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Vista Theatre

4473 Sunset Dr. Los Angeles, CA 90027  | map |
The News: Quentin Tarantino bought the theatre in 2021 and renovations of the lobby, storefronts and booth are underway. Look for a reopening in October or November 2023 as a first-run house running primarily film, both 35 and 70mm. The micro-cinema in the west storefront will have digital and 16mm capabilities. See some construction photos and links to various news stories lower on the page.

Opened: October 9, 1923 as Bard's Hollywood Theatre. The first feature at "Hollywood's Newest Theatre" was "Tips" with Baby Peggy. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.
The Lou Bard circuit eventually included Bard's Hill Street (later called the Town), the College Theatre and Bard's 8th St. (later called the Olympic), all downtown. He also had theatres in West Adams, Glendale, Alhambra and Pasadena. By 1930 this one was under new ownership and called the Vista Theatre.

Phone: 323-660-6639     Website:

Architect: Lewis A. Smith. It's a cute neighborhood house with an Egyptian flavored interior. Lou Bard loved Egyptian interiors regardless of the exterior look of his theatres. There's a stage about 7' deep, enough for limited vaudeville in the silent era when the screen was mounted on the back wall. There's no fly capability.

This drawing from the architect appeared in a newspaper announcement as construction began. Thanks to Scott Collette for locating this for his Forgotten Los Angeles Facebook post about the theatre.

Seating: 838 originally. The capacity was reduced to around 400 in the 1990s when the floor was re-terraced. The official capacity on the 2022 plans is 344.

Pipe organ: It was a 2 manual 6 rank Wurlitzer Style D, opus #701.  

A 1923 ad in the Hollywood News. "Red Lights" was a September release with Marie Prevost and Raymond Griffith. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating the ad for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 

 A 1942 ad that was located by Ken McIntyre. The Hunley was later renamed the Century Theatre.
Forget your matches? The theatre had you covered. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for spotting this as a post by Nessa on Cinema Treasures and sharing it on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 
In the early 1960s Shan Sayles was operating the Vista, then a foreign film house branded as the Vista Continental. He also had the Apollo Arts, a house on Hollywood Blvd. near Western later called the Star, and the Paris Theatre on Santa Monica Blvd., the former Carmel. This 1961 article discussed the promotion of Robert Cuzan, the Apollo's manager: 

Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating the article for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. Do you care about this Cuzan guy? We also have a photo.

After a long slide down from classy neighborhood house, the Vista hit bottom as a porno venue in the mid-1960s. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for posting this 1965 L.A. Times ad on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

A 1966 L.A. Times ad for the theatre's clientele of "Rugged Adults." Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating it for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. The Vista's last day as a porno house was July 27, 1980 when the lease expired.

Mike Thomas takes over:
In 1980 it was rescued by Thomas Theatres and reopened as a revival house. The theatre was scheduled for demolition with a deal in the works with owner Shan Sayles planning to sell it for use as a parking lot for Children's Hospital. Before that deal was consummated, Mike located a rich guy to buy the building from Shan and give him a lease.
Mike was at the time also running theatres in San Francisco including the Warfield, the Crest (which he was calling the Electric) and the Strand. Earlier, along with Gary Meyer, he had been running the Times Theatre. Mike did a big cleanup and restoration project, including rejuvenating the roof sign.

A July 27, 1980 Valley News story about the renovation project. Thanks to Dan Ondrasek for sharing it as a Facebook post. He worked on the renovation along with Greg King, Kean Butterfield, Ed Villaipando and the Vista's new manager, Keith Schroeder.  
Kean Butterfield hanging Egyptian decor in the lobby. It's a John Rosenfield photo that appeared with the July 27, 1980 Valley News article.  

