page about the El Rey Theatre for lots of discussion by Joe Vogel and other researchers. 

There are also comments of interest about this theatre on the Cinema Treasures page for the Temple Theatre in Temple City. Some of that discussion includes comments made in 2002 about the possibility of an earlier theatre owned by Mr. Temple at 611 W. Main in Alhambra.

Also see the page here on this site for the Temple Theatre in Temple City, a 1940 S. Charles Lee building.

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Elite Theatre

217 S. Myrtle Ave. Monrovia, CA 91016 | map |

Opening: Presumably around 1911. It's in the 1911 Monrovia city directory. The Elite was on the west side of the street a bit north of Palm Ave. The Colonial/Monrovia Theatre was in the next block south on the other side of the street. 

Closing: The date is unknown. Perhaps 1911 was it. 

Status: It's been demolished, whatever it was.  

Looking north from Palm Ave. The theatre would have been over on the left. Foothill Blvd. is a long block up to the right. Photo: Google Maps - 2019

More information: There isn't any yet.

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Family Theatre

7024 Greenleaf Ave. Whittier, CA 90602 | map |

Opened: 1913. The address before street renumbering was 124 S. Greenleaf Ave. This was second location for Whittier's first theatre -- its original location is unknown. Ron Pierce comments on Cinema Treasures: 

"The Family Theater, evidently Whittier’s first movie theater, became listed in the Whittier News in June of 1909 with no location noted. On September 18, 1909, the Keipp family opened it at a newer and roomier location, with 300-seats, at this address (then 124 South). The Family Theater dropped out of the listings in June of 1916, around the time of the opening of the new Gale Theatre. The building was later demolished."

The site was on the east side of the street a half block south of Philadelphia St. It was a busy block with other early theatres on the other side of the street including the Optic Theatre and, a bit later, the Gale Theatre. In 1932 the Wardman (now the Whittier Village Cinemas) would open south of the Family's location.   

Seats: 300 

Status: It's been demolished.
 

Looking south on Greenleaf Ave. That gray and white faux-Colonial structure in the center is on the site of the Family Theatre. Beyond is the turquiose of the Whittier Village Cinemas. Photo: Google Maps - 2019

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page about the Family Theatre. Thanks to Ron Pierce for the research.

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Fraternal Aid Opera House

NE corner of S. Gordon St. & W. 3rd St. Pomona, CA 91766 | map |


Opened: 1903 as the Fraternal Aid Opera House, built by the group Pomona Fraternal Aid. The building was also known as the Pomona Opera House. The early undated photo is in the collection of the Pomona Public Library.  On the side of the building it says "Fraternal Aid Erected A.D. 1903."

Two blocks east on 3rd from this 1903 building was the site of an earlier Pomona Opera House, a building at 3rd & Thomas that burned in 1895. A later building on that site was the entrance to the California/United Artists Theatre. Another block farther east and we're at the location of the much later Fox Pomona

The Fraternal Aid Opera House is in the 1912/13 and 1914 city directories as at the NE corner of Gordon & 3rd. 

Closing: The date is unknown. 

Status: It's been demolished. The site is now a parking lot.
 

Searching for a missing Opera House. It once was on the left where the parking lot now is. On the extreme left is Gordon St. Straight ahead it's a view east on 3rd with the tower of the Fox in the distance. Photo: Google Maps - 2019

More information: Sorry, but there isn't any at the moment.

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Gale Theatre

7023 Greenleaf Ave. Whittier, CA 90602 | map |

Opened: 1916. Joe Vogel found a reference in the January 22, 1916 issue of Southwest Contractor & Maufacturer noting that The Gale Theatrical Company would erect a brick theatre on S. Greenleaf Avenue. The original address would have been something like 115 S. Greenleaf. 

The location was on the west side of the street a half block south of Philadelphia St. It was just south of the location of the Optic Theatre, a house that closed a bit before the Gale opened. The Family Theatre was across the street. In 1932 the Wardman (now the Whittier Village Cinemas) would open just a bit farther south of where the Family had been.

In 1920 the Gale was being operated by Truman C. Berry, J.H. Gwin and E.C. Siler who would open the Scenic Theatre that year. That house was later renamed the Roxy Theatre.

Seating: 575 

Closing: Sometime in the mid-1920s is the guess.

Status: It's unknown. The church building now on the site could be a remodeled version of the Gale Theatre. 
 

On the far right, the storefront with the black awning is the former location of the Optic Theatre. The next building down, now a Victory Outreach Church, is at the Gale's location. The turquoise seen on the left of the image is the Whittier Village Cinemas. Photo: Google Maps - 2019

More Information: Cinema Treasures has a page about the Gale but no additional data has emerged. 

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Garfield Theatre

 9 E. Valley Blvd. Alhambra, CA 91801 | map |

Opened: November 12, 1924 as Bard's Garfield Theatre. The building (or what's left of it) is on the northeast corner of Valley Blvd. and Garfield Ave. This early photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The upper portion of the facade was later removed due to earthquake concerns.

