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Music Box/Fonda Theatre: history + exterior views

6126 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90028  | map |

Also see: Music Box/Fonda: interior views


Opened: October 20, 1926 as the Carter DeHaven Music Box with the revue "Fancies." The original concept was to offer revues (in the Ziegfeld style) in the auditorium with dancing (and illicit drinking) in the open-air cabaret space above the lobby. Views of that rooftop space are at the bottom of the page. The November 1926 Dick Whittington Studio photo is in the USC Digital Library collection. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Godzilla for finding it for his Noirish post #17466.

Phone: 323-464-6269   

Online: www.goldenvoice.com | www.fondatheatre.com | on Facebook |

Architects: Morgan, Walls & Clements

Seating: Advertised as 1,000 originally. In 1999 it was listed as 863 with 572 on the main floor and 291 in the balcony. The seats have been removed on the main floor and the floor leveled. Total space in the building is about 31,000 SF.

Stage Specifications: The proscenium is 36' 6" wide and approximately 30' high. Stage depth is 27' 9" from the smoke pocket to the back wall. The grid is 60' high. It's a hemp house. Scroll down to the bottom of the interior views page for more stage details.

The project had been announced in the September 13, 1925 issue of the L.A. Times. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the article. Initial investors in the theatre included John Barrymore, John Gilbert, Reginald Denny, King Vidor and Mae Murray.







A drawing by Charles Owens that appeared in the October 17, 1926 L.A. Times. They commented: "Melody and pulchritude will predominate in Carter De Haven's Music Box according to the producer."



Another drawing appearing in the October 17, 1926 issue of the Times.



This article appeared (with the two drawings above) in the October 17, 1926 Times under the headline "Hollywood's Second Playhouse to Open Tomorrow Night." The article notes that the first legit house in Hollywood had been the El Capitan. The two additional legit theatres mentioned as opening soon were the Vine St. (now the Montalban) and the Hollywood Playhouse (now the Avalon).


This opening night ad appeared in the October 20, 1926 Times. They had planned to open on the 18th but had a two day delay when the orchestra leader got sick. An article on the 20th noted that "De Haven announces that the two-day postponement caused by the illness of Arthur Kay has enabled him to round-out his show so that the first-night audience can be assured of a smooth performance." Thanks to Mike Hume for locating these 1926 Times items. See the Fonda Theatre page on his Historic Theatre Photography site for many of his fine photos of the building.

Carter DeHaven's revues didn't last long. "Fancies" closed January 30, 1927 and the first revue produced by the theatre's new operator, Louis Macloon, opened on February 2. Programming then became a mix of musical revues and legit drama with performers including Clark Gable and Bela Lugosi. Gable's appearance was in 1927 with Nancy Carroll in the west coast premiere of the play "Chicago." 
 
 
 
An ad for "Chicago" that appeared in the April 29, 1927 issue of the L.A. Times. The Orange Grove Theatre that Macloon was also running at the time went through many names, ending up as the Grand Theatre. Macloon was also the initial tenant at the Playhouse on Figueroa St., a venue later known as the Variety Arts Theatre
 

This June 6, 1927 Times article noted that Macloon had engaged a dance orchestra at "considerable expense" for his new musical production "Peggy Ann," opening that week. The show ended up closing June 28, three weeks ahead of schedule. A June 30 Times article noted that director Lillian Albertson (Macloon's wife) decided she wanted a different type of lead actor and had given Barrett Greenwood a two-week notice. Instead of playing out the time, he said he was sick and refused to go on. 
 
Complaints to Actors Equity went nowhere as they said weren't able to find the performer. The show already had an understudy for the female lead and rather than having neither of their advertised stars appear, they decided to close. A July 1 Times article discussed Macloon's claim against Actors Equity for $5,000 in expenses due to the show having to close early. An Equity representative said they were investigating Greenwood's "illness" and called the claim for damages "absurd." 
 

 
The reopening program on July 16 included a feature film, vaudeville, a travelogue, and a newsreel plus rooftop dancing and a cabaret performance at no extra charge. This article from the July 10 issue of the Times noted that "...producers are eyeing this development with interest." Thanks to Mike Hume for locating these 1927 items. It's nice that there would be "no couvert charge" for the post-show cabaret.
 
