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Holly Theatre

6523 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028 | map |

Opened: July 31, 1931 as an "automatic theatre" called the Studio Theatre in what had been a 30' x 100' store space across the street from the Iris, the theatre later renamed the Fox. The building, credited to E.B. Rust, dates from 1920 -- or at least there was a major remodel that year. 
The photo of "The World's Most Unique Theatre" with their opening attraction on the marquee appears on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection. A cropped version of the photo appeared with "The Features of an Automatic Cinema...,"  an article by Mr. Lee in the November 21, 1931 issue of Motion Picture Herald. It's on Internet Archive.

 A July 31, 1931 opening day ad. Thanks to Comfortably Cool for locating this for a post on Cinema Treasures.

Architect: S. Charles Lee. He also did a 1936 remodel.

An early facade rendering by Lee. It's on the Online Archive of California from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection. The sketch also appears in the March 9, 1935 issue of Motion Picture Herald with an article titled "New Theatres From Old: The Front." The issue is on Internet Archive.

Seating: In 1936 after a remodel the capacity was reported as 500. When the theatre had opened in 1931 the capacity was 303.

The "automatic" business meant that there were no ticket takers or ushers and just vending machines in the lobby. This was a project of Howard Hughes' Hughes-Franklin circuit. The circuit didn't last long but the theatre survived.

The newly opened theatre got a lot of coverage in Motion Picture Herald. This facade drawing and floorplans appeared with the article "The Unique Studio Theatre" in the August 1, 1931 issue, available on Internet Archive.

The article's authors appeared worried that the "turnstyle" method of admitting patrons, pioneered by Trans-Lux in newsreel theatres in New York would, when applied to a theatre running feature films, degrade the moviegoing experience. It might "create a distinct class of theatre, opposed in many ways to the type that the industry had at great cost and effort ultimately built up."

Among the interesting features of the "world's most unique theatre" were:

"Whispering display cases" -- there were speakers below to give you some audio information about the film being advertised.

Front doors used as display cases for added display area.

A soft drink bar that served both customers in the lobby as well as passers-by on the sidewalk.

An exposed boxoffice counter -- the glass separating the customer from the cashier was slid across only in inclement weather.

An electric eye to open the door automatically for the customer after he had paid.

A remote controlled automatic change machine recessed in the wall.

Vending machines in the lobby -- styled to match the deco lobby. Also a penny scale.

An electric eye operated drinking fountain.

No ushers -- that military style of service was dispensed with. But there was an unobtrusive hostess to offer her services as needed.

The upstairs lounge offered more vending machines -- and a photo booth.

A look at the basement mechanical equipment through a glass panel in the sidewalk.

Floorplans for the main floor and booth level from the August 1, 1931 issue of Motion Picture Herald, available on Internet Archive.

A 1933 ad for the Studio. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating it for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 
In 1936 the theatre got a remodel that increased its seating capacity and was then called the Colony. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding this Times article appearing that year about a change of operators. 

A December 9, 1936 ad on the occasion of the reopening as the Colony. Thanks to Mike Rivest for locating it.

In 1941 it was renamed the Hollywood Music Hall and frequently booked with the three other "Music Hall" theatres: the Music Hall in Beverly Hills, the Hawaii Theatre down the street (then called the Hawaii Music Hall) and the Music Hall downtown (before and after known as the Tower Theatre).
In the early 50s the theatre was renamed the Academy Theatre.

 A renovation in 1961. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating this newspaper item.

In the mid-1960s it was operated by Fred Stein's Statewide Theatres. The Statewide sites were taken over by Loew's in 1967 and they continued to run it as the Academy. In 1970 they renamed it Loew's Holly.

Loew's gave it a remodel with "Mad Mod Decor." Thanks to Mike Rivest for locating this June 26, 1970 reopening ad.

