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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Avalon Theatre

1 Casino Way, Avalon, Catalina Island, CA 90704 | map |


Opened: May 29, 1929 with the Douglas Fairbanks film "The Iron Mask." Thanks to Nile Hight for the 2016 photo of the Casino Building, one of eight appearing in a post on the Belle Epoque to Art Deco Facebook page. He notes: "That's Los Angeles rising in the background."

Phone:
  310-510-0179   Website: www.visitcatalinaisland.com | photo gallery |

Architects:
Sumner M. Spaulding and Walter I. Webber. John Gabriel Beckman did the murals. The site Ask Art has a bit about Mr. Beckman and the Avalon murals. Beckman also worked on the Fox Fullerton and the Chinese.

Seating: 1,184

This underwater deco confection is on the ground floor of William Wrigley Jr.'s monumental Casino Building -- with the ballroom above it. It's still owned by the Wrigley family and operated by their Santa Catalina Island Co. Construction was managed by David M. Renton, who did many other projects for Mr. Wrigley.

The building, which originally cost $2 million, received a restoration in 1994. The Casino was built to replace an earlier dance pavilion on the site, the Sugarloaf Casino, named for the Sugarloaf rock formation it sat on. Much of that rock was removed for construction of the new building. There's never been a gambling operation in the building. In Italian the word Casino means gathering place.

The theatre was profiled in a May 10, 1930 article in the trade magazine Exhibitors Herald-World: 

“Overlooking the bay of romantic Avalon, metropolis (for it is that) of Santa Catalina Island stands the latest of William Wrigley Jr.’s magnificent gestures to wholesome pleasures, a building of steel and stone which yet has all the gossamer unreality of a fairy queen’s palace. It is called the Casino and it houses a fully equipped motion picture theatre and ballroom. The architecture of the exterior is of a Mediterranean pattern, a style that is followed throughout the foyers and corridors inside. It is within the theatre itself that all traditional manners are flung aside to create an original environment in the essential Catalinian spirit-that of make-believe.

"The walls of the theatre, which is located on the first floor, start converging toward the center of the ceiling and stage, almost but a few feet from the floor, and upon them is painted an impressionistic representation of Man unfettered amid a boundless Nature. It is allegory. It is history. And it may be hope. One assumes that it is also Catalina. The auditorium, thus brightly painted in an original allegory and of atmospheric design, is broad and long, but it contains no pillars.

There are about 1,300 seats, over 200 of them being luxurious three-wing back loge chairs. Seating is by the American Seating Company. The lighting is indirect, being projected upward from a false half-wall just inside the wall bearing the murals, which are thus illuminated. The ballroom is located above the theatre. It is estimated that 2,000 couples can dance there at the same time. The Casino cost $2,000,000. The architects were Webber and Spaulding." Thanks to theatre historian Cezar Del Valle for the find. He included the piece in a Theatre Talks post about the Avalon. 

On the Cinema Treasures page for another Avalon theatre, the Riviera, Ken Roe notes:

"Tom White, a Hollywood promoter who held the lease on Avalon’s Riviera Theater, leased the new Avalon Theater in 1929 and also signed on as general manager of the Casino operation. His lifestyle proved too flamboyant, and his association with the Casino ended in December 1929. Art LaShelle, who had managed the Riviera and Avalon Theater’s for Tom White, stayed on to manage both theatres and facilities until 1939....Western Amusement Company, which operated a number of theaters on the mainland, obtained a lease on both the Avalon and Riviera Theaters in 1949. The company closed the Avalon Theater during the winter but kept the Riviera Theater open all year until it was converted into a bowling alley in 1961."

Stage: Yes, it's not just a film house. There's a stage with full fly capability. The dimmer system is a Frank Adam / Major installation with house lights on a board in the booth and stage lights on the board backstage. The master on the booth board can be controlled by a motor allowing operation at the booth front wall or from backstage.

Pipe organ: Still in place and used regularly. It's a Page 3 manual 16 rank instrument.

Booth: Projection is now digital but the theatre retains 35mm capability for special events. Scroll down the page for lots of booth photos.  