Macloon was gone sometime before 1930. That year the Civic Repertory used the theatre for a season of their shows. Mary Mallory, in her history of the theatre for the Only in Hollywood site, notes that MGM used the house in 1934 to give some of their players a bit of legit experience, calling the group the MGM Stock Players.
 
The Music Box later went through a number of other operators and formats. In 1936 it became a radio studio for CBS. In the 1937 city directory it's the Columbia Music Box, in 1940 it's listed as the CBS Lux Radio Theatre. The theatre returned to legit operation in 1940. In April 1942 the theatre had a run of "Life With Father" starring Dorothy Gish and Louis Calhern. Later in 1942 it was called Abbott's Music Box.
 

Bela Lugosi in "Arsenic and Old Lace." Thanks to Scott Pitzer for posting this 1943 ad, as well as a short article about the engagement, on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

A 1944 ad for the revue "Yours For Fun" from collection of Eric Lynxwiler on Flickr. It appeared in an issue of Playgoer magazine.  Don't miss the rest of Eric's wonderful Paper Ephemera album. At last look he had over 1,800 items in it.   

Becoming a film house: Fox West Coast assumed operation of the house in 1945 and after a remodel it opened February 1, 1945 for movies as the Guild Theatre. A February 2 L.A. Times article located by Mike Hume noted the transition: 
 
"Guild Joins First-Run Group With Double Bill - A brightened and refurbished Hollywood Music Box deserted the 'legit' and radio for the films yesterday when it joined the first-run United Artists and Fox Wilshire theaters as the re-christened Guild. The program, somewhat less of an event, comprised two from R.K.O. Radio - 'Bride by Mistake' and 'The Falcon in Hollywood.'..."
 
CBS leased it again for several years beginning in 1948 for radio productions including the Tide Show with Dinah Shore and others.
 

It was renamed the Fox and became a film house again on May 26, 1954, opening that night with "Night People" plus a sneak preview. Thanks to Mike Rivest for locating this May 25 ad. After a bit more renovation, it was advertised as the New Fox beginning July 28, 1954.

Cinemiracle at the Fox: In December, 1958 it got the moveover of "Windjammer," the first (and only) film in Cinemiracle. It had previously been at the Chinese for a 40 week reserved seat run. It was a 3 projector + separate sound dubber process much like Cinerama, except the gear was all in one center booth. At the Chinese that involved a new booth and proscenium remodel for a 90' screen. The best guess is that for the Music Box/Fox run they made a composite print of the three negatives and it was run in standard 35mm Cinemascope format. The reserved seat engagement opened Christmas day and ran 15 weeks. See more about the Cinemiracle question at the bottom of the page.

As the Pix: The theatre became the Pix on September 30, 1959 when Fox West Coast got out and Pacific Theatres started running it. [The Fox name resurfaced on Hollywood Blvd. in 1968 when the Iris Theatre up the street got a remodel and was re-branded as the Fox.]
 

 The Monday September 28 ad for the Pacific "walk-in" theatres. Thanks to Mike Hume for locating it. 
 
 
 
The Times ad for September 30, 1959, the first day as the Pix. Thanks to Mike Rivest for the ad.  
 
It was still a major house into the 70's. In 1975 it hosted the Hollywood Blvd. run of "Jaws" and later "Rocky." The Pix later ran Spanish language films and eventually closed as a film house in the mid-80s.   
 
Going legit (again): When the Music Box / Pix was converted back to a legit operation in 1985 by Pacific Theatres in a partnership with the Nederlander Organization it was re-named the Henry Fonda Theatre
 
 
 
A November 23, 1984 item in the Times announcing the project. Thanks to Mike Hume for locating the article.
 
 
 

An article about the February 10, 1985 dedication appearing in the February 12 issue of the L.A. Times. Thanks to Mike Hume for locating it. The reopening was February 26 with a production of "Twelve Angry Men." After that run, a few other shows played the house including David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross," Harold Pinter's "Old Times," "Tru" and "Driving Miss Daisy" but there was not a lot of luck using the building as a venue for live theatre at that time.

As a music club: Around 2002 the main floor seats were pulled out, the floor was leveled, and it had a new life as a music club. For years the moniker was Music Box@Fonda. After many decades of being closed, the original open-air cabaret space on a terrace above the lobby was put back into use as an indoor / outdoor lounge area in conjunction with the Blue Palms Brewhouse. They're at 6124 Hollywood Blvd. in the storefront east of the theatre entrance. There's are doors from the restaurant into the theatre lobby so the spaces were at times combined for special events.