Loew's left the Southern California market in 1972 and then it was General Cinema's turn, calling it the Holly Cinema. The Steins were soon back with their new company Century Cinema Circuit for a brief period. When they headed into bankruptcy in late 1974 Seattle-based Sterling Recreation Organization bought some of their assets, including the lease on the Holly. 

It was frequently a move-over house from the Paramount/El Capitan which was operated by this same assortment of circuits. The most renowned booking the theatre had was a 62 week run of Caligula starting in 1980.

Closing: It closed as a theatre in 1986.

Status: It was gutted and once again it's retail space. It was a Scientology testing center for several years but is now home to Harold's Chicken & Bar. 

The Holly in the Movies:

Toward the end of Richard Fleischer's counterfeiting tale "Trapped" (Eagle-Lion, 1949) we get a view of the Holly, then called the Hollywood Music Hall. The film stars Lloyd Bridges, Barbara Payton and John Holt. A real treat is a finale (including an electrocution) at the Los Angeles Railway's streetcar barns at 7th and Central. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a couple shots of a nice U-turn in front of the Chinese and a quick look at the El Capitan, then called the Paramount.

Interior views: 

A 1931 shot showing the "magic-eye"drinking fountain in the lobby. It's on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection. The photo by H. P. Woodcock also appears in an August 29, 1931 Motion Picture Herald article.

A 1931 upstairs lounge view taken by  H.P. Woodcock. showing the photo booth, the "Studio Photo Mill." It appears on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection. A version of the photo with slightly different cropping also appears in the the August 29, 1931 article "The Studio Theatre: Machine Age Cinema," available on Internet Archive.

The only auditorium photo is this one appearing with the August 29, 1931 Motion Picture Herald article "The Studio Theatre: Machine Age Cinema."

"Fresh air the year 'round." A view of the "weather factory" down through a glass panel in the sidewalk. It's a H.P. Woodcock photo on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection. The  photo also appears in the Motion Picture Herald article from August 29, 1931.

More exterior views:

1930 - "The Features of an Automatic Cinema...," an article appearing in the November 21, 1931 issue of the Motion Picture Herald (available on Internet Archive), included this photo of the retail space before S. Charles Lee turned it into a theatre. Also see the article's conclusion.

1931 - An entrance view from an August 29 Motion Picture Herald article "The Studio Theatre: Machine Age Cinema" which profiled the newly opened theatre. The four page article included six photos. That "HF" we see see above the boxoffice window stood for the Hughes-Franklin theatre circuit.

1931 - A photo of the Studio appearing in the November 21, 1931 issue of Motion Picture Herald with the article "The Features of an Automatic Cinema as seen in the Studio Theatre" by S. Charles Lee. The continuation of the article is back on page 138 of that issue. The photo also appears as part of a "Hollywood's Sensational Automatic Theatre" collage in UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection indexed on Calisphere.

- The Dec 19, 1931 Motion Picture Herald issue's article "Air Conditioning Small Theatres and its Cost" included this wider view of the Studio Theatre's entrance. The article also included a photo of the "weather factory."

- A look east on Hollywood Blvd. Both lady and dog are unidentified. Admission at the Studio: 15 cents. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for the find -- a post of his on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.

1942 - The theatre in its Music Hall days. The photo was a contribution by Bill Gabel on Cinema Treasures. The main feature was "Commandos Strike at Dawn." 

1947 - A Frasher Foto Card from the Pomona Library appearing on Calisphere. There's also a zoom version. We're looking east toward what was then the Music Hall Theatre on the left with the Warner beyond. We also get a view of the Iris / Fox on the right.

c.1952 - A lovely vista west along Hollywood Blvd. past the theatre's marquee on the right, here with signage as the Academy. The marquee says it's "available." Thanks to Bill Gable for finding the photo for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. There's also a slightly cropped version from Richard Garcia on Vintage Los Angeles.

