A 1966 bus windshield view looking east on Hollywood Blvd. with the theatre at the time called Rector's Admiral. They're running an MGM revival package that was out that year. On the marquee: "Sweethearts" and "The Merry Widow." Oh, that's the Pantages down the street on the left. Thanks to The Kingsley Collection for the photo. It appears in their album Classic Los Angeles which features photos from the estate of Barbara Harlen. Among other places, the photo has also been seen in a cropped version on Photos of Los Angeles as a post of Bill Gabel.
Opened: May 16, 1940 as the Admiral. It was originally a restaurant before the remodel into a theatre. The opening films were "His Majesty's Mistress" with Danielle Darrieux and John Loder along with "Torpedoed" starring H.B. Warner.
Architect: S. Charles Lee
A section by Mr. Lee showing the proscenium and auditorium back wall. It's a detail from a larger drawing in the S. Charles Lee Papers at the Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.
Seating: 603 after the 1969 renovations. The Dolby renovations of 2014 took it down to 70 seats.
Noir City Dame in her Noirish Los Angeles post #19591 traces the use of the building as a restaurant. In 1933 it was Henry's Restaurant. In March 1934 Henry was out and it reopened as Perry's Brass Rail, Perry having moved from three doors to the west. By late 1936 it had become the Weiss Cafe.The L.A. Times issue of May 17, 1940 reported the opening of the theatre. Thanks to Noir City Dame for finding the article:
In the 60s the theatre was known as Rector's Admiral and, at the end, played mostly revivals and sub-runs. Trans-Beacon (in association with New York's B.S. Moss circuit) gave it a $200,000 remodel in 1969 and re-named it the Vine Theatre.
Work included a greater height lobby area (with new lobby decor), redone boxoffice area, new seating, new booth equipment, redesigned rear exit scheme, a bigger screen and new auditorium decor (mostly drapes). The remodel was profiled in the May 19, 1969 issue of Boxoffice.
Pacific Theatres later acquired the theatre and operated it for years (with a yet another remodel in the 70's) as both a Spanish language house and a $2 grindhouse. At the end it was a sad independent operation with $7 double features. After 70 years of operation (with a few breaks) the Vine closed as a regular film theatre in October 2007.
The Vine then was a rental house for a few years for various downmarket events and private screenings. The marquee's semi-permanent copy usually touted the theatre's 35mm and digital projection capabilities. In June 2009 it had a fling as the home of the Laserium. The L.A. Times had the story. Evidently the Laserium folks couldn't make a go of it. A January 2010 story detailed the defeat.
Status: Dolby leased the Vine in late 2013 and the theatre was gutted down to the bare walls in 2014. It was rebuilt as a private demonstration showcase for their Dolby Vision process, featuring laser-based projection. They're working with Christie on the equipment.
SF Gate had a May 2015 story by Benny Evangelista about the company's new technologies, "Dolby hopes to lure movie fans back with theater of the future," that included photos of both the Vine and the Dolby Theatre.
Hollywood Reporter had a December 2014 story about a demo at the theatre: "Sensory Assault: Dolby Takes on IMAX with Mega-Theatre Rival." Digital Trend ran a December story about the process: "Dolby Looks to Outdo IMAX..."
The Admiral/Vine Theatre in the Movies:
The Admiral gets a shot in Robert Wise's "I Want To Live" with Susan Hayward (United Artists, 1958). Thanks to GS Jansen for posting the screenshot on his Noirish Los Angeles post #23572. We're looking west from Hollywood & Vine toward the Warner. The theatre is playing "Saratoga Trunk" (1945) with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman along with "The Square Jungle" (1955) with Tony Curtis and Ernest Borgnine.
We get the same shot repeated in Joseph Newman's "The George Raft Story" (Allied Artists, 1961) with Ray Danton, Jayne Mansfield and Julie London. For the purposes of "Raft" the towers of the Warner in the distance with the neon saying "Cinerama" are a bit of an anachronism. Thanks to Kliph Nesteroff for the screenshot this time, posted on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.
"Go see what's playing at the Vine" her father said. So Elle Fanning risks a jaywalking ticket while he has a tryst in "Low Down" (Oscilloscope Labs, 2015). She's the daughter of troubled jazz pianist Joe Albany, played by John Hawkes. It's 1974 and the cashier won't let her in to see "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song" due to its X rating. Thanks to Royce Mathew for the screenshot.