The club was an operation run by Thaddeus Smith and several partners. In 2011 it became apparent that some ownership shares had changed hands without notifying the building owner. As well, there was an issue with a sublease resulting in an undesirable night club operation in the building. An eviction notice resulted and the operation closed in early January 2012.

Current status: The theatre is now operated by concert promoter Goldenvoice, a division of AEG, and is currently known as the Fonda Theatre. Goldenvoice got their lease in March 2012.

The building is owned by New York-based Leslie Blumberg. It's been in her family since 1945 when her grandfather, Mike Rosenberg, bought the building in partnership with Charles Skouras of Fox West Coast Theatres. Rosenberg passed his interest on to Mike Blumberg, Leslie's father. The Skouras family held on to their share of the property until about 2009.

Ms. Blumberg is now sole owner and also has a now-closed theatre in Laguna Beach. These two are the last of a group of California theatres her father once owned. His firm, Principal Theatres of America, once had 60 theatres, some solely owned, some in partnerships. Originally allied with the Fox West Coast Circuit, in later years the company's houses were operated in conjunction with Pacific Theatres.

In an August 15, 1928 Variety article Rosenberg's firm (then called Principal Pictures Corp., a partnership with Sol Lesser) was mentioned as having a small stake in Pacific Amusement Co., a firm that had just taken over the Palace (the former Orpheum) downtown. The Rosenberg and Lesser interest in Principal had earlier been owned by Fox West Coast, a fact mentioned in a 1930 Federal Trade Commission decision

In 2019 there was concern that the Fonda's load-in access was going to be imperiled by a new apartment complex planned by MetLife / Trammel Crow for the parking lot to the east of the theatre. Through negotiations with the developers an easement was obtained in August 2019 that will allow trucks to pull straight through to Gower St. after unloading at the rear of the theatre. Curbed L.A.'s Bianca Barragan had the story in August about the new building's approval: "21-story tower next to Hollywood's Fonda Theatre gets go-ahead from city."

The Music Box in the Movies: "Street Of Illusion" (Columbia, 1928) was shooting scenes onstage at the Music Box according to a small item in the Variety May 18, 1928 issue. It's on Internet Archive.

 
The terrific Bruce Torrence Historic Hollywood Photographs collection includes this photo, #T-023-10, of a 1931 film shoot in the theatre. The title of the film is unknown. We're looking toward the rear of the main floor. Note the standee area behind the columns, later to be an enclosed lobby. In the upper right is a set of stairs to the balcony. 
 

A Torrence Collection proscenium view from the mystery film shoot, their image #T-023-9. Also in the collection, from the same shoot: another proscenium view, #T-023-15, and another view to the rear of the auditorium, #T-023-17.  
 
 

Lana Turner plays aspiring actress Lora Meredith in Douglas Sirk's "Imitation of Life" (Universal-International, 1959). Thanks to Wendell Benedetti for figuring out that it's the Music Box that was used for an audition scene in a New York area theatre. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for three more shots at the Music Box as well as many views of the Earl Carroll Theatre from a sequence near the end of the film.



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



The marquee of the theatre (as the Pix, running "Bullitt") is seen at night in the softcore porno film "The Kiss Off" (Canyon Distributing, 1968). There's a clip on YouTube.



We get a fine tour of Los Angeles in Jacques Deray's "The Outside Man" (United Artists, 1973). Here the marquee of the Pix is scintillating in the distance as Jean-Louis Trintignant picks up a hitchhiker. The film also stars Roy Scheider as another hit man and Ann-Margret as the former owner of a bar who gets caught in the middle of the mess. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots of a bit of the Vine Theatre and the Cinematheque 16 on Sunset. 



Leslie Ackerman sings her way down Hollywood Blvd. in a great number from "The First Nudie Musical" (Paramount, 1976). The book, music, and lyrics for the movie are by Bruce Kimmel. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for sixteen more shots from the film including views of Hollywood theatre signage and a look at the lobby of the Fox Venice.