Status: Open all year with first run films.

Tours: The theatre can be visited daily as part of the Catalina Island Company's Behind the Scenes Casino Tour


The entrance: 


The boxoffice in 1929. It's a photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.  



The view south along the entrance colonnade. It's a photo that appeared in the May 10, 1930 issue of Exhibitors Herald-World with this caption:  "A corridor of the Casino leading to the theatre, which is located on the main floor of the building. The design here is of Mediterranean motifs, in common with the exterior, but unlike the auditorium."



The west side of the building with entrances to the theatre and ballroom. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



The boxoffice. The theatre entrances are on either side of the boxoffice. The doors leading to the ramps up to the ballroom are out of the frame to the left. Photo: Nile Hight - Belle Epoque to Art Deco Facebook page - 2016 



Looking up at the sea-themed mural above the boxoffice. Thanks to Sandi Hemmerlein for the 2016 photo. It's one included in the Avoiding Regret photo essay about her tour of the building "Come Gather Round All Ye Islanders at the Catalina Casino" where there are many more fine views of both the theatre and the ballroom above. The other two chapters of her Catalina adventure are "The Island Where the Buffalo Roam" and "The House of Chewing Gum and Roses." Also visit the Avoiding Regret Facebook page.



A detail of the boxoffice metalwork. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - 2016



Another view of the mural above the boxoffice. Photo: Nile Hight - Belle Epoque to Art Deco - 2016 



South along the entrance colonnade. Thanks to Chiffonade for her 2006 photo on Flickr


 
A closer look at the mural at the south end of the colonnade. Photo: Chiffonade - Flickr - 2006



A colonnade light fixture. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



Another one of the eight tile murals. Photo: Chiffonade - Flickr - 2006



A detail of the mural in the photo above. Photo: Chiffonade - Flickr - 2006



Looking north toward the Ballroom entrance doors. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



 The Ballroom's entrance doors on the north end of the colonnade. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



A detail from the nural on the north end of the colonnade. Photo: Chiffonade - Flickr - 2006



An entrance door detail. Photo: Nile Hight - Belle Epoque to Art Deco - 2016


Lobby views:


Looking to house left. Photo: Chiffonade - Flickr - 2006. Thanks!



A lobby ceiling fixture. Thanks to former Cinema Treasures contributor Hollywood 90038 for the 2009 photo. 


 
A lovely look to house left in 2014 from David Prasad on Flickr.



Looking toward house left in the lobby with a peek into the auditorium. It's a photo Nile Hight borrowed for his 2016 post about the building on the Belle Epoque to Art Deco Facebook page. It's from the Catalina Island Company's web page about the Avalon Theatre.



A detail of the sign above the entrance to the center aisle. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



The house right end of the lobby. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018


The auditorium:


A 1929 view of the auditorium from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The photo made an appearance in the May 10, 1930 Exhibitors Herald-World article with this caption: "Auditorium of the theatre looking toward the stage. Observable here is the manner in which the walls, short way from the floor, begin to converge, quickly becoming the ceiling, forming a sky-like canopy."



A luscious wide angle view of the auditorium that appeared on an earlier version of the Catalina Island Company's page about the Avalon Theatre



A vista down the center aisle. Photo: Hollywood 90038 - c.2009



The auditorium under different lighting. It's a 2013 photo that appears on the Catalina Island Company's Avalon Theatre photo gallery page.



A postcard of the theatre's auditorium from Cezar Del Valle's Theatre Talks collection. To learn of his latest tours and research visit TheatreTalks.com or TheatreTalks.blogspot.com. Thanks, Cezar!  The card also appears, with many other Catalina views, on a page of cards from the island on the site Penny Postcard from California.



A closer look at the proscenium and organ grilles from the Catalina Island Company website's Avalon Theatre photo gallery page. The painting on the asbestos is called "Flight of Fancy Westward."



A closer look at the Botticelli-inspired girl atop the proscenium. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - Avoiding Regret - 2016. Sandi comments: "Apparently the acoustics are so good—and the auditorium is so sound-proof—that a full band could be playing for a room full of dancers upstairs, and it would never interrupt the sound of the movie being projected below."