Greg King working on a marquee letter. It's another Valley News photo.
Ed Villaipando was painting and scraping above the marquee. It's a John Rosenfield photo that appeared with the July 27, 1980 Valley News article.    
The July 31, 1980 issue of the Los Angeles Times featured "East Hollywood Landmark - Vista Converts To Revival House," a story a Harold Atchison:  

"Intuition. A gut feeling. That's the only reason Mike Thomas and Keith Henry Schroeder needed for the Friday reopening of the Vista Theater, 4473 Sunset Drive, as a repertory movie theater. Thomas, head of the San Francisco-based Thomas Theaters, said, 'I drove like crazy and walked like crazy (through the East Hollywood neighborhood) and talked to all the merchants. I used my best intuitions and decided it would work.' Thomas asked Schroeder, another film buff with strong the feelings for the community and its past, to be operating manager...
"Schroeder will experiment with the Vista's programming, going beyond the normal repertory house format. He wants to use the theatre as an outlet for seminars and the latest works from the Southland's film schools. And although most of the Vista's films will be from the past, there will be a few premieres. The first schedule includes the Los Angeles premiere of Ranier Werner Fassbinder's 'In a Year With 13 Moons.' Documentaries, classic shorts, and films dealing with the stereotypes of women, gays and minorities are also planned. Schroeder also will make the most of the theater's history. 
"It was built in 1923 on the site used by D.W. Griffith for the Babylonian palace set in his classic 'Intolerance' -- 'our claim to fame,' Schroeder said. Business originally started under Lou Bard, whose chain of theaters brought second-run movies to the suburbs. In keeping with the past, 'Bard's East Hollywood' will stay on the Vista's logo. In the late '50s the Vista was picketed for showing Russian films. During the last 20 years, the Vista moved from soft-core pornography -- early 'early Russ Meyer stuff,' as Scroeder puts it -- to hard-core, then gay porn. But the most valuable part of the theatre's past that remains is the Egyptian motif of its interior, Sphinx heads and pharaoh masks stare across the rows. 'It's like being in the middle of a mastabah (Egyptian tomb),' Schroeder said. 

"Thomas will follow the same policy with the Vista he's used in fixing up San Francisco theaters -- restore rather than renovate. Workmen are busy restoring the original stipple effect on the ceiling, painting in stylized river reeds and putting in a snack bar that eventually will look like Cleopatra's image. Thomas said close to $40,000 has been spent bringing the Vista up to opening night. Planned restorations, including a Dolby sound system, 70mm projector and period mohair seats, will push costs past $100,000, he said. 

"The Vista will kick off its programming with a one-day mini-marathon of (naturally) Egyptian-themed pictures, including 'The Mummy,' 'The Egyptian' and Cecil B. DeMille's 'Cleopatra.' A '20s two-reel comedy titled 'Sweetie' also will be showing, and its star, Diana Serra Cary, will make an appearance at the Vista. Mrs. Cary was also at the Vista in person, as a 4-year-old child star (named 'Baby Peggy' -- 'The princess to Jackie Coogan's prince,' Schroeder said), when the theater first opened on October 9, 1923. Will the concept work? Thomas thinks East Hollywood is an appealing part of the city, and knows it has a lot of film buffs. 'They'll get more character and personality here than they'd get in a first-run multiplex.' he said. But how does he know about the potential patrons? 'The neighborhood just feels like it,' he said."

The reopening was August 1, 1980. 

A 1981 ad that appeared in the L.A. Free Press. Thanks to Adsausage Archives for sharing this and the two items below as comments in a thread about the theatre on the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.

A 1982 ad that appeared in the Free Press.  

A Free Press ad for the cafe in the east storefront. Adsausage Archives notes: "The adjacent Onyx Cafe. Owned by Fumiko Robinson and John Leech, the Onyx closed in 1986 (landlord dispute). Relocated to Vermont Ave. in Silverlake. Survived until 2000. Leech passed away in 2009."
In 1982 Landmark Theatres took over the operation. They were trying to exit in 1985. The Times covered the issue in "Vista Theater May Have Had Its Last Revival," a June 15 story by Larry Gordon:
"The Vista Theater, the Silver Lake-East Hollywood revival movie house beloved for its eclectic double bills and its Egyptian-style decor, is closing tonight, a victim, its management says, of the home-video revolution and the increasingly conservative tastes of young audiences. Negotiations to sell the long-term lease on the Vista to an operator of second-run neighborhood movie houses are in the final stages, according to Steve Gilula, president of Landmark Theater Corp., which now runs the Vista. He declined to identify the potential buyer or any details of the deal but stressed that Landmark plans to keep open its other two area revival theaters, the Nuart in West Los Angeles and the Rialto in South Pasadena.

