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Changeable Neon (and other Pantages Persuits)

I've been spending a lot of time lately looking at exterior views of the Hollywood Pantages.

The page on the Hollywood Pantages has a number of new items on it including a lovely 1964 view from the Martin Alison collection.

But what got this marquee-viewing obsession going is this 1939 view of the premiere of "When Tomorrow Comes" that I recently saw on the site "Remapping Hollywould."

It also appears on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles and in other collections.

Click on the image to go to a larger view and, perhaps, you'll understand my excitement.

Of course I'm obsessively interested in changeable neon.

When most theatres were doing back lit milk glass letters with sedate white letters on a black background, the Pantages opted for this much more expensive, fragile, and difficult to store style of lettering. But what punch it had!

Note that these don't look like they're "channel letters" with neon surrounded by a sheet metal channel. A look at the end of the marquee in the 1939 view above makes it clear that the neon was on the surface with no sheet metal around it. Thus you had better visibility from wider angles.

The second photo is a 1930 one from the California State Library that also shows this neon font. A click on it gets you the big view on the Library's website.

Another view of the neon letter font is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection: 1937's 100 Men and a Girl."

But what gets really interesting is that the Pantages didn't use the neon letter look all the time. The marquee could also accommodate back lit milk glass letters.

And, unless my fading eyesight is deceiving me, they had both a "white on black" font as well as a very modern looking "black on white" version.

This latter is a look that most theatres didn't get into until the late 40s.

The view on the right is also from 1930 -- with no changeable neon. Note the dark letters on the light background.

It's from the Los Angeles Public Library -- click on it to get the full view on their website. And, also from the Library, another perhaps clearer view of this font: looking west in 1936.

One last example. Again it doesn't look like the changeable neon and here we get white letters on a black background.

It's from 1943 and on the UCLA Calisphere website.

What you see here is a detail. Click on it to go to Calisphere -- and then you can zoom in and move around the image.

Come visit the page on the Hollywood Pantages for more views from a variety of sources!

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