Jodie Foster goes looking in Hollywood for one of her missing teenage friends and we get this shot west with the madly flashing vertical of the Pix in the distance and the red X Theatre signage on the right in Adrian Lyne's "Foxes" (United Artists, 1980). The film about drugs, sex and growing up in L.A. also features Cherie Currie, Marilyn Kagan, Kandice Stroh, Scott Baio, Sally Kellerman, Randy Quaid and Lois Smith. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a view of the Ivar Theatre from earlier in the film. 



The entrance of the Music Box is seen as Richard Gere cruises down Hollywood Blvd. in Paul Schrader's "American Gigolo" (Paramount, 1980).
 


A look at the marquee in "American Gigolo." See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots of the Egyptian Theatre, the Fox Westwood Village, the Bruin Theatre and the corner of the Fox Wilshire building.



We see a lot of Hollywood Blvd. in Robert Vincent O'Neill's "Angel" (New World, 1984) but this distance view of the marquee flashing wildly is all we see of the Pix. Fifteen year old Molly is a high school student by day, a hooker by night. The film stars Donna Wilkes, Cliff Gorman, Dick Shawn and Rory Calhoun. John Diehl is the killer preying on teenage hookers. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a dozen shots from the film.



Joel Murray plays a guy on a cross country killing spree in "God Bless America" (Darko Entertainment, 2012). He's targeting people who lack decency or those who make fun of untalented people, such as the hosts of a TV show having its season finale at the Music Box. When we go inside we're actually at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for another Music Box shot as well as views of the Showcase, the Chinese, and Alex Theatre from the film.  



In "Price Check" (IFC Films, 2012) Eric Mabius and a friend see a show at the Music Box. The film, about exciting adventures in the grocery business, also stars Parker Posey.



The exterior of the Music Box appears for a nightclub scene in the Coen Brothers film "Hail, Caesar!" (Universal, 2016). Interiors were done at the Palladium. We also get shots inside the Los Angeles Theatre and a side view of the Warner Hollywood. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for those.



The auditorium of the Music Box is used for a club in the south of France in "Nina" (RLJ Entertainment, 2016).



The theatre's rooftop pavilion is also seen in the final scene of "Nina" just before the credits roll. The Nina Simone biopic, directed by Cynthia Mort, stars Zoe Saldana as Nina and David Oyelolo as Clifton, the nurse who becomes her friend and manager. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for several more shots.

The Music Box gets a quick drive-by in "The Disaster Artist" (New Line Cinema, 2017) when we see a bit of the town after Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and aspiring actor Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) move to Hollywood to break into the film business. Later we see lots of the Crest Theatre in Westwood as the location for the big premiere of Wiseau's epic "The Room." See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more about the film.

The Music Box on Video:


This auditorium sidewall view is a shot from "Insider's Peek #8: Music Box" on the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation's YouTube channel. It's a 6 minute video by Don Solosan from 2010. It features then-operator Thaddeus Smith and LAHTF's Hillsman Wright.


More street views:


1926 - A sanitized photo from Mott Studios. It's a photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. Note the fluffy airbrushed clouds as well as the absence of signage and wires. This photo is also one of eight views of the theatre in the California State Library photo set #001384374.



1926 - The undoctored photo that image above was based on. It appeared in the January 1928 issue of Architect and Engineer. The issue is available on Internet Archive. Note we can see into the rooftop patio area -- and it appears that the pavilion right behind the facade hasn't been constructed yet.



1926 - A November Mott Studios look at the entrance. The poster at the left announces their second production: "'Hollywood Music Box Revue' - Gala premiere opening Thanksgiving night - with Lupino Lane, featuring 'Pick Of the World Girls' chorus. Staged by Larry Caballos." This is one of eight views of the theatre in the California State Library photo set #001384374.  The set also has another less interesting take without the car, the lyre, and the spectators.



1926 - A detail from a November Dick Whittington Studio photo in the USC Digital Library collection. 



1927 - A wonderful view of the theatre before the run of "Chicago." Mr. Carter DeHaven is gone from the roof sign. It's now the "Hollywood Music Box." advertising the "Revue of Revues - The Pick of the World in Girls." Take a look at the 2nd floor readerboards and note that Fanny Brice was in the show. Thanks to Maurice E. Ideses for locating the photo for a post on the Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page.  
 