"The Vista's financial troubles are symptomatic of the entire revival film-house industry, which has seen its staples of classics and cult films played repeatedly on cable television and put on videotapes. Since 1982, the number of area revival-repertory houses that print calendars has dropped from 13 to, as of tonight, four, Gilula said. The 700-seat Vista has been attracting audiences averaging about 150, half the break-even figure, said Mark Weber, Vista manager since Landmark acquired it in 1982. 'We used to do well with "Harold and Maude," "King of Hearts," "Road Warrior" and "Gone With the Wind," but they’re all now on videocassette or cable,' he said.

"Even changes in programming, such as Los Angeles premieres for some foreign films and highlighting gay-oriented non-pornographic films aimed at the large gay population in Silver Lake, have failed to boost the box office significantly, Weber said. For example, the Academy Award-winning documentary, 'The Life and Times of Harvey Milk,' about the assassinated San Francisco politician and gay activist, had its local premiere at the Vista but 'died here,' Weber said. In addition, the ‘60s counterculture that helped create cult films has died out. Said Gilula: 'Some of our biggest successes were films of the ‘60s and ‘70s that related to that generation. The kids today don’t relate in that way to movies like "Performance" or "King of Hearts," and they don’t have the same interest in foreign films.'

"Gilula said the Vista’s closing and imminent sale are not directly related to the current three-week-old strike by projectionists against Landmark theaters in Los Angeles over a dispute about planned automation of projection booths, which would cut jobs. But he said that overall labor costs did contribute to the closing. The Vista’s location, at 4473 Sunset Drive at the confusing intersection of Hollywood and Sunset boulevards and Hillhurst Avenue, may have made matters worse, employees said. It can be difficult to park nearby, plus the immediate neighborhood has a somewhat unsavory reputation because of a pornographic bookstore across the street.

"The Vista itself was a porno house for about 20 of its 62 years, moving from soft-core to hard-core and finally gay porn until it was refurbished for revivals in 1980 by the San Francisco-based Thomas Theaters chain, which subsequently sold it to Landmark. Built on the site of the enormous Babylon set for D. W. Griffith’s film 'Intolerance,' the theater opened in 1923 as Bard’s East Hollywood Theater with a two-reeler starring child actress Baby Peggy. In 1927, new owners dubbed it the Vista. Its exterior is in Spanish Mission style, but its glory is its interior Egyptian motif, complete with Sphinx heads and pharaonic masks lining the auditorium’s walls. 'It was always really nice for me to stand in the doorway and see the expression of people seeing the place for the first time,' said Weber, 23, who has worked for Landmark theaters since he was 17 and will continue as manager of the Rialto.

"Employees and customers say they fear that a second-run chain may let the architectural details decay and that a second-run house will not have the Vista’s cozily avant-garde atmosphere of toleration for eccentricities in movies, moviegoers and employees. The Vista’s last calendar featured opera movies on Sundays, Pasolini on Mondays, Tennessee Williams on Tuesdays, Australian films on Wednesdays, Japanese films on Thursdays, heroic actors on Fridays and women stars like Greta Garbo on Saturdays On tonight’s bill are 'Polyester' and 'Desperate Living,' underground classics of comedic bad taste directed by John Waters and starring the plump transvestite Divine. After the last curtain, there will be a party. 'I think a lot of people will miss it,' Weber said. 'People took it for granted that it would always be here, and it won’t. But I guess they’ll find alternatives.'"

