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Pantages: vintage auditorium views


The California State Library has a wonderful array of 1930 vintage Pantages Theatre photos taken by Mott Studios. Here we get a view of the theatre's asbestos curtain from the Library's photo set #001454712.

For a comparison, the section on recent auditorium views has several photos of the curtain including a proscenium view taken by Amy Higgins during the 2000 restoration project.



This Mott Studios photo shows the painted act curtain. It's in the California State Library's photo set #001454712.



The vista across the auditorium, one of the grandest spaces in any Los Angeles theatre. It's a 1930 Mott Studios photo in the California State Library's photo set #001387215.  A version of the photo is also in the USC Digital Library collection from Jim Lewis, who donated it to the California Historical Society.



The Pantages proscenium with draperies set for film presentation.  The Mott Studios photo is one of five views in the California State Library photo set #001454712. The photo also appears in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



The house right side stage. It's a Mott Studios photo, one of 18 views in the California State Library's photo set #001387230.



A wider house right view including both the side stage and organ grille. It's a photo in the collection of the Los Angeles Public Library.



A photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection showing off the house's waterfall curtain.  Note the uplights placed in the pit for the photo.



The house left organ grille. The Pantages never got an organ installation -- the contract was cancelled during construction.  The Mott Studios photo is one of fourteen in the State Library's photo set # 001387245.



A Mott Studios photo looking back into the house from onstage. Note the chevron patterns in the seating fabric. It's in the California State Library photo set #001407754.



Peeking in from a front side aisle entrance to look at the rear of the auditorium. It's a c.1930 photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. It also appears in the Tom B'hend and Preston Kaufmann Collection.



A shot looking toward the back of the balcony. The Mott Studios photo is in the California State Library's photo set #001407754.



Another view to the rear with a focus on that house right organ grille. The Mott Studios photo is in the California State Library's photo set #001407754.



A main floor seating detail. It's a Mott Studios photo in the California State Library photo set #001387214, where's also another similar shot



The ceiling and the front of the booth during construction. Note the ladders and unfinished back wall decoration.  The Mott photo is in the State Library's photo set #001387230.  The Los Angeles Public Library has a similar shot but cropped a bit closer.



A peek down into the chandelier. It's a Mott Studios photo in the California State Library photo set #001416972.



The straight-up shot. The Mott Studios photo is one of seventeen in the California State Library's photo set #001407754.



Looking across toward house left.  The Mott Studios photo is in the California State Library photo set #001416972.  It's also in the AMPAS Tom B'hend - Preston Kaufmann Collection.



The balcony from house left. The Mott Studios photo is in the California State Library's photo set #001407754.



Another view giving us the organ grille this time. The Mott Studios photo is in the California State Library's photo set #001407754.

 

Another lower balcony vista off toward house left from Mott Studios, in the State Library's photo set #001387245.

 

A Mott Studios house right balcony sidewall detail from the California State Library photo set #001387214.  The photo also appears in the Tom B'hend - Preston Kaufmann Collection and a version is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection as well.

 

Note how the wall decor suddenly becomes less ornate back in the cheap seats at the rear of the balcony.  The Mott Studios photo is one of seventeen views in the California State Library's photo set #001407754.



"The luxury within matches the beauty without!...a monument to Pantages achievement...a revelation in ornate, resplendent luxury..." It's an ad for the "Roomy chairs -- deep chairs that relax tired bodies" by American Seating at the new Pantages in the August 30, 1930 issue of Exhibitors Herald-World. The issue is available on Internet Archive.
When the Pantages got open in 1930, Alexander Pantages had already sold his circuit (under duress) to Joe Kennedy at RKO -- but the Hollywood project had not been part of the sale. The theatre opened with Pantages' son, Rodney, as manager but it was a Fox West Coast operation. Like many other Fox houses, the live portion of the show was produced by Fanchon & Marco. The brother & sister team produced vaudeville shows (or sometimes tab versions of musicals) they called "Ideas," that would play around the circuit.
 


