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Hollywood Playhouse / Avalon

1735 Vine St. Los Angeles, CA 90028
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The Hollywood Playhouse, after many incarnations as a legitimate theatre and television studio, is now a music venue called Avalon Hollywood.  Photo: Bill Counter - 2007

Opened: January 24, 1927 as the Hollywood Playhouse, a legitimate theatre operation. The initial show was "Alias The Deacon" staring Berton Churchill, then the biggest star on Broadway.

Architects: Gogerty and Weyl. Henry L. Gogerty (1894-1990) and Carl Jules Weyl (1890-1948) also designed many other Hollywood buildings.  See some of their other projects listed on the Theatres by Architect page.

Status: The theatre is now a music venue called Avalon Hollywood. Also in the building is Bardot at 1737 Vine St., a separate restaurant and club occupying the second floor areas fronting on Vine St. as well as the rooftop patio behind those spaces.

Phone: 323-462-8900  Website: avalonhollywood.com | on Facebook | avalonhollywood/bardot

Never a film house, it's always been a live venue of some sort. After its early legit career it became a TV studio. The building got a major makeover in 2003.


One sheet of the Gogerty and Weyl plans for the building from the collection of Joël Huxtable. He's a lighting designer who also took on the task of being the theatre's archivist until 2009. He's continued collecting material about the building.

Seating: Originally 1,178. The main floor has been terraced and seats removed. In 1949 the capacity was listed as 1,142 with 656 of that on the main floor, 178 in the balcony loges, 296 in the balcony upper section and 12 in the boxes.

Stage specs: 
Proscenium width:  37'8"  Height: 45'  Stage wall to wall: 71'   Grid height: 71'   Lines: 45 hemp sets
Footlights to curtain: 4'6"    Curtain to backwall: 34'4"     Dressing rooms: 21 

The data is from the 1949 ATPAM Theatre, Arena and Auditorium Guide. Thanks to Bob Foreman for posting the contents of the book on his blog Vintage Theatre Catalogs.



The stairs in the main lobby. Photo: Mott Studios, California State Library - 1927

The Mott Studios photos of the Playhouse in the California State Library collection are in four sets and include many not shown here on this page: set #001384357 - 5 photos | set #001384349 - 15 photos | set #001384347 - 3 photos | set #001384348 - 3 photos |



Another look at the lobby stairs. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library - 1927



The lobby stairs in 1949. Photo: Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph Collection



The house left end of the lobby. Photo: Mott Studios, California State Library - 1927



From the house left end of the lobby. Photo: Mott Studios, California State Library - 1927



The house right end of the lobby. Photo: Mott Studios, California State Library - 1927



The house right end of the lobby in 1949. Photo: Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph Collection



A tapestry in the lobby. Photo: Mott Studios, California State Library - 1927



On the balcony stair landing. Photo: Mott Studios, California State Library - 1927



In the balcony level lobby looking south. Through the doorway straight ahead there's a restroom and, to the right, stairs up to the balcony crossaisle house left. The lit doorway at the left gets you out onto the patio. The stairs at right head down to the main floor lobby.  Photo: Mott Studios, California State Library - 1927 



 A main floor view. Photo: Mott Studios, California State Library - 1927



The asbestos curtain as viewed from under the balcony.  Photo: Los Angeles Public Library - 1927
 


The rear of the main floor. Photo: Mott Studios, California State Library - 1927



The auditorium in 1955 as a television studio. Thanks to the Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph Collection for the image. Other interior views in the collection include: rear of the auditorium - 1955 |  toward the stage - 1955 |



A balcony view. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library - 1927



The auditorium chandelier. Photo: Mott Studios, California State Library collection - 1927



The rooftop patio. We're looking north -- the auditorium is off to the left. Photo: Mott Studios, California State Library - 1927



A lobby view from the Avalon's Venue Rental page. 



A Vero Image shot from the balcony that appears on the Avalon's Venue Rental page. 



The rear of the auditorium, a photo from the Avalon's Venue Rental page. 



A patio shot from the Avalon's Venue Rental page.



A nice view of the rooftop patio from the Hollywood section on the site About.com where it was credited to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. 



A Vero Image rooftop patio photo from the Avalon's Bardot page. We're looking north -- the auditorium is off to the left.