It's unknown who took it over after the closure by Landmark. Lance Alspaugh's 5 Star Theatres (now known as Vintage Cinemas) acquired the business in 1988 and bought the building in 1997. A $1 million project between 1997 and 2000 designed by Ronald Wright included a new Egyptian style boxoffice, a seismic retrofit, work on projection and sound, restoration of paint and plaster, and reseating the theatre. The entrance has celebrity hand and footprints, nicely chronicled on a celebrity handprints page on the Vintage Cinemas website.

Until the March 2020 Covid shutdown it was open and doing well with first runs, moveovers and occasional revivals. The theatre had a Sony 4K digital projector but retained 35mm capability for special showings. Vintage Cinemas also operates the nearby Los Feliz, a triplex. 
Quentin buys it: Quentin Tarantino bought the theatre in 2021 and has retained Alspaugh to deal with the remodeling issues and operate the house for him when it's completed. Tarantino also owns the New Beverly. Thanks to Alex Rojas for spotting "Quentin Tarantino Buys Vista Theatre," a July 5, 2021 story by Ryan Parker for the Hollywood Reporter. There were similar stories from the L.A. Times, Deadline and Variety. Also see "What happened behind the scenes with Quentin Tarantino's Vista Theatre deal? The owner explains?," Mark Olsen's July 6, 2021 story for the Times. 
There will be beer and wine for sale at the snackbar. Long-unused storefront space is being reactivated on the east for a cafe and and on the west for what was to be a vintage video game arcade. That arcade got nixed by NIMBY neighbors so it's now going to be a micro-cinema with about 20 seats. It'll have both 16mm and digital capabilities. The March 8, 2022 conditional use permit application can be seen on the L.A. City Planning Department website. Thanks to Esotouric's Secret Los Angeles Facebook page for sharing the news on a March 9 post. The lobby, restrooms, storefronts, booth and other upstairs areas are being remodeled but expect no major changes in the auditorium. 
The expanded booth will get a 35/70mm installation. Paul Rayton reports that Boston Light & Sound will be doing the installation of a pair of Norelco AAIIs. There will also be digital capability. The policy is expected to be primarily first-run bookings, running film whenever possible. A consultant for the project is Theo Kalomirakis of Greece, a well-known designer of upscale private cinemas. He was profiled in "Flipping Quentin's Vista," a July 2022 article by Michael Gaughn. Thanks to Mike Hume for spotting it on the site Cineluxe. FE Design and Consulting is the architectural firm for the project with Manny Diaz as the principal. The general contractor is Hansen Construction of Tarzana.

A main floor plan from FE Design. The X in the lower right is due to Quentin's desire for cafe sidewalk seating getting nixed. The revised plan is to have a mini-cinema replace the arcade shown in the lower left. 

A second floor plan showing the expanded booth. 

A site plan from FE. That angled structure in the middle of the roof represents the theatre's roof sign. Thanks to the Esotouric's Secret Los Angeles Facebook page for posting the link to the plans on the City Planning Department website:   

The news about the Vista and other theatres, including action at the Laemmle and Regal circuits, was covered in "L.A. Movie Theatres Ready For a Big Comeback This Year With Egyptian, Vista and Vidiots," Pat Saperstein's April 2023 story for Variety.
Status: A reopening date hasn't been announced. Look for it in fall 2023.

The lobby:

The snackbar area c.2016. Thanks to the Vista Theatre for the photo. It's one of many fine views of their lovingly maintained theatre that appear on their website's photo tour.

The house left side of the lobby. Thanks to Mike Hume for his 2017 photo. Visit his Historic Theatre Photography site for hundreds of great photos of the theatres he's explored. And, of course, he has a page on the Vista Theatre

A peek into the auditorium. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2018

The event the day Mike's photos were taken was the annual meeting of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation. The organization is actively involved in the study and preservation of the vintage theatres in the L.A. area. The group frequently supports events and offers tours of various historic theatres. | group Facebook page | official Facebook page


The entrance doors. Thanks to John Hough for the 2017 photo on the page about the Vista Theatre on Ornate, the superb site he runs with Mark Mullhall. 