Lou Bard operated a number of other theatres including three downtown: the Town Theatre, the College Theatre and the Olympic. Bard's was the circuit that also built the Vista Theatre on Sunset Dr. in the Los Feliz area. He also had the Glen Theatre in Glendale, the West Adams Theatre on Adams Blvd., and Bard's Colorado in Pasadena (now the Academy). Many of the theatres had Egyptian themed interiors.

Architect: Lewis A. Smith, who had done several other theatres in the circuit. The theatre had a full stage with dressing rooms located in the basement.

Seating: 1,181 all on one level. The restrooms were upstairs on either side of the booth with a cry room adjacent to each. The auditorium was parallel to Valley Blvd. with the stage at the east end of the building. 

It's listed as the Garfield Egyptian at 7 E. Valley Dr. in the 1925, 1926 and 1935 city directories. It was also called Bard's Egyptian and later just the Garfield.

This theatre was the major San Gabriel Valley vaudeville house and hosted all the first class acts. Its rooftop sign could be seen for miles around. The house had a fire in 1928. Joe Vogel found this item in the January 13, 1929 issue of The Film Daily: "Alhambra House Opens - Alhambra, Cal. — The Garfield, recently destroyed by fire, has been opened with renovations. The house shows sound picture via Vitaphone."

The elaborate cornice of the building was removed in the 50s. Joe reports that in the 1950s it was operated by the Vinicoff circuit, with evidently an interest by Jimmy Edwards. He adds: "When I first went to a movie there, in the early 1950s, there was still some of the original Greco-Egyptian style decoration in the auditorium, but that was all gone by the early 1960s." 

In the 60s the Edwards circuit assumed full control. After the Edwards circuit opened the Monterey Mall Cinemas, this house was leased in 1982 to an operator running Chinese films.

Closing: Sometime in the early 1990s.

Status: The auditorium portion of the building was demolished in 2001. The commercial building, originally called the Valley Grand Building, survives with its retail spaces on the ground floor and apartments above. The lobby portion of the building is now a retail space. The auditorium area is now a parking lot.
 

Interior views: 

 
A 1998 lobby view from the Jeff Briggs collection. Thanks to Ron Strong for posting the photo on Cinema Treasures.  

 
 
The auditorium late in its life with all of the original decor either removed or draped over. It's a photo by Michael Owen Baker for the L.A. Times. Thanks to Ron Strong for locating it for a post on Cinema Treasures. Visit Ron's own Bijou Memories site for more of his research and discussion about San Fernando Valley and San Gabriel Valley theatres he once visited. 
 

More exterior views:

1925 - "5 Acts Big Time Road Show Vaudeville." The feature film that week, "Two Shall Be Born" with Jane Novak, was a December 1924 release. This photo from Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives appears on page 108 of the terrific 2008 Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres in Los Angeles" by Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Amy Ronnebeck Hall and Mr. Wanamaker. There's a preview of the book on Google Books. The authors comment: 
 
"A thousand people were turned away from the opening of the Garfield Theatre in 1924, when Alhambra was a thinly settled town amidst waving grain. By 1985, the population had changed. The Garfield sold shrimp chips and soybean drinks to customers lining up for the latest action flick from Taiwan. Alhambra is no longer sparsely populated, and the theatre, attributed to L.A. Smith, is not in business." 


 
1938 - A look west on Valley Blvd. toward Garfield from the Automobile Club of Southern California collection. The photo appears on the USC Digital Library website.  

 

1983 - Thanks to American Classic Images for this entrance view from their collection.  
 
 
  
1983 - The east end of the building. It's a photo from American Classic Images
 
 
  
1983 - Thanks to American Classic Images for this stagehouse view. 
 
 
  
1980s - A back wall view taken by David Wayne Bailey. It's on Flickr. Joe Vogel comments: "The sailing ship was the logo of the Bard circuit, the original operator of the Garfield."

 
 
c.1990 - "Vitaphone - Movietone - Stage plays." A fine back wall view located by Ken McIntyre for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 
 
 
 
c.1990 - Thanks to Bill Gabel for this shot of the roof sign. The photo was a post on Cinema Treasures.  
 
 
 
1992 - Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating this parade view. 
 
 
 
2009 - A view toward the building from Garfield Ave. It's a photo by Noirish Los Angeles contributor Sopas EJ that he featured, along with the two views below, on Noirish post #194. Thanks for the photos, Sopas. His post is still up but these photos have vanished from the site.  
 
 
  
2009 - A closer look at the area that had been the theatre entrance. Photo: Sopas EJ 
 
 
  
2009 - Around back looking for the missing auditorium. Photo: Sopas EJ


2012 - That's Garfield Ave. on the left. On the right we're looking east on Valley Blvd. Photo: Google Maps

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Garfield for fine research by Joe Vogel and others. Cinema Tour has a page on the theatre with several 2003 exterior views.

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