A photo of the Bardot space from the Avalon's Venue Rental page. We're on the second floor looking east toward Vine St. Note the covered windows straight ahead,



The 2nd floor Bardot space looking south, a photo from the Avalon's Venue Rental page. 



The 2nd floor space looking north toward the bar. It's a photo from the Avalon's Venue Rental page.

The Playhouse in the 20s:



A pre-opening entrance detail. Thanks to the Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph Collection for the photo. Many more Playhouse photos are in the collection including:  1978 exterior -- as the Hollywood Palace | 1987 exterior - as the Palace. Take a tour through nearly 250 photos Hollywood theatre photos on the site. Thanks, Bruce!



A 1927 Mott Studios photo in the collection of the California State Library. In the display cases are posters for the theatre's opening attraction "Alias The Deacon" staring Berton Churchill, then the biggest star on Broadway. There's also a version of this photo in the Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photographs Collection.

The theatre's initial operator, Ed Rowland, generally brought in traveling shows, largely dramas. By 1928 Henry Duffy was booking his productions into the theate. Duffy also produced at the El Capitan and at the President Theatre (the former Morosco, later renamed the Globe) downtown on Broadway. Noted performers in the early years of the Playhouse included the Duncan Sisters, Charlotte Greenwood, and Billie Burke.


Coming attractions were listed in the Hollywood Playhouse's opening night program. 



 The staff and policy page of the opening program. It's from the collection of Joël Huxtable. 



An early facade view with "Pomander Walk" on the marquee. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library



The program cover for "If I Was Rich." The 1927 production featured Phil Tead and Charles Miller.  The cover was on a now-vanished website called Theatre Print.

The Playhouse in the 30s and early 40s: 

  
An early 30s view of the Playhouse as we look north on Vine. The tall structure is the Pacific States Life Building, now known as the Yucca Vine Tower, completed in 1928. It's also a design of Gogerty & Weyl. Also note the Mulholland Dam in the distance -- before being camouflaged by dirt and foliage. It was completed in 1926. It's a photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.  The Library also has another similar view.  Note that the roof sign doesn't say Hollywood Playhouse anymore, only "Playhouse."  Soon those letters would be removed as well.



In the mid to late 30s the Playhouse was used for a number of WPA Federal Theatre Project shows. This program cover is from the 1933 production of "Androcles and the Lion." This was the first of many FTP productions at the theatre. It's from Joël Huxtable's collection.



 The "Androcles" cast onstage.



A nice 1934 exterior view from the California Historical Society. Leon Gordon is appearing in "White Cargo." It's in the USC Digital Library collection. The production of the play at the Playhouse was mentioned in a news item in the Reading Eagle. Mr. Gordon was also the author of the play. A later production of it ran over a year at the Beaux Arts Theatre in 1939 and 1940.  A version of the photo is also in the Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photographs Collection.



The Playhouse had a fling with burlesque in 1936. Larry Harnisch's The Daily Mirror blog post on burlesque star Carrie Finnnell downtown at the Follies also featured this ad for Billy Minsky's show t the Hollywood Plsyhouse -- and the story of his troubles with the vice squad.



A poster in the Library of Congress collection for 1937's "Revue of Revues" by the Federal Theatre Project at the Hollywood Playhouse.  The George Mason University has a different "Revue of Reviews" poster in their collection. 



A c.1937 street view from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The show is the Federal Theatre production of "Ready, Aim, Fire!" The Library also has another Herman Schultheis photo taken during the run of the same show. The Library of Congress has a poster for the show.



A Library of Congress collection poster for "The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse" in 1938. 



A FTP poster for "The Warrior's Husband" in the Library of Congress collection. Also in the collection: "Two a Day" - 1938 | "Judgment Day" - 1938 | "Caesar and Cleopatra" - 1938 ... and lots more

Also see the Federal Theatre Project Materials Collection items at George Mason University. You can search their site by city, show title or theatre name. They have nine Hollywood Playhouse items.
Wikipedia has a poster for the Federal Theatre event "Concert of Modern Dance Now" with Myra Kinch & Group.



 A c.1938 look down on the Playhouse from Life. The banner is touting stage shows at popular prices. The title of the show on the marquee seems to be something called "Black Empire." Check out the new "Vodvil Playhouse" sign on the roof above the entrance.



