Also see: Music Box/Fonda: interior views
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.
Mae Murray had the "champagne" duties for the event on May 1, 1926. Thanks to April Clemmer for locating this article. Visit the April's Old Hollywood site for information on walking tours and special events she hosts. She's also on Facebook.
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).
A 1926 program cover. Thanks to April Clemmer for locating it.
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 page for the Photos of Los Angeles private Facebook group.
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.
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.
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 patio above the lobby
was put back into use as an indoor / outdoor lounge area in conjunction with the now-closed Blue Palms Brewhouse. The Palms was in the storefront east of the theatre entrance. There are doors from the restaurant into the theatre lobby so the spaces can be 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 and reopened the house on March 17 with a performance by Feed Me with Teeth.
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, until a 2021 sale, she also had a 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."
More street views:
1926 - A Mott Studios photo that appeared in the January 1928 issue of Architect and Engineer. The issue is available on Internet Archive. Note that Mr. DeHaven's name, while removed from the end of the marquee, is still on the roof sign advertising the "Revue of Revues - The Pick of the World in Girls."
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," but still 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 prior to "Chicago." Thanks to Maurice E. Ideses for locating the photo for a post on the Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page.
1928 - A view taken during the run of the revue "Women Go On Forever" starring Bessie Bariscale. The photo once appeared on a now-vanished UCLA web page "Remapping Hollywould" [sic]. It's also been seen on the Facebook group Photos of Los Angeles. In a "Women Go On Forever" shot in the Historic Hollywood Photographs collection, their #T-034-28, you can see a tent erected on the rooftop patio.
Michelle Gerdes comments: "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."
1930 - A view east when the Civic Repertory Theatre was mounting a show titled "The Hero," a production that opened April 1. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating the image for a 2013 post on the Photos of Los Angeles private Facebook group.
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.
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. The marquee copy advertises a production of the play "Porgy" by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, based on his novel. It was later the inspiration for Gershwin's 1935 "Porgy and Bess."
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.
1957 - A view east toward the Fox in mid-March. The Pantages was running "The Wings of Eagles," a film that opened February 20. 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.
1957 - Moving closer to the theatre in the Getty footage.
1957 - A detail from the previous Getty image. 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 newspaper photo of the flood damage. Thanks to David Thwing for posting the photo on the Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page.
1960s - The Pix vertical in the daytime. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating this photo for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles private Facebook group.
1960s - A great view of the Pix sign at night. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating the photo.
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 "Cat Ballou" signage view by Sid Avery that appears on the MPTV website.
1965 - A peek in the boxoffice. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for sharing the the photo in a post for the private Facebook group Photos of Los Angeles.
1965 - A great photo from the Ricard Wojcik collection. We're looking northeast with the back of the Pix's stagehouse in the center of the photo. Richard posted it on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles where it provoked many comments.
1974 - The Pix boxoffice during the run of "Lenny" and "Save The Tiger." Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating the photo.
1970s - Another boxoffice view from the Pix days. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for sharing the photo with the private Facebook group Photos of Los Angeles.
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.
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 the now-vanished American Classic Images website. 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.
early 1980s - Another nice shot of the facade when the theatre was still named the Pix. It was shared by Ken McIntyre as a post on the private Facebook group 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.
1985 - The Henry Fonda with an engagement of Harold Pinter's "Old Times" starring Harold Pinter himself along with Liv Ullmann. Thanks to the now-vanished American Classic Images website for this October photo. See the November 1 L.A. Times review.
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 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).
2002 - The theatre reactivated as a music venue. It's 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 - 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 "Henry Fonda." 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.
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 gathering of the short-lived Friends group. It was a thrust by the owner to apply pressure on the developers of the lot to the east so that they would grant an easement allowing continued truck access through their property for loading in shows at the back of the theatre. 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.
The rooftop patio and pavilion:
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
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
Looking southeast. The tall structure on the left houses the theatre's mechanical rooms. Thanks to Steve Raymond for sharing his 2016 photo with the SoCal Historic Architecture private Facebook group.
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 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.
The Music Box is down the street on the right in this shot from the 18 minute short "Sky Scrappers" (Christie / Paramount, 1930). That's Chester Conklin out on a beam atop the newly completed Guaranty Bldg. at Hollywood and Ivar. Note the Pantages vertical behind him. Thanks to Jeff Hamblin for identifying the film the shot came from. It was directed by Arvid E. Gillstrom and also features Eddie Baker, Doris Hill and Blanche Payson.The image appears on page 35 of the Arcadia Publishing book "Location Filming in Los Angeles" by Karie Bible, Marc Wanamaker and Harry Medved. They have it identified as an earlier Conklin film, "Cleaning Up." The page with the photo is included in the book's preview on Google Books. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for two more stills Jeff located that were shot on the Guaranty Building as well as a view of the Melrose Theatre.
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 six 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.
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.
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 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. Also see Mary's article "Fonda Theatre: Flashback" for the Hollywood Partnership. 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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