An April 2022 construction view. Thanks to Sandi Hemmerlein for sharing this and eight other photos in a set on Facebook

A June 2022 view. Thanks to Hollywood Heritage's Richard Adkins for the photo. It's one of six images from his visit that he posted on the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation Facebook page. 

The floor trenched for new plumbing in July 2022. Note the new bar storage area in the space beyond the wall that's below the new extension of the projection booth. Photo: Bill Counter 

The stripped out men's room on the house right end of the lobby. To the right we're looking into the storefront that's east of the theatre entrance. Photo: Bill Counter - July 2022

The view to the entrance doors. Photo: Bill Counter - July 2022

Looking to house left and into the deconstructed ladies room. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022

Ancient Egyptian frescoes. Well, from the 1980s anyway. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022
The storefront house left, to become an arcade. Photo: Bill Counter - January 2023 

Into the house left side of the darkened auditorium. Photo: Bill Counter - January 2023
A new lobby floor poured. The men's room is in the shadows. Photo: Bill Counter - January 2023 

New floor poured in the men's room. Photo: Bill Counter - January 2023 

The new cafe space in the house right storefront. Photo: Bill Counter - January 2023

The auditorium:

A 2005 view to the left organ grille area from 7-how-7 on Flickr.

The house right organ grille. It's a 2005 photo by Steven Rood appearing on the Cinema Tour page about the theatre.

A view from the back of the house. Thanks to Stephen Russo for his 2014 photo, one originally appearing on the LAHTF Facebook page.

A front of the auditorium view that appeared on the Vista Theatre website.

The house right wall. Photo: John Hough - Ornate Theatres - 2017

One of the side wall ladies. Thanks to Sean Ault for his 2017 photo. While waiting for "Blade Runner 2049" to begin he did a little swirl around the auditorium. It's on YouTube.

The view to the booth. Photo: John Hough - Ornate Theatres - 2017

A wall detail. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2018

The house right front exit. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2018

A look up at the house right organ grille. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2018

The auditorium during renovations. Photo: Bill Counter - July 2022 

The rear of the house. Photo: Bill Counter - July 2022 

A closer look into the project of rebuilding all the upstairs areas. Photo: Bill Counter - July 2022 

Another angle on the booth expansion project. Photo: Bill Counter - July 2022 

The house after removal of the seats. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022
The rear of the house after more work done on the booth. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022

The rear house right. The blue stairs go to the booth. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022

A look across the expanded booth. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022


A view across the shallow stage from house right. In the silent days he screen would have been on the back wall, allowing room for vaudeville acts in front. The current screen installation is out in front of the proscenium columns. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2018

A closer look at one of the proscenium columns. Note the recess for a strip light down low on the column. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2018

A peek into the auditorium from the house right organ chamber. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2018

A look across the front part of the attic from above the house left organ chamber. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018

Peering back deeper into the attic over the auditorium. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018


The stairs to the booth back in the house right corner of the auditorium. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2018. This set of stairs was removed during the 2022 renovations.

Outside the booth, a motor-generator set remaining from the carbon arc era. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2018

A pre-digital booth photo from the Steven Rood collection. It's a Simplex XL machine with an LP Associates xenon lamphouse. The photo is on the Cinema Tour page about the Vista where there are 51 photos to browse, including many more booth views from 2005.

A view between the Simplex XL and the Sony 4K digital unit. Photo: John Hough - Ornate Theatres - 2017

A look over to the left side of the booth. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2018

Looking across the booth. The digital machine is hiding over there on the far side beyond the 35mm projector. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography - 2018 

Up the blue stairs during the renovations. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022 

1923 vintage electrical gear at the top of the stairs. The panel straight ahead was soon removed. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022

The switchgear seen on the right in the previous shot. The top two disconnect switches are labeled "Emergency" and "Regular." Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022

The new electrical service in the southeast corner upstairs. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022 

Stairs to the street on the east side of the theatre entrance. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022

The view from the center office. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022
Stairs to the street are behind us, office areas are to the left and straight ahead, the booth is through the doorway on the right. The blue stairs to the back of the house are out of the frame farther to the right. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022

The booth back wall. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022

The new front wall of the expanded booth. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022

A porthole view. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2022 

A surviving 1923 vintage board on the right wall of the booth. Photo: Bill Counter - January 2023

More exterior views:

1930 - A view of the junction of Hollywood and Sunset, looking east. Note the Vista vertical and a bit of the original marquee. We also get a bit of the roof sign peeking up at the left. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.