In "Keanu" (Warner/Fine Line, 2016) we take a drive to the Hollywood Hills for a drug delivery after our two stars, Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, get involved with a gang in an attempt to get back a stolen cat. On the far left is the dark marquee of the Vine with the Pantages in the distance. In "Keanu" we also see the Palace Theatre, the Los Angeles Theatre and the Cinerama Dome. See the Theatres In Movies post for more shots from the film.
The Vine is seen in Quentin Tarantino's "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" (Sony, 2019). The film stars Leo DiCaprio and his friend Brad Pitt as an actor and stuntman trying to find work in the business in 1969. The Manson murder case also figures into the plot as the guys live next door to Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots of the shoot at the Vine as well as lots of action at the Cinerama Dome, Earl Carroll, Vogue, Pussycat/Ritz, Fox Westwood, Bruin, and Pantages theatres.
The interior of the building as Henry's Restaurant before its conversion to a theatre. The card appears as part of Mr. Ethereal Reality's Noirish Los Angeles post #20899 and was a find by him on eBay.
The Vine's auditorium after the 1969 remodel. The photo apeared in the May 19, 1969 issue of Boxoffice. The photo is also on Cinema Treasures, added by Bill Gabel.
The outer lobby showing the results of the 2014 Dolby renovations. Hollywood Blvd. is off to the left. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
Looking in toward the effects wall. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
The effects wall. Dolby's idea for their Dolby Vision Theatre is to have a long entrance corridor to act as a transition from the outside world. It's a photo by David Walter Banks that appeared with a May 2015 SF Gate story by Benny Evangelista "Dolby hopes to lure movie fans back..." that included photos of both the Vine and the Dolby Theatre. They commented: "Instead of a traditional lobby, the entrance to the auditorium is a dark, curved corridor. Projectors cast a floor-to-ceiling video the length of the corridor, with accompanying Atmos sound."
Another look at the effects wall. It's done with multiple projectors overhead. You follow it around to either side for the auditorium entrances. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
The house left corridor into the auditorium. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
A view from house left. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
A detail of a corner of the floating screen. No masking. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
A 2015 photo by David Walter Banks appearing with the SF Gate article. They commented: "The seats and wall coverings are made of materials in flat black to eliminate light reflecting from the screen. The speakers are hidden behind faceted panels, smaller in the back and larger toward the front, to help focus the viewer’s attention to the screen."
The rear of the Vine's re-configured auditorium. It's a 2015 photo by David Walter Banks for SF Gate.
Another look to the rear of the house. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
More exterior views:
Looking east across Vine St. toward the Pantages. Here in the lower left is Henry's restaurant, where the Admiral/Vine Theatre will later be. The photo, in the Los Angeles Public Library collection, was taken sometime before March 1934.
Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles researcher Noir City Dame for this view of the building as Henry's Restaurant -- before S. Charles Lee got to it. It's in Ms. Noir City's Noirish Los Angeles post # 19591. She does a fine job of tracing the building through several restaurant uses after it was Henry's.
A c.1937 Herman Schultheis view across toward where the Admiral Theatre would later be. It's still a restaurant at this point. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.
A 1940 pre-opening photo by Julius Shulman from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers collection appearing on Calisphere. Also in the collection is a facade sketch by S. Charles Lee.
Santa at the Admiral. Thanks to Johnny Wareham on Vintage Los Angeles for this one. It's perhaps Christmas season 1940 with second run engagements of Humphrey Bogart in "You Can't Get Away With Murder" along with Don Ameche and the Ritz Brothers in "Three Musketeers." The photo is from an album belonging to Mr. Wareham's mother, who noted "The little arrow [upper right] is pointing to where I worked during Xmas. Just up the street a little ways from the Taft building, still on Hollywood Blvd., is the 'Hitching Post.' Straight up from the theater, about 3 doors is 'Melody Lane' a quite well known restaurant."
A lovely 1941 or 1942 shot taken across the street from the Admiral with its marquee reflected in the window. The photo was on the site Shorpy in September 2015. Thanks to Michael Moran spotting it and posting on Photos of Los Angeles.
