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Early Legit Venues West of Broadway

In reading about downtown movie theatres of the teens and twenties I keep getting drawn farther into the past. My snooping around on Hill St. and other locations farther west is reflected in a number of new listings on the Theatres West of Broadway page of the Downtown Theatres site.

Simpson's Auditorium opened in 1889 was was touted for its great acoustics. It was heavily used for concerts and other theatrical events. The building was actually built as a church and on Sundays it was better known as Simpson's Tabernacle. Only a small portion of the complex remains on Hope St. and it's now a Christian Science church. The photo here is what's left of Simpson's in 2010.

A bit farther south on Hope St. (1044) there was the Gamut Auditorium (1904). It seated 668 in the main theatre and was built by a social club for musicians and other artistic types. Their building also featured other meeting, banquet and practice rooms. Demolished long ago. Perhaps you can do the research and let me know the fate of the club and their building.

In looking at accounts of the Philharmonic Auditorium at 5th and Olive I was intrigued by tales of the earlier building on the site, Hazard's Pavilion. Starting in 1887 the Pavilion hosted everything from agricultural fairs to the Metropolitan Opera. I've got some links to nice photos from USC and the Los Angeles Library in case you're curious.

The Turnverein Hall at 1345 S. Figueroa was interesting to investigate as the organization (which still exists) figures in the investigation of two later theatres. This Figueroa St. building was a two story wood frame structure built in 1872. It became popular for theatrical performances as its size and acoustics were better than several other early competitors.

The organization moved in the 1880s to Spring St. and the building there was known later as Lyceum Hall, next door to the Lyceum Theatre. The Turnverein gang next moved to Main St. and that building later became a movie theatre called the Regal, among many other names.

And there's the Embassy/ Trinity Auditorium at 9th and Grand. Still surviving but dormant. Apparently there's been a bit of work happening this month but it's unknown what (if anything) this portends.

And have you ever checked out the photos of the Biltmore Theatre? Always a legit house, it opened in 1923 as part of the Biltmore Hotel and was for decades a major roadshow stop. Alas, demolished in 1964 for a new tower.

That's the old legit news from west of Broadway.

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