1930s - A look southeast on Hollywood Blvd. toward Hillhurst with the Vista's vertical visible just beyond the intersection. Thanks to Paul Ayers for sharing this photo from his collection on a Facebook post.

1938 - A Herman Schultheis photo of the Vista from the Los Angeles Public Library. They were running "The Great Waltz" plus you got the newsreel scoop "SC Beats Duke." The Library also has another very similar shot from Mr. Schultheis. This is our earliest view of the marquee that's currently on the building, seen here with its original milk glass letters. Note the neon trim on the roof sign that's surrounding the "VISTA" letters.

c.1940 - The Vista running a reissue of "Birth of a Nation." Thanks to Gregory May for spotting this one.

A neighborhood note on "Birth of a Nation"
- When Griffith was working on the film, he screened it nearby in one of the area's first soundstages. The location, 4212 Sunset Blvd., was constructed c.1910.  The Los Angeles Public Library has a 1927 street view as the Jail Cafe. It was rebuilt in 1961 as a cabaret space and is now the El Cid Restaurant. Wikipedia has an article about the building's history.  Los Angeles Magazine also ran a piece in 2003.

1951 - A great view of the Vista from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

1966 - A view by Ed Ruscha that's in the Getty collection. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Riichkay for posting it on Noirish post #55437. Nile Hight posted the image on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page but somehow didn't bother to credit it.  
There over 70,000 Ruscha items now available for browsing. A few places to start: Sunset Boulevard, 1965-2010, undated (58,167 digitized items) | Hollywood Boulevard, 1973-2005, undated (4,292 digitized items) | Santa Monica Boulevard, 1974 (4,956 digitized items) | Melrose Avenue, 1975 (3,724 digitized items) |  Specifically about Sunset Blvd., see the Getty Research Institute's site "12 Sunsets." Their October 2020 Press Release discusses the project. 

c.1968 - An Ed Ruscha photo from the Getty Research Institute collection.
1973 - An Ed Ruscha photo from the Getty collection. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Riichkay for posting it on Noirish post #55437.

1970s - Thanks to Martin Pal for spotting this photo, taken while the theatre was still on its porno fling. It's in Martin's Noirish Los Angeles post #28095

1980 - A shot taken on the occasion of the August 1 reopening as a revival house. It's a photo from the Herald Examiner collection at the Los Angeles Public Library.

1980 - A look at the theatre from near its peep show neighbor across the street. Thanks to Joe on Flickr for the photo. "The Tin Drum" was a 1979 release.

1981 - "Mildred Pierce" with Joan Crawford was running when Roy Hankey got this shot. It's in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. 

1981 - Another Roy Hankey photo of the crowd for "Mildred Pierce." It's in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

1982 - Thanks to the now-vanished American Classic Images website for this photo taken in December.  

1983 - A January photo from the American Classic Images collection.

1983 - A photo from the Herald Examiner collection at the Los Angeles Public Library. This one and a 1980 LAPL view also appear on "Early L.A. Historical Buildings page 3," a section of the Water & Power Associates Museum website. 
The original September 9 caption: "Says Gary Meyer of the Landmark theater chain (owners of the Vista and Fox Venice): 'Today's high school and college kids are only into the hottest commercial films that all their friends have seen. Foreign films, American classics? They just don't care about that.'"

1983 - Thanks to Meredith Jacobson Marciano for sharing this photo she took. 

c.1985 - An undated Tom LaBonge photo of the Vista playing "Freaks" and "The Haunting." It's in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. Jeff Hamblin calls our attention to the "East Hollywood" line on the roof sign. It was evidently added by Landmark when they took over the house.

c.1986 - A Gary Leonard photo of the theatre running "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Salvador."  The photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.  Note the Onyx Cafe on the right, operated by John Leech.