 
 
1927 - Performer Will Morrissey in front with a policeman and an unidentified woman, perhaps Midgie Miller, his wife at the time and costar in the vaudeville revue that opened July 16. The performers were mentioned in a July 10 L.A. Times article and Morrissey's name can be seen on the second floor readerboard on the far left. Morrissey was also a lyricist, playwright and producer. It's a Dick Whittington Studio photo. Thanks to Escott O. Norton for locating it in the USC Digital Library collection.



1928 - A photo of the Music Box when the Civic Repertory Theatre was mounting a show. We're looking east on Hollywood Blvd. in this view that appears in the Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph Collection.   It's also been seen on Photos of Los Angeles and on Martin Pal's Noirish Los Angeles post #28606.



c.1930 - Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Tovangar2 for finding this view looking east. It's featured on Noirish post #42011. The photo appears in the Arcadia Publishing book "Historic Hotels of Los Angeles and Hollywood" by Linda McCann, Dace Taube, Claude Zachary and Curtis C. Roseman. There's a preview on Google Books.



1931 - The Bruce Torrence Historic Hollywood Photographs collection has many terrific images of the Music Box including this view of the boxoffice area. Note that guy waiting to sell you a ticket over to the left of the display cases. The open colonnade above the entrance doors is still visible inside the lobby. Here on the exterior it's been hidden for decades by the Skouras-style dropped ceiling. 

More photos in the Bruce Torrence Collection: There are 20 additional Music Box images to browse, including interior views. In addition, there's a 1972 exterior as the Pix, #T-043-1, "Africa Uncensored" as well as two 1987 images as the Henry Fonda with the marquee advertising the Bolshoi Ballet, #T-020-1 and #T-020-2.



c.1931 - Parking west of the building. Note the interesting contour of the side of the theatre.  It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.



1931 - A wonderful view of the facade. The show playing is "Women Go On Forever." The photo once appeared on a now-vanished UCLA web page "Remapping Hollywould" [sic]. It's also been seen on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles

On Facebook Michelle Gerdes commented: "The second story windows you see were not glassed in, only covered by curtains and that area is a bar reached by way of a roof top courtyard from only the balcony & booth. When they changed the facade of the theatre they covered it in metal sheeting, not sealing up the windows. Also they walled off the doors that went in to the bar area and people forgot completely about that great space, but not the pigeons! I was told that when they broke through the wall the bird shit was as high as the bar! Now it's a great place to hang out for drinks or rent for a party."  Deanna Bayless adds: "It was a speakeasy up there during Prohibition."



c.1939 - A look west on Hollywood Blvd. with the theatre in use by CBS. Down the street, this side of the Taft Building, the vertical sign for the Tele-View Theatre can be seen. It was later renamed the Hitching Post and the Paris. This is 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 190. There's a preview of the book to browse on Google Books.



1951 - A look at the theatre then called the Guild, as the home of the Tide Show. Fox West Coast had taken the theatre over in 1945 and for several years ran it as a film house before leasing it out. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for the shot on Photos of Los Angeles. Note that they've added windows to enclose the upstairs pavilion. The Dinah Shore Tide Show ran between 1945 and 1952. After 1948 its home was here at the Music Box/Guild Theatre. 



1957 - A view east toward the Fox. The Pantages is running "The Wings of Eagles," a January release. It's a screenshot from Getty Images footage that's included in Rick Prelinger's "Lost Landscapes of Los Angeles - 2016," an hour and twenty minutes of wonderful clips from various sources that was originally presented in a program at the Los Angeles Public Library. Also see "Lost Landscapes of Los Angeles - 2019." This second installment was presented at the Library by the organization Photo Friends as part of the series L.A. in Focus. Both compilations are on Vimeo.  



1957 - A closer look from the Getty footage in the Prelinger compilation. 



1957 - A detail from the Getty image. This footage provides the only views that have surfaced to date with the theatre's signage saying "Fox." Some of this footage is also on YouTube as "Hollywood Blvd. 1957" with the title on the footage itself saying 1953.



c.1958 - Thanks to Martin Pal for his Noirish Los Angeles post #28606, chock full of Music Box photos. Included is this entrance view of the theatre featured on the Capitol album "Swingin' At the Cinema."



1962 - The theatre following the Hollywood Flood when rains washed mud down from the hills. Thanks to Sean Ault for the photo from his collection. The vertical and marquee signage we see had earlier said "Fox." Eric Lynxwiler reports that the "P" above the readerboard is the old letter "F" but just with piece added to turn it into a "P."



