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Filmarte Theatre

1228 Vine St. Los Angeles, CA 90028
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A 1937 look north on Vine St. toward the Filmarte. It's one of over 800 images in the great book "The Story of Hollywood: An Illustrated History" by Gregory Paul Williams, available on Amazon. This photo is on page 225 and appears on the Google Books preview.

Opened: Sometime in early 1926 as the La Mirada Theatre, the name derived from the cross street.

The new theatre got a mention along with two small photos in the Better Theatres section of the May 15, 1926 issue of Exhibitors Herald. Thanks to Mike Hume/Historic Theatre Photography for finding it on Internet Archive. The Herald noted it was a project of Holly-Mar Theatres, Inc., and had cost $100,000 to build. 

In 1928 it was renamed the Filmarte and promoted as a venue for serious film lovers. An L.A. Times April 1928 article about the new venture "Filmarte Theatre Launched" noted that they would be running "Strange, Artistic, Foreign Pictures" -- and that a woman ("100 pounds of piquant femininity") would be running it! The woman in question was Miss Regge Doran. Reopening was May 9 with "The Golden Clown" a silent film from Denmark. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the article. He also found the May reopening ad.

As the Filmarte it was a West Coast Theatres operation. It had good runs of a number of French films in the 1930s and became a revival house in the 40s while still under Fox West Coast management.

In the early 50s it was put to use as a TV studio for various shows.  In 1957 it was renamed the Linkletter Playhouse and became home of Art Linkletter's "People Are Funny." Part of the run of "You Bet Your Life" with Groucho Marx was done at the Filmarte.

From 1962 to 1964 it was known as the Steve Allen Playhouse. Clarkus, one of our contributors, notes that the "Steve Allen Show" is "now considered to be one of the landmark shows of television history, introducing countless new comedians and performers and some of the greatest ad-lib comedy sketches of all time." He adds: "I believe the Filmarte was selected for a TV studio because of it's proximity to the Pacific Telephone video hub at Sunset and Gower. At that time, almost all video in and out of LA ran through this hub. When sending TV signals down coaxial cables, distance was critical - the shorter the better."

Later it was used as a rehearsal space for musical acts and as a production facility for music videos. Marc Wanamaker relates that in 1967 Gary Essert wanted to open his club Kaleidoscope there. After a month of painting, removing seats and decorating, they got kicked out. The landlord, National General, decided they didn't want that kind of operation in one of their buildings. Their tenant had sublet without their approval. Ken McIntyre found the April 1967 L.A. Times article about the mess. After moving the opening weekend to the Embassy Room at the Ambassador, the operation later settled in at the Earl Carroll.

In the 70s the building was known as the Hilliard Studio Sound Stage. A fire destroyed the interior in 1990 -- the L.A. Times had a story. At the time it was a being used by a production company called Late Night Studios.

Seating: The original capacity was listed as 825 in a May 1926 Exhibitors Herald item. Cinema Treasures has a 900 number from an unspecified source, perhaps from a later Film Daily yearbook.

Status:  What was left of the interior after the fire was gutted. There was excavation done for underground parking and the structure was rebuilt as office space. It's currently occupied by a mental health clinic.

A lobby view from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. It's a shot taken after the draping project of the early 40s.

An early view of the auditorium as the La Mirada from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. Note those comfy loges in the back.

A rare 1943 view of the interior after some serious draping. Thanks to the wonderful Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph Collection for the photo.

The rear of the house in 1943. It's a photo in the Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph Collection.

A look at the Filmarte's boxoffice from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. They're running "Klovnen" (aka "The Golden Clown") a Danish film from 1928. It was the first film when the theatre reopened as the Filmarte.

The Filmarte in 1933, running "Be Mine Tonight." Thanks to Ken McIntyre for spotting this one -- he had it as a post on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. The photo is in the Bruce Torrence  Hollywood Photographs Collection.

"Owl Show Every Saturday." The theatre in 1946 running "The Bells of St. Mary's" with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for a post of the photo on Photos of Los Angeles.

A 1957 photo taken by Gerald A. Smith when the Filmarte Theatre was being used by Art Linkletter. It's in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

The theatre in use in 1962 for the Steve Allen Show. Note the old Filmarte sign on the side wall. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the photo. And thanks to Clarkus for doing some fine color correction and other work on it.

More information: See the Cinema Treasures page for interesting research by Joe Vogel and other contributors. Wikipedia has an article on the building as the Steve Allen Playhouse.

Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the L.A. Times articles about the Filmarte opening and the Kaleidoscope debacle. He had them as a comments to a post of a Filmarte photo on Photos of Los Angeles

See the page on the Sherman Theatre in West Hollywood, another house exemplifying the "Little Cinema" movement in the mid 20s.   

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