A view of the house left wall from a 360 degree panorama by Carel Struycken. It's on the site Spherical Panoramas where you can pan around and zoom in on details.



A postcard showing a section of the house left wall. Thanks to Michelle Gerdes for sharing the card from her collection.



A detail from near the proscenium house left. Photo: Nile Hight - Belle Epoque to Art Deco - 2016



The house right wall. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



A look back from onstage. It's a photo that appeared in the May 10, 1930 issue of Exhibitors Herald-World. Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for locating it for a post about the Avalon on his  TheatreTalks.wordpress.com site. 



A look to the rear of the auditorium. Photo: Nile Hight - Belle Epoque to Art Deco - 2016



Another back wall view. It's a 2018 photo from Pancho Ds included with a post on the Facebook page Projectionists International. Thanks to Woody Wise for spotting it.



A postcard view of the back wall. Thanks to Hank Zeletel for posting it on Cinema Treasures.



A closer look toward the booth ports. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - Avoiding Regret - 2016



A detail of the back wall mural. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - Avoiding Regret - 2016



A look along the back wall. Photo: Hollywood 90038 - c.2009



One of the 1929 vintage end standards. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - 2016


Backstage: 


A detail of the counterweight system lockrail. Note the unique racheted locking tension blocks. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - 2016



The Frank Adam / Major dimmerboard. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - 2016.


In the booth:


A perhaps 40s booth view. The Brenkert projectors and Brenkert Enarc lamps seen here are still in the booth. Thanks to Dallas Movie Theaters for finding the trade magazine photo for a post on Cinema Treasures.

Before the theatre went digital they were using a platter system plus a Xetron console (with a 2Kw lamp) with a Century SA on it. The soundhead was a Century R3 with a red LED retrofit. This equipment was in addition to the Brenkerts. In a 2005 post on the ECN Electrical Forum their contributor Mxslick, who serviced the booth, noted that the Brenkerts still ran beautifully and were used only a few times a year -- occasionally for nitrate prints at their Silent Film Festival.



The left end of the booth after automation with the Xetron console and Century projector in place. Photo: Mxslick - ECN Electrical Forum - 2005

Mxslick is the gentleman who at the time was servicing the booth. His photos, along with many comments, appear in four parts on the ECN Electrical Forum: | Part 1 - booth dimmerboard | Part 2 - dimmers and fuses | Part 3 - motor generator set & controls | Part 4 - projectors |  



A look inside one of the Brenkert heads. It's an RCA 1040 soundhead. Photo: Mxslick - ECN Electrical Forum - 2005



Tour time in the booth. On the left it's an Eastman 16mm machine. The two Brenkert 35s are used occasionally, such as for an annual silent film festival. On the far right it's the theatre's digital projector. Thanks to Pancho Ds for posting the 2018 photo on the Facebook page Projectionists International.



A closer look at the #2 Brenkert Enarc lamphouse. Photo: Pancho Ds - Projectionists International - 2018



The inside of one of the Enarc lamps. Photo: Mxslick - ECN Electrical Forum - 2005


 
A retired RCA PG-91 sound system. Photo: Pancho Ds - Projectionists International - 2018



Looking in between the #2 Brenkert machine and the digital projector currently used. Photo: Pancho Ds - Projectionists International - 2018



One of the control stations. We're at the left side of the booth next to the Century projector, the machine in daily use before the house went digital. Photo: Pancho Ds - Projectionists International - 2018



The Frank Adam / Major board on the right end of the booth for controlling house lights. Another board is backstage for the stage lights. Photo: Mxslick - ECN Electrical Forum - 2005



Another view of the board with a bit of the digital projector on the left. The large switches on the right are for the arc lamps. Photo: Pancho Ds - Projectionists International - 2018



The top of the dimmerboard. Photo: Pancho Ds - Projectionists International - 2018. Thanks, Pancho!