 1962 - A detail from the previous photo showing off the Pix signage.



1962 - A newspaper photo of the flood damage. Thanks to David Thwing for posting the photo on the Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page. 



1960s - The wonderful Pix vertical in the daytime. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for the photo, appearing on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.
 


1960s - A great view of the Pix sign at night. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating the photo, stashed in one of his Photobucket albums. 
 


1965 - Looking east across Hollywood and Vine toward the Pix. It's a detail from a photo Noirish Los Angeles contributor Ethereal Reality found on eBay for his Noirish post #94594. Thanks!

 

1965 - A fine signage view as the Pix during the run of "Cat Ballou." It's a Sid Avery photo on the MPTV website.



1965 - A peek in the boxoffice. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for posting the photo on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.



1965 - A great photo from the Ricard Wojcik collection. We're looking northeast with the back of the Music Box's stagehouse in the center of the photo. Richard posted it on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles where it provoked many comments. 
 
 
 
1968 - A view east from Argyle. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating the photo for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.



1974 - The Pix boxoffice during the run of "Lenny" and "Save The Tiger." Thanks to Ken McIntyre for the photo, one he stashed away in a Photobucket album. 



1970s - Another boxoffice view from the Pix days. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for the photo on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.  
 
 

1975 - The line for the opening of "Jaws." Thanks to Moviejs1944 for locating the photo for a post on Cinema Treasures.



1975 - The theatre during the run of "Jaws." Thanks to Bobby Cole for posting the photo on the LAHTF Facebook page.



1975 - Looking east toward the Pix. Thanks to John Stewart for his photo, one of fourteen appearing in his Los Angeles Theaters set on Flickr. John is the long-time projectionist at the Austin Paramount. Thanks also to John's friend Mike Hume for advising of the collection.



1975 - The Pix at night in September. It's a John Stewart photo on Flickr.



1976 - Looking east on Hollywood Blvd. with a bit of the Pantages below us and the Pix down the street. Thanks to Ken McIntyre on Photos of Los Angeles for the photo.



1977 - Looking east toward the Pix. Thanks to Meredith Jacobson Marciano for her photo on Flickr.



1983 - Thanks to Terry Guy for this January photo of the Pix in its Spanish language days. He has it on Flickr.  The photo has put in appearances on Photos of Los Angeles and is included among many other Music Box photos in Martin Pal's Noirish Los Angeles post #28606.  



1983 - A January photo from American Classic Images. The Cantinflas picture they're running dated from 1974. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for spotting it in the collection.



1983 - Thanks to American Classic Images for this great view of the signage from the west. Also check out more Pix photos from the American Classic Images site.



early 1980s - Another nice shot of the facade when the theatre was still named the Pix. It's from Ken McIntyre on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.



early 1980s - End of the line for the theatre as the Pix following its closure by Pacific Theatres. At the end it was Spanish language film house. The marquee is advising their customers to go up the street to the Vine Theatre instead. When the house reopened it was a legit venue under Nederlander management. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the photo. He's got it in a Photobucket album.



1985 - The Henry Fonda with an engagement of Harold Pinter's "Old Times." Thanks to American Classic Images for this October photo. 



1986 - A telephoto view west on Hollywood Blvd. It's a Tony Barnard photo for the L.A. Times appearing on Calisphere. It's also on the UCLA Library site. There's also a second take of the same vista. The UCLA site has a zoom feature so you can go in and pan around.

The vertical for the Music Box (at this time called the Henry Fonda) is on the left. The Egyptian is down there somewhere. Way down is the El Capitan (with its vertical saying Paramount). On the right beyond the X Theatre are the World Theatre hiding behind it (with a blank marquee), the Pantages, and the Warner (by this time with Pacific on its vertical). 
 
 
 
c.2000 - A view taken after the failure of the Nederlander / Pacific Theatres attempt to return the building to legit theatre use. The marquee is plugging "The Lion King" at the Pantages. Thanks to Ken Roe for his photo, appearing as a post on Cinema Treasures.



2002 - The theatre reactivated as a music venue. A Betty Sword photo in the collection of theatre historian Cezar Del Valle. Pay him a visit on the Theatre Talks blog. Thanks, Cezar!