Scrapbooks containing hundreds of photos of the Fanchon & Marco productions are at the Huntington Library Fanchon & Marco Collection. Here on page 55 of Scrapbook 12 we get a proscenium view set for the "Whoopee" Idea, evidently a tab version of the Broadway show.



The cast of "Whoopee" on another set for the show in 1932. It's on page 56 of Scrapbook 12 in the Fanchon & Marco collection at the Huntington Library.  Also see a another view of the same set.

The theatre had closed earlier in 1932. Fox West Coast reopened it October 20 with MGM's "Dinner at Eight" and the F&M "Whoopee" idea. The United Artists downtown also reopened at the same time with the same film but a different Fanchon & Marco stage show. Fox advertised both theatres as under the direction of Sid Grauman, by this time working for them.

For more on Fanchon & Marco head to the site curated by the family, www.fanchonandmarco.com. Also see their terrific Fanchon & Marco set on Flickr.

 

A side view of the auditorium from the Los Angeles Public Library collection showing the draping of proscenium and some auditorium areas for the roadshow engagement of Spartacus in 1961.  Look back under the balcony for a view of one of the draped-off areas.  
The front of the house had been draped in late 1959 and thus entered its yardgoods era.  The remodel was discussed in the May 9, 1960 issue of Boxoffice. At that time, they had installed a new 27' x 55' screen and, with the new shimmering gold drapes, the article noted that "the proscenium arch was eliminated."
 


A very fuzzy look at what was done at the rear of the main floor to reduce the seating capacity
in 1961 to 1,500 for "Spartacus." It was part of a Boxoffice article in their January 30, 1961 issue titled "RKO Pantages in Los Angeles Faces New Era After $100,00 Remodeling." Note the nice flowers perched on the new stub wall.  The low-res scan is from the website of Boxoffice magazine when they were making their vintage issues available online. They've now all vanished.



The proscenium in 1960 as it appeared for the run of Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus."  It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.



Another view of the auditorium during "Spartacus" comes from a Norelco ad that ran in the March 14, 1962 issue of Motion Picture Herald. The ad appeared adjacent to an article about the modern makeover of the Warner up the street, where the proscenium looked very similar to the view above after its own drape treatment. Thanks to Cinerama historian Roland Lataille who found the article for the Warner page of his In Cinerama website. [article page 1 | article page 2 ]

More California State Library views: The Library has over 200 1930 vintage photos of the Pantages but they're arranged rather haphazardly, with many duplications.

| set # 001387214 - 17 photos including 7 auditorium views and 5 lounge shots |
| set # 001387215 - 18 photos including 6 auditorium views, 10 daytime exterior views |
| set # 001387230 - 18 photos including 16 auditorium views, a nite searchlight shot |
| set # 001387245 - 14 photos including 7 auditorium views, one facade detail |
| set # 001387246 - 17 photos of lounges and inner and balcony lobbies |
| set # 001387247 - 11 lounge photos, mostly men's |
| set # 001387248 - 10 ladies lounge photos |
| set # 001387249 - 17 photos of main and balcony lobby areas |
| set # 001387250 - 18 photos - a chandelier view, the rest lobbies & lounges |
set # 001407732 - 17 photos including lobby and lounge areas |
| set # 001407754 - 17 photos including 9 auditorium shots, 4 exterior views  |
| set # 001416972 - 5 photos including a sidewall view, chandelier view, a night exterior |
| set #001416972 - 5 photos including a sidewall searchlight view |
| set # 001416979 - 2 auditorium views and 3 booth views |
| set # 001453624 -  11 photos - 2 office building plus 8 exteriors |

| set # 001453758 -  a drawing plus 2 exterior photos |
| set # 001454659 - 2 balcony sidewall views |
| set # 001454712 - 5 photos including 4 proscenium views |

The Los Angeles Public Library also has many more Pantages photos than are shown here. Many of them are early Mott Studios images also found in the California state Library collection. 

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