Another c.1938 aerial photo from Life. The Hollywood Playhouse is down in the lower left cornerThanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Tourmaline for finding the two Life aerial shots. They appear, along with several recent views of the building, on Noirish Los Angeles post #35795.



A 1942 view looking north on Vine St. The Hollywood Playhouse, over on the left is running a show called "Meet The People."  Thanks to Bill Gabel for the post on the Facebook group Photos of Los Angeles.
 


A 1942 telephoto look south on Vine by Dick Whittington. You don't get much of the theatre (here still called the Playhouse) but if you look at the right side there's the marquee and a bit of decorative plasterwork visible. The photo is in the USC Digital Library collection. On the marquee: "Meet the People - Hit Musical Revue."

As the El Capitan: In 1942 the theatre was purchased from Guaranty Bank by C.E. Toberman and Sid Grauman after the bank had foreclosed. Toberman moved the name El Capitan to this building as his original El Capitan (on Hollywood Blvd.) was then being called the Paramount. Their first tenant was Ken Murray, whose "Blackouts" had a long profitable run of seven years and 3,844 performances.

The July 11, 1942 issue of the magazine Billboard reviewed the show: "Another West Coast two-a-day vauder, Blackouts of 1942, presented by Ken Murray and Billy Gilbert, opened this week at the 1,100-seat El Capitan, formerly the Hollywood Playhouse, on North Vine. Attendance has been good, with the first several nights sell-outs at $1.65 tops. Show runs two hours 15 minutes. Murray and Gilbert have gathered a likely array of talent and show holds interest, but its exceptionally good spots are few and far between. Comedy is good, however, and that's what West Coast people seem to want these days."  Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for finding the article.



A program for Ken Murray's "Blackouts of 1942" from the collection of Marlaine Hysell.  The rear of the program, and other items, appear on the Ken Murray's "Blackouts" page.



Thanks to Eric Lynxwiler on Flickr for this ad for the 1944 edition of "Blackouts" from Playgoer magazine. It's in his terrific Paper Ephemera collection.



A 1945 L.A. Times nightlife ad from Kliph Nesteroff on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles. In the middle, we get the El Capitan touting "Ken Murray's Blackouts of '45.



Ken McIntyre found this 1947 view looking west from Yucca and Argyle. Admittedly it's a better photo of the City Food Mart than of the Hollywood Playhouse beyond it. Note the El Capitan name that they've painted that name across the top of the stagehouse.  It was a post on Photos of Los Angeles.



A 1947 look north on Vine St. as the theatre celebrates the 5th year of Ken Murray's "Blackouts." Ken McIntyre found the shot for Photos of Los AngelesAnother photo taken that same week appears in the Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photographs Collection.



The cover of the program for "Blackouts of  1947" from the Cezar Del Valle Collection. Five more pages from the program appear on the Ken Murray's "Blackouts" page.  Thanks, Cezar! 



A 1948 look at the theatre during the run of "Blackouts of 1948." It's a Bob Plunkett photo on the postcard from Cezar Del Valle's collection. Cezar is a Brooklyn-based theatre historian with
a fondness for Los Angeles Theatres.  Check out his adventures on the Theatre Talks blog. Thanks, Cezar!

The Plunkett card also appears in the Angel City Press book "Spectacular Illumination: Neon Los Angeles 1925-1965" by Tom Zimmerman with J. Eric Lynxwiler. Chris Nichols discussed the book and included this card and other Hollywood views with his August 2016 Los Angeles magazine article "These Photos Will Transport You to a Neon-Soaked 1930s Hollywood."

The Playhouse in the 50s:  The theatre later became a regular a TV production studio, initially for NBC. Nixon broadcast his "Checkers" speech from the Playhouse in 1952.

 

A 1952 look at the theatre as an NBC studio. The photo was a find by Ken McIntyre on Photos of Los Angeles. Note that we've lost the 30s marquee but still have the "El Capitan" signage on the side.
 


A lovely look south on Vine in 1953 from the collection of Electrospark on Flickr. That's the theatre's stagehouse on the far right of the photo. It's also been seen as a post by Alison Martino on Vintage Los Angeles and on Photos of Los Angeles.



Looking east toward the rising Capitol Records building in 1955. That's the Hollywood Playhouse over there on the right. Thanks to Michael Lee price for his post of the photo on Vintage Los Angeles.