1990 - The theatre was featured on the Suicidal Tendencies album "Lights...Camera...Revolution!" Thanks to Michael Blythe for locating the image.

1991 - It's a Gary Graver photo. Mr. Graver (1938-2006) was a a filmmaker and cinematographer. There's an article about him on Wikipedia.  More of his theatre photos can be seen on You Tube on the compilations "Second Run - part 1" and "Second Run - part 2." Thanks to Sean Graver for use of the photo.  


c.1993 - Thanks to Virginia Jacks for sharing this shot of the theatre and her 1966 Charger as a post for the Mid Century Modern private Facebook group. They were running "Fried Green Tomatoes" (1991) and "Noises Off" (1992) plus advertising a midnighter of Fred Baker's 1992 film "White Trash."

2007 - "Across the Universe" -- and the ice cream parlor open next door. Note the return of all the detail at the top of the facade following the renovation by Vintage Theatres. Photo: Bill Counter

2007 - The Egyptian style entrance. No, that boxoffice isn't original. Photo: Bill Counter

2007 - Thanks to M.V. Jantzen for this lovely "Across the Universe" view. It's part of his Los Angeles 2007 album on Flickr. 

2007 - "No Country For Old Men." Thanks to Arnold Darrow for locating this shot by an unknown photographer to share on a Facebook post.  

2009 - "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" was a July release. Many thanks to Don Saban for sharing his photo in a post for the SoCal Historic Architecture private Facebook group. More of his fine work can be seen on

2009- A lovely sidewalk view looking west located by Ken McIntyre for a post of his for the private Facebook group Photos of Los Angeles. "Julie and Julia" was an August release. 

2011 - "The Descendants" was a September release. Thanks to the Los Feliz Improvement Association for the photo. It's on their lovely map of the neighborhood where you can enter an address, street, architect or any word you want for a search.

2017 - Thanks to Sean Ault for this shot he took when he went to see "Blade Runner 2049." Even more fun is his short video on YouTube where you can see the neon in action.

2017 - An entrance view taken by John Hough for his website Ornate Theatres. Thanks, John!

2018 - A view east along the facade. That Hollywood Camera Exchange sign in the storefront window was painted for the Woody Allen film "Café Society." Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography

2018 - A peek out along the marquee from a second floor balcony. The upstairs area, once rental apartments, was at the time just used for storage. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography

2018 - The rear of the building, showing off its seismic retrofit work. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography

2018 - A night view. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography

2018 - A view during the run of "Roma." It's a photo credited to Shutterstock that appeared with the July 2021 Secret Los Angeles article "Quentin Tarantino Acquires..."

2019 - A photo by Franck Bohbot, one in series he's calling "L.A. Confidential." It appears with many other shots from the series in "Neon Dreams: Los Angeles by night - in pictures," a November 2019 spread from the Guardian. Bohbot notes: "At night, everything changes and the neon lights help to create the scene… this could be the LA from the past but also from the future." Thanks, Franck!

2020 - "To be continued..." was the message during the virus shutdown. Photo: Bill Counter - April 26

2020 - An April view from the east. Photo: Bill Counter 
2021 - A bit of maintenance was needed after a year of Covid shutdown. It's a photo Mike Hume took in March.

2021 - "California has reopened. My beloved local theater hasn't. Why?" was a June Times article by Ryan Faughnder. Vista owner Lance Alspaugh discusses the problems. The "illustration" by Nicole Vas used a Times photo by Jay L. Clendenin. 

2022 - Still "To Be Continued..." Photo: Bill Counter - March 10

2022 - An early April view of work beginning. Thanks to Kevin Muldoon for sharing this photo and the one below as comments on a Facebook post about the theatre from Esotouric's Secret Los Angeles

2022 - A closer look from Kevin Muldoon. Thanks!  