1953 - Looking west with the Warner running "This Is Cinerama." Beyond it's the Iris (in 1968 to become the Fox) on the left and the Academy on the right. The California Historical Society photo is in the USC Digital Library collection.

1953 - A detail from the USC image. The Academy is running "The Jazz Singer," this version a February 1953 release with Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee.

1956 - A view of the Academy running "Gervaise" with Maria Schell. Thanks to Sean Ault for the photo from his collection.

1959 - A view east on Hollywood Blvd. toward the Academy. Thanks to Sean Ault for sharing this from his collection. The theatre was running "The Wreck of the Mary Deare" with Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston along with "The House of Intrigue." Down the street at the Warner it's "South Seas Adventure" in three strip Cinerama.

1960 - A photo discovered by Ken McIntyre for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. They were playing the Russian drama "Ballad of a Soldier."  Thanks, Ken!

1963 - There's a nice ride down the street in "Hollywood Blvd 1960 [sic] 'Vintage Los Angeles' on Facebook - Getty Images," a 1 minute+ clip on YouTube from Alison Martino. The Academy was running a double bill of "Bye Bye Birdie" with Ann-Margret and the Bob Hope/Anita Ekberg feature "Call Me Bwana."

The Iris had a reissue of the 1954 film "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." "How the West Was Won" was playing at the Warner. Thanks to Sean Ault for spotting the footage. The clip also appears on the Getty Images website where they note that it was shot by Warner Bros.

1966 - Thanks to Warren Beckerman for sending in this view. We're looking west with the theatre, here still called the Academy, running the western "Alvarez Kelly," an October release with William Holden and Richard Widmark.

1966 - Another photo by Mr. Beckerman, here looking east toward the Warner. Thanks, Warren!

1968 - A lovely look west from Wilcox toward the Academy. The footage, also with views of the Vogue running "The Thomas Crowne Affair" and the Warner running "2001," appeared in Episode 4 of Leslie Chilcott's 2020 Epix series "Helter Skelter: An American Myth." Thanks to Donavan S. Moye for spotting the theatres in the footage and getting the screenshot. 

1970 - The theatre during its brief tenure as Loew's Holly. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library 

1970 - Another "Watermelon Man" view. Thanks to Mark London for this one on the page for the non-public Facebook group Mid Century Modern Los Angeles.

1972 - Thanks to the wonderful Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photographs Collection for this photo taken during the run of "Cabaret."

1973 - Loew's is gone and it's renamed the Holly Cinema in this view looking west. It's another find of Ken McIntyre on Photos of Los Angeles.

1981 - A view once posted by Alison Martino on the Facebook page Mid Century Modern Los Angeles. Thanks, Alison!

1981 - A view looking east from Alison Martino on her Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.

1982 - Thanks to American Classic Images for this December shot. 

1992 - A look at the building during the riots, several years after it had closed as a theatre. It looks like the marquee has been removed and the facade is under renovation. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo. They also have another similar view from the same vantage point.

2010 - The Holly lobby area used as a Scientology testing center. That's the former entrance with the green awning. Photo: Bill Counter

2010 - The view down Hudson Ave. along the west side of the building. It appears to be a mashup of several earlier structures. Photo: Bill Counter

2010 - The east side of the building. We're looking at the side of the auditorium with Hollywood Blvd. off to the left. Photo: Bill Counter

2010 - A view taken from underneath the marquee of the Fox Theatre on the south side of the street. It was taken while eating a taco at the restaurant that was there at the time in part of the Fox's former lobby space. Photo: Bill Counter

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page for a lively history by former patrons and employees.

More about the Studio Theatre from UCLA's S. Charles Lee Papers Collection:
| a collage of interior and exterior views | preliminary facade sketch | sketch - exterior details | sketch - facade details | drawing for sidewalk design | facade & marquee rendering | same - with a bit of color | end of marquee sketch | drawing for an interior detail | auditorium color rendering | grille detail | more S. Charles Lee items on Calisphere |

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