The controls for the booth exhaust fans and the DC generator voltage, located on the right end of the board. Photo: Mxslick - ECN Electrical Forum - 2005



Several of the dimmers. Photo: Mxslick - ECN Electrical Forum - 2005 



The motor drive for the grand master. Photo: Mxslick - ECN Electrical Forum - 2005



Some of the branch circuit fuses for houselights. The panel is in a room behind the dimmerboard. Photo: Mxslick - ECN Electrical Forum - 2005



Contactors and fuses for several of the house light and stage circuits, in the room behind the board. Photo: Mxslick - ECN Electrical Forum - 2005



Another view of several contactors. Photo: Mxslick - ECN Electrical Forum - 2005



The Westinghouse motor-generator set to provide DC for what originally was a complement of seven arc lamps. Photo: Mxslick - ECN Electrical Forum - 2005



The starter for the motor-generator. Photo: Mxslick - ECN Electrical Forum - 2005



The DC switchboard. The multiple knife switches for each arc allow different amounts of ballast resistance to be cut in or out. Photo: Mxslick - ECN Electrical Forum - 2005



The Brenograph effects projector in 2005, when it was still operable. That's a pole-mounted hand feed arc followspot beyond. Photo: Mxslick - ECN Electrical Forum



Another view of the theatre's Brenograph, no longer in use. It's a c.2013 photo that appears on the Catalina Island Company's web page about their Behind the Scenes Casino Tour.  



A Simplex E-7 with an Ashcraft lamphouse on display in an area adjacent to the booth. Photo: Pancho Ds - Projectionists International - 2018



A view toward the screen. Photo: Pancho Ds - Projectionists International - 2018



Another porthole view. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - Avoiding Regret - 2016. Thanks, Sandi!


The Ballroom:


Looking toward the bandstand. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



A ceiling detail. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



Across to the south wall. All the doors open to the promenade outside. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



On the promenade looking toward Los Angeles. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018


More exterior views: 


c.1910 - An early postcard view from the collection of Brent Dickerson showing the harbor before either of the Casino buildings had been constructed. The card appears with the third of Brent's four chapters about Catalina in his epic adventure "A Visit To Old Los Angeles." | San Pedro / Catalina Part 1 | Catalina Part 2 | Catalina Part 3 | Catalina Part 4 |



1928 - A view of the bay from William Wrigley's home showing the first Casino building on the site. The present building was constructed in 1929. It's a photo from the California Historical Society collection appearing on the USC Digital Library website.



c.1929 - A water view from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



c.1929 - The entrance from above. It's a photo that's in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



c.1935 - Thanks to Brian Michael McCray for sharing this card from his collection.



c.1935 - A postcard from the site Penny Postcards from California that appears on their page of cards from Catalina. 



c.1938 - A Dick Whittington photo from the USC Digital Library collection. Also on the site, among many others, see a view to the south and looking north across the bay, both from the California Historical Society.



1977 - The building from the north. It's a photo on the Los Angeles Public Library website from their Herald Examiner collection.

Also in the LAPL collection: ballroom - 1929 | ballroom - c.1937 - Herman Schultheis | ballroom stage - c.1937 - Schultheis | ..and many more island views if you care to search.



2016 - A look down on the Catalina Casino Building. Thanks to Sandi Hemmerlein for the photo. It's one included in her Avoiding Regret photo essay about her tour of the building "Come Gather Round All Ye Islanders at the Catalina Casino" where there are many more fine views of both the theatre and the ballroom.



2018 - The Casino from the south. Downtown is off to the left. It's a photo from Pancho Ds post on the Facebook page Projectionists International.



2018 - The building from the north. Photo: Bill Counter



2018 - The west side of the building. Photo: Bill Counter

More information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Avalon for many comments. Don't miss Sandi Hemmerlein's 2016 Avoiding Regret article about her tour of the building: "Come Gather Round All Ye Islanders at the Catalina Casino."

Hadley Meares did a fine 2014 article "The Catalina Casino: The Magic Isle's Art Deco Pleasure Palace" for the KCET series "Lost Landmarks."

Other Catalina Theatres: See the listing about the Riviera Theatre, which closed in 1961. There's also a discussion about other theatres on the island including the Strand and the Bandbox.

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