2007 - At the time of this shot from the east the stagehouse was doing extra revenue duty as a billboard for "American Gangster."  Photo: Bill Counter



2007 - A facade detail from the previous photo. 



2007 - The entry still shows off the Fox West Coast circuit Skouras-style remodel the lobby areas got in the 40s. Photo: Bill Counter



2007 - The Henry Fonda name still on the vertical at this time dated from the Nederlander operation of the venue as a legit house in the 1980s. Photo: Bill Counter



2012 - The marquee says "You Can't Stop The Music" -- but the building owner obviously could stop it when she was unhappy about certain changes in the operation and an unauthorized sublease. Here in February the theatre was closed following eviction of the tenants -- the building was then leased to concert promoter Goldenvoice.  Photo: Bill Counter



2012 - The theatre obviously began life as a legitimate theatre -- just look at the size of the stagehouse in relation to the rest of the building. Here the vertical sign is still saying "Music Box." Photo: Bill Counter



2013 - The theatre rebranded as the Fonda. Thanks to Martin Pal, who included the photo in his Noirish Los Angeles post #28606.



2018 - A view from the west. Yes, there's a nice Spanish style facade still under that 1950s vintage cladding on the second story. There once was talk (by a previous operator) about restoring the facade. Photo: Bill Counter



2019 - Looking east. Photo: Bill Counter



2019 - Friends Of The Fonda night at the theatre. Photo: Bill Counter



2019 - A marquee detail. Thanks to Cat Lukaszewski for her photo, one of nineteen in her Fonda album on Facebook that were taken at the Friends Of The Fonda open house in August.



2019 - The theatre's owner, Leslie Blumberg, and, seated, a friend of the family checking people in for the Friends gathering. Photo: Bill Counter



2019 - The west side of the 40s vintage ticket lobby. Photo: Bill Counter



2019 - A detail of the ceiling of the entrance area. Photo: Cat Lukaszewski



2019 - The east side of the building. An apartment complex is planned for the parking lot. Photo: Bill Counter



2019 - A look along the back wall toward the loading door. Currently, the theatre has a key to the gate and trucks and buses can drive through the parking lot to Gower St. after a load out. The theatre has negotiated an easement through the parking structure of the new development to the east so they'll continue to have the same kind of access. Photo: Bill Counter



2019 - A rendering from HKS Architects of the new tower going up to the east of the theatre. In the rendering it's on the far right, mysteriously missing its stagehouse. The drawing appeared with Bianca Barragan's August 2019 Curbed L.A. story about the new building's approval: "21-story tower next to Hollywood's Fonda Theatre gets go-ahead from city." The project by Trammel Crow and MetLife will have retail and restaurant space on the ground floor and 220 residential units above.  
 
 
 
2021 - "Stay Safe." It's a view of the closed theatre taken in January. Photo: Bill Counter


The rooftop patio and pavilion:


A c.2009 look west. We're above the theatre's outer lobby. On the right it's the pavilion overlooking Hollywood Blvd. Down the street it's the Pantages Theatre and, on the extreme left, the blue signage is lit on the rooftop towers of the Warner/Hollywood Pacific. Thanks to Thaddeus Smith for the photo. It's one that once appeared on his Music Box website.
  


The view west in 2012. Thanks to Albert Domasin for his photo on Flickr.



A 2016 Steve Raymond photo looking west toward the W Hotel. That's a bit of the upper part of the auditorium on the left. The photo is one of seven in Steve's set appearing on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page.



The view in 2019, showing the effects of new development including the El Centro apartment complex in the next block to the west. Photo: Bill Counter



Another view west. It was a gathering of the Friends of the Fonda to discuss issues with an easement to maintain access to the back of the theatre in the face of new development planned to the east. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019 


 
Looking southwest toward the back of the auditorium. The upper door goes in the back of the projection booth. At the far left it's one of the two sets of stairs from the upstairs lobby. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



Stairs from the upstairs lobby. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



A look west out the back door of the booth. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019. See the page about the Fonda on his Historic Theatre Photography site for many more of his great photos.



Looking southeast. The tall structure on the left houses the theatre's mechanical rooms. Thanks to Steve Raymond for his 2016 photo on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page.