Bruce Kimmel comments: "Got the top-billed feature - 'Last of the Duanes' starring George Montgomery. That film came out in September of 1941 and would have hit second and third run theaters like the Admiral a few months later." The second feature looks like it might be Lloyd Nolan in "Buy Me That Town," an October 1941 release.
This 1942 view is in the great Bruce Torrence Hollywood Photograph Collection. On the marquee: "Hellzapoppin" and "Saboteur." Also in the collection is a 1972 exterior view and, of course, there are many more Hollywood theatre photos to browse.
This detail from the photo above appears on page 67 of the 2008 Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres in Los Angeles" by Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Amy Ronnebeck Hall and Marc Wanamaker. Most of the rare photos in the book are from Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives. Google Books has a preview of the book to browse.
A 1945 view looking east toward Hollywood & Vine. Thanks to Dann Pryce for the shot on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.
Here we're looking east along Hollywood Blvd. -- you can see a sliver of the Pantages vertical on the left. The main feature at the Admiral this week is "Razor's Edge" with Gene Tierney and Tyrone Power from 1946. The photo comes from the tour of the Hollywood Blvd. Line on Tom Wetzel's great site Uncanny, all about "Transportation and the City - Past and Present." The page on Hollywood transit history also has views of the Chinese, the Warner and the Pantages.
A 1946 Christmas view looking west at one of the most photographed corners in the city, Hollywood and Vine. The Admiral marquee is glowing brightly in the middle of the image. The uncredited photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The photo also appears as part of the lovely Noirish Los Angeles post #2330 by GS Jansen featuring several other Hollywood Blvd. Christmas shots by the same photographer.
A busy 1947 Frasher Foto Card looking west on Hollywood Blvd. across Vine with the Admiral Theatre in the center. It appears on Calisphere from the Pomona Public Library collection. The photo also appears on Vintage Los Angeles and, as well, is part of Ethereal Reality's Noirish Los Angeles post #5198, a fun photo survey of the use of banners across L.A.'s streets.
Well it's a nice look at the newstand in 1948. Thanks to Mr. Ethereal Reality for the tourist snapshot from eBay, included in his Noirish Los Angeles post #34180. Our theatre is lurking across the street.
Looking west through Hollywood and Vine in a December 1948 photo by Arnold Hylen. The photo comes to us courtesy of his grand niece Greta Gustafsson. Pay a visit to the Facebook page Greta curates: Arnold Hylen - Los Angeles Images of an Era 1850 - 1950.
A c.1950 photo by Ralph Morris looking east on Hollywood Blvd. Below us is the Admiral Theatre with Vine St. and the Pantages beyond. It's in the LAPL collection.
A glimpse of the theatre's facade in 1952 during the Christmas parade as it's being broadcast by KTLA. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the photo. The Admiral, in a revival phase, is running "The Long Voyage Home" (1940) and "Barbary Coast" (1935).
A November 1953 look at a slice of the Admiral. It's part of Beaudry's fine Noirish Los Angeles post #28689 featuring photos from the book "LAPD '53" (Abrams) by James Ellroy and L.A. Police Museum executive director Glynn Martin. Also see the Los Angeles magazine article about the book: "James Ellroy and Glynn Martin Revisit the LAPD's Grim Archives..."
A view east c.1954. The Admiral is running "Hell Below Zero" with Alan Ladd, a July 1954 release. Thanks to Sean Ault for the find.
A sweet December, 1954 view of the theatre's marquee in the center of the image as we look west. The Warner is down the street. Thanks to Richard Wojcik for the postcard from his collection, appearing on Vintage Los Angeles. On the marquee: Marlon Brando in "The Wild One" (1953) and Robert Mitchum in "My Forbidden Past" (1951). The card has also been seen in various versions on the So Cal Historic Architecture Facebook page, on Gaylord Wilshire's Noirish Los Angeles post #9302, on Photos of Los Angeles and in Elizabeth Fuller's Old Los Angeles Postcards collection on Flickr.
