A March 6, 1926 L.A. Times ad located by Mike Rivest.
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 Historic Hollywood Photographs collection for the photo. It's their item #T-014-4.
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 Historic Hollywood Photographs collection as their item #T-014-2.
We get a drive-by in "Hollywood 1964," two minutes of footage on YouTube from John Bryant. In a post on Photos of Los Angeles he notes that the footage was shot by one of his grandparents. Thanks to Alex Rojas for spotting it. We also see the Pantages, the Iris/Fox and the Chinese.
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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