Another view to the southeast. The pigeons seem enamored with the top of the fan room. In the lower left are David Saffer and Escott O. Norton of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation at the Friends Of The Fonda event. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



Looking east out the back of the projection booth. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



Looking east in the rooftop pavilion. It's a rare vintage photo from the Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph Collection. Thanks to Martin Pal for finding this one in the Torrence collection and including it (with many more Music Box views) in his Noirish Los Angeles post #28606.

The openings at the left looked out onto Hollywood Blvd. They've been filled in on the inside and are obscured on the outside by metal cladding on the facade. The colonnade down the center of the image separating this pavilion from the patio at the right has also been filled in -- with a wall having doors that open to the patio. At the time of the photo it looks looks like the patio area was tented.  Head to the Bruce Torrence website to browse over 200 more Hollywood theatre photos.



Looking east c. 2010. On the left the once-open spaces overlooking the street have been filled in. Even by the 40s windows had been installed. The doors in the filled-in wall at the right go to the patio. Thanks to Don Solosan of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation for his photo.



A 2019 view east. Photo: Bill Counter



Looking west c.2009. The doors in the left wall go to the patio. Thanks to Thaddeus Smith for the photo. It was once on his Music Box website.



In the pavilion looking west in 2012. Thanks to Albert Domasin for the photo, one of 32 views in his LAHTF's Tour of the Music Box album on Flickr.


More information: See the history of the Music Box Theatre by Bill Gabel and B. Erikson on Cinema Treasures. The Cinema Tour page has some pictures, including three 2003 interior shots contributed by Ken Roe. 

Sandi Hemmerlein's Avoiding Regret site has a fine tour of the theatre via her 2019 photo essay "Standing in the Shadows of Towers in Hollywood (Or: What Will Happen to the Fonda Theatre?)." The Pix signage makes an appearance a bit after ten minutes into John Frizzell's "A History of Neon Signs," a 25 minute film from 1984. Thanks to Michelle Gerdes for spotting it on YouTube. 

See the page about the Music Box/Fonda on Mike Hume's Historic Theatre Photography site for many terrific photos of the building. Mary Mallory contributed a history of the theatre to the site Only In Hollywood. There are also some great pictures of the venue on the Music Box page of Yelp. Also see a 2011 facade view on Photos of Los Angeles.

More on the Cinemiracle run of "Windjammer" in 1958/59:  A December 7 L.A. Times article "Windjammer in Move December 25" noted that "...recent improvements in both screen construction and projection techniques involving the Cinemiracle presentation, would become part of the New Fox installation... The house will be dark for several days prior to Christmas while the new system is made ready." Perhaps those "recent improvements" involved showing the film on a smaller screen and junking the elaborate 3 projector installation. At the Fox, like at the Chinese, that would have required a new main floor booth. They were open with other films through December 23.

The best guess is that they made a composite print of the three negatives and it was run in standard 35mm Cinemascope format. The reserved seat engagement opened Christmas day for a 15 week run. It was advertised so one would think it was the same kind of presentation as at the Chinese. A December 24 L.A. Times article had noted that it was "produced and presented in Cinemiracle." Ads noted that it would be "On Giant Cinemiracle Screen" and that "The Giant Wall to Wall Screen Comes Alive" and promised "Never Anything Like It Before."

In defense of the idea that the theatre did run a full 3 projector/7 channel stereo presentation, David Coles offers this comment: "Consider this factor - as far as I can see the Chinese was the ONLY Cinemiracle installation where a new permanent projection booth was built. All the other venues (including the Roxy NYC) had 'mobile booths' (like today's containers), or they squeezed the 3 machines into existing booths. As the normal projection room at the Fox was quite high I suspect they put a temporary booth at the rear of the 'stalls' - which could have been done while previous film season was running. I have found multiple instances where 'Windjammer' ran in venues with only a couple of days 'in & out' between seasons. The portability of screen & projection equipment was a major selling point of the National Theatres roadshowing of this film."


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2 comments:

  1. Great blog, thanks to the information shared by bloggers, I am honored to have the opportunity to see these memorable and precious photos.

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  2. I spent a lot of time in this theatre as a kid but I never saw it like this. Along with the Hawaii a few blocks west, it was the place to go for the newest "I Was A Teenage Whatever" and Poe flicks. The loss of the Pix marquee was tragic.

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