Elizabeth gives us what is on the back of the one she has, mailed in January 1958: "Famous intersection in the heart of the entertainment capital of the world. Motion Picture Studios, Broadcasting Studios, Famous hotels and restaurants are nearby. Here, a visitor to the southland may by chance catch a glimpse of his favorite celebrity." "Greetings: We are having a wonderful time out here. It is sunny and warm - 79 degrees today. Fine places to see and go to - we are starting back this week. We'll see you soon I hope. Lillian Art"
A nice post on the site LAist, "Vintage Videos: Hollywood Blvd. in the 1940s, 50s and 60s," offers a great selection of short video clips focusing on Hollywood Blvd. Here we get a shot of the Admiral Theatre in 1956 running "The Searchers" from a Getty Images 1 minute+ clip from Alison Martino, of Vintage Los Angeles Facebook fame. It's on YouTube.
Looking east on Hollywood Blvd. in 1958. Rector's Admiral is running "I Want To Live" with Susan Hayward. The 2nd big feature is "The Long, Long Trailer" (1953) with Lucy and Desi. It's another find by devoted theatre sleuth Sean Ault.
A rainy Christmas season view looking east toward Vine St. The Admiral Theatre marquee is peeking out on the left. Thanks to Sean Ault, a noted historian of transit in the Los Angeles area, for the photo.
Well, it's hard to see much of the Admiral Theatre in this postcard view but it's there on the right as we look west on Hollywood Blvd. This was a post of Douglas Rudd on Photos of Los Angeles.
Looking west from Hollywood and Vine in August, 1963. The photo was submitted to Shorpy by Tterrace, who says he's that guy visiting the big city. The Admiral is running a reissue of "Auntie Mame" (1958) plus "The Day They Robbed The Bank of England (1960). Thanks to Phillip Cutler for giving a nudge to get this one included by posting it on the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page. Visit Phillip's page devoted to Classic Hollywood/Los Angeles/SFV.
The view west on Hollywood Blvd. in 1965 with "Rector's Admiral" visible on the far left. Thanks to Alison Martino for the photo on Flickr where she also has a nice collection of additional historic L.A. photos.
At the theatre that week: Belmondo in "That Man From Rio" and Deborah Kerr and Gary Cooper in "The Naked Edge." The photo also appears on Ryan Khatam's Neat Stuff Blog in a 2009 post called "Vintage Los Angeles."
The Trans-Beacon remodel and rebranding of the Admiral as the Vine was profiled in the May 19, 1969 issue of Boxoffice. This view appeared with the article. The photo is also on Cinema Treasures, an addition to the site by prolific contributor Bill Gabel.
A triple bill at the Vine in the 70s. It's a photo by Kolchak Ans on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.
The run of "Cruising" in 1980 brought out the protestors. Thanks to Cinema Treasures contributor Granola for adding it to the site's page on the Vine Theatre.
The Vine marquee in its later grind house days. The marquee is tying to tell us that it's two movies for $5. The photo is from Preemo on Flickr where he dates it as c.2000. It's also been seen on Photos of Los Angeles.
The Vine Theatre in 2007. Photo: Bill Counter
A look west in 2009. The intersection of Hollywood and Vine is behind us. Note the towers of the Warner Theatre in the distance. It's a view from Google Maps. Head there for a current interactive version.
A 2009 Laserium marquee detail from intrepid theatre photographer Hollywood 90038, who has stalked all of Hollywood. It was once on the Cinema Treasures page for the Vine but seems to have vanished from that site.
The Vine Theatre in its brief Laserium phase. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010
A signage detail. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010
A January 2014 look at the Vine with the "For Rent" lettering off the marquee. The Dolby team was at work on a renovation. It's a photo by Andrew Gage that appeared on the page for the Mid Century Modern Facebook group. Thanks to Stephen Russo for spotting it. The marquee design and name date from the 1969 remodel.
A street view from the May 2015 SF Gate story by Benny Evangelista "Dolby hopes to lure movie fans back..." It may be all new inside but no Dolby upgrades on the exterior -- except a security guard to limit entrance when Dolby has an invitational screening. It's a photo by David Walter Banks.
More Information: See the Cinema Tour page for more pictures. And there's lots of discussion on the Cinema Treasures page. Sid Avery has a nice 1965 color view of the entrance on MPTV Images. For another look at the block before the theatre existed, see the Dick Whittington 1939 USC view on Photos of Los Angeles.
The owner of the theatre building can be reached at (310) 444-8955.
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