 A view south on Vine St. in 1956 from Richard Wojcik on Vintage Los Angeles taken shortly after the opening of the Capitol Records building. The Playhouse is tucked in to the left of the Knickerbocker. Thanks, Richard!



A 1956 aerial view with the Pantages at the lower left and the Playhouse above it. The Capitol Records building opened in 1956. Photo: Howard Kelley, Los Angeles Public Library



Another 1956 view, this time from from the north.  It's a Howard Kelley photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. Another version, zoomed in a bit, is on Vintage Los Angeles.

The Playhouse in the 60s: The theatre went back to the El Capitan name and had occasional legit bookings. "Peter Pan" had a run in 1962.  Later it was the Jerry Lewis Theatre and ABC's Hollywood Palace



A c.1960 night view looking south on Vine St. added by Ken McIntyre to
the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. The outline of the Playhouse can be discerned at the right.  The Capitol Records building was completed in 1956.



A 1966 photo from the UCLA / L.A. Times Photograph Collection posted on Vintage Los Angeles by Doug Boethin. No idea what that celebration is all about.



Thanks to Richard Wojcik for this 1967 look north on Vine posted on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.  Note the billboard about the 83 cent lunch at the Ontra Cafeteria.

 

A summer 1967 shot from the website Shorpy.



A 1968 view looking north on Vine discovered by Ken McIntyre for Photos of Los Angeles. The Playhouse is over there on the left hiding behind a billboard. 



A good look at the facade in 1968. It's from the Richard Wojcik collection on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles



The theatre as the Hollywood Palace. Thanks to Sean Ault for this photo from his collection.



A colorful look down Vine St. toward Hollywood Blvd.  Thanks to GS Jansen for posting it on the Facebook group Mid Century Modern with a date of 1964. The theatre (as the Hollywood Palace) is on the right. It's also been on Vintage Los Angeles where Gary Schneider gave it a 1971 date.



The theatre in its Merv Griffin Show days, a photo added to Vintage Los Angeles by Johns Burwell. 



As the Palace in 1973. Thanks to Rick Balin for his photo on the Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page.
 



An entrance view appearing with the Wikipedia article about the theatre.



The theatre's entrance in 2010. Photo: Bill Counter



A peek in toward the front doors. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010



A facade detail. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010



Facade ornament at the theatre from "We Had Faces" by Winston Smith, a great 2009 post on The Boulevard Blog.  See the post for many more details of ornament from Hollywood buildings. 



 Another Playhouse facade detail from from "We Had Faces" by Winston Smith.



A photo from Martin of the theatre in its blue period on the great website You-Are-Here. He also has a wider facade view.  Take his tour down Hollywood Boulevard for many more terrific photos.



The Playhouse as we look south on Vine St. toward Hollywood Blvd. Photo: Google Maps - 2011

The Hollywood Playhouse in the Movies:


We get some nice aerial shots in the Jerry Lewis film "The Errand Boy" (Paramount, 1961). Looking west along Hollywood Blvd. it's the Pantages in the center. To the left of the Capitol Records building we see the Hollywood Playhouse.In the lower left of the image is part of the Music Box. See the Theatres In Movies post for a Sunset Blvd. aerial view and visits to the Fox Westwood Village and the Chinese.


The Avalon gets a starring role in Taylor Hackford's "Against All Odds" (Columbia, 1984) as Jake's Palace, a nightclub owned by James Woods. The film also stars Jeff Bridges and Rachel Ward.



James Woods at the bar at the back of the main floor of Jake's Palace in "Against All Odds."
 


A look up the main lobby stairs in "Against All Odds." That entrance into the auditorium from the landing is a recent modification.



A street view of the Avalon as Jake's Palace in "Against All Odds." See the Theatres in Movies post for several more shots from the film.
 
More information: There are several hundred recent pictures of this theatre as the Avalon Hollywood on Yelp. There's also a separate listing for the Bardot Restaurant. Also see About.com's article on the Avalon Hollywood. The site also has a review of Bardot. The Bardot piece has a photo of the patio plus 3 interior space views.

The other Hollywood Playhouse: There was also a small legit venue on Las Palmas called the Playhouse. It's been through a lot of different names, too. See the other Hollywood Playhouse page for details on that one.

The other El Capitan: This venue on Vine St. just borrowed the name temporarily. The Hollywood Blvd. El Capitan opened with that name in 1926 and recently got it back after a spell as the Paramount.


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