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A 1959 view east on Hollywood Blvd. toward the Academy (as it was then called) and the Warner in the next block. Thanks to Sean Ault for the photo from his collection. The Academy is running "The Wreck of the Mary Deare" with Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston and "The House of Intrigue." Down the street we have "South Seas Adventure" in three strip Cinerama.
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 (later renamed the Fox). The building dates from 1920 -- or at least there was a major remodel that year.
Architect: S. Charles Lee. He also did a 1936 remodel.
A night 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.
Seating: In 1936 the capacity was reported as 500, perhaps mythical. When the theatre had opened in 1931 the capacity was 304.
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. A facade drawing and floorplans of the theatre 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."
A sketch of the facade of the Studio Theatre from the August 1, 1931 Motion Picture Herald Article, available on Internet Archive.
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.
These floorplans for the main floor and booth level are from the August 1, 1931 issue of Motion Picture Herald, available on Internet Archive.
In 1936 the theatre got a remodel and was then called the Colony at least through 1939. It was known in the 40s as 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. It was remodeled and born again as the Holly in the late 1960s. It was operated by a variety of circuits: Statewide, Century, General Cinema (calling it the Holly Cinema), Loew's (calling it Loew's Holly) and SRO. It was frequently a move-over house from the Paramount/El Capitan. The most renowned booking the theatre had was a 62 week run of Caligula starting in 1980.
Status: It closed as a theatre in 1986. It was gutted and once again it's retail space. It was a Scientology testing center for several years but had has had other tenants recently.
"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.
A 1931 daytime photo of the facade of "The World's Most Unique Theatre" from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection on Calisphere. A cropped version of the photo appears with the article by Mr. Lee "The Features of an Automatic Cinema..." in the November 21, 1931 issue of Motion Picture Herald.
An entrance view from an August 29, 1931 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.
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 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 about the Studio Theatre from UCLA's S. Charles Lee Papers Collection:
| a collage of interior and exterior views | signage rendering | 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 |
A 30s look east on Hollywood Blvd. toward what was then still the Studio Theatre. 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.
A 1942 photo of the theatre in its Music Hall days. It's a contribution by Bill Gabel on Cinema Treasures. The main feature is "Commandos Strike at Dawn."
A 1947 Frasher Foto Card from the Pomona Library appearing on UCLA's Calisphere. There's also a zoom version. We're looking east toward the Academy/Studio/ Holly Theatre on the left with the Warner beyond. We also get a view the Iris/Fox on the right.
A lovely c.1952 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 Richard Garcia for the photo on Vintage Los Angeles.
A photo looking west in 1953 with the Warner in the foreground running "This Is Cinerama." Beyond it's the Iris (later renamed the Fox) on the left and the Academy on the right. The California Historical Society photo is in the USC Digital Library collection.
A detail from the USC image above. The Academy is running "The Jazz Singer," this version a February 1953 release with Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee.
A 1956 view of the Academy running "Gervaise" with Maria Schell. Thanks to Sean Ault for the photo from his collection.
A 1960 look at the Academy discovered by Ken McIntyre for the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. The theatre is playing the Russian drama "Ballad of a Soldier." Thanks, Ken!
There's a nice 1963 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 is running a double bill of "Bye Bye Birdie" with Ann-Margret and the Bob Hope/Anita Ekberg feature "Call Me Bwana."
The Iris has a reissue of the 1954 film "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." "How the West Was Won" is 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.
Thanks to Warren Beckerman for sending in this 1966 view. We're looking west with the theatre, here still called the Academy, running the western "Alvarez Kelly," an October 1966 release with William Holden and Richard Widmark.
Another 1966 photo by Mr. Beckerman, here looking east toward the Warner. Thanks, Warren!
A 1970 shot of the theatre as Loew's Holly. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library
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.
A 1973 view looking west. It's another find of Ken McIntyre on Photos of Los Angeles.
A 1981 facade view once posted by Alison Martino on the Facebook page Mid Century Modern Los Angeles. Thanks, Alison!
A 1981 marquee view looking east from Alison Martino on her Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.
The Holly Theatre building in 2010. When the photo was taken the theatre lobby area (with the green awning) was a Scientology testing center. Photo: Bill Counter
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
Another street view from 2010 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 - 2010
More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page for a lively history by former patrons and employees. Also see the listing here on this site for an earlier theatre at or just to the west of this space -- Hollywood Boulevard's first theatre, the Idle Hour.