2022 - The stripped and primed marquee on April 27. The storefront on the right had been an ice cream parlor when it was last used. Thanks to Sandi Hemmerlein for sharing this photo and eight others in a post on Facebook.  

2022 - The ticket lobby. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - April 27. She notes that the posters in the display cases are all for Tarantino films.

2022 - The west side of the marquee. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - April 27.  Thanks, Sandi! 

 2023 - A white basecoat plus a few beige paint samples on the corner. Photo: Bill Counter - March 7

2023 - A look to the cornice. Photo: Bill Counter - March 7

2023 - The arch above the marquee. The "B" stands for Lou Bard, the original operator of the theatre. Photo: Bill Counter - March 7

2023 - Another facade detail. Photo: Bill Counter - March 7

2023 - There are "B"s everywhere. This is part of the arch over the doors to the east storefront. Photo: Bill Counter - March 7 

2023 - New ornamental elements added under second floor balconies. Thanks to Ben Rodgers for sharing his March 18 photo. He notes that these yellow/white fiberglass pieces are replicas of what was there originally. By the 1960s they had gone missing and since then there had been only angled steel brackets visible under the balconies.  

2023 - A closer look at one of the new sections of ornament. Thanks, Ben! 

2023 - The gold era begins. Thanks to Ben Rodgers for getting this April 4 photo. He comments: "Gone are the cafe doors and it’s a return to the original style of windows."

2023 - Finally, some color back on the facade. Thanks to Chris Nichols for sharing his June 2 photo on a Facebook post. And thanks to Patrick Tierney for a bit of geometrical correction. Chris said: "What does everyone think of the new paint job at the Vista theater? It went from ketchup to mustard!" His post got many responses. 

2023 - Work beginning as far as new paint on the marquee. Thanks to Ben Rodgers for sharing his July 8 photo. He also calls our attention to the new tile work under the cafe windows.  

2023 - A view from the west. Photo: Bill Counter - July 8

2023 - The repainted letters. Photo: Bill Counter - July 8

2023 - New readerboard faces going up. Thanks to Ben Rodgers for sharing his September 12 photo. 

2023 - Neon tubing back on the VISTA letters. Photo: Ben Rodgers - September 12. Thanks!  

2023 - The west side later in the day with the horizontal runs of tubing installed above and below the readerboard. Photo: Bill Counter - September 12

2023 - New tubing installed on the roof sign. Photo: Bill Counter - September 12

2023 - The smaller "VISTA" on the back. Photo: Bill Counter - September 12. Also see a closer look at this north-facing sign.  

2023 - More trim pieces up on the marquee. Photo: Estefan Bravo - September 15

2023 - The sidewalk view of the piece for the nose of the marquee. Photo: Estefan Bravo - September 15. Thanks for taking these! 

2023 - We now have a little "Coffy" vertical up for the cafe, named in honor of Pam Grier. Thanks to Marc Chevalier for getting the September 16 shot. Also in Marc's shot note the new tubing in place on the nose of the marquee.

2023 - A closer look at the new panel on the nose of the marquee. Photo: Bill Counter - September 21

The Vista in the Movies: 

We get a quick look at the theatre in the two-reeler "Standing Pat" (FBO, 1928). The film stars the "Ton of Fun," the comic trio Frank 'Fatty' Alexander, Hilliard 'Fat' Karr, and 'Kewpie' Ross. Earl Montgomery directed. The cinematography was by Earle Fox Walker. The guys are trying to deliver a piano but their truck is out of control. Thanks to Marc Chevalier for spotting the Vista in the film and getting the screenshot. The marquee looks like it says "Four Acts of Standard Vaudeville" and "Helene Costello in 'In Old Kentucky.'" See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for two more Vista shots plus a look at the Garden/Ramona Theatre in Echo Park.  

A shot of the Vista from inside Stan's Drive-In seen in "The Crooked Web" (Columbia, 1955). Thanks to Jonathan Raines for the screenshot. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more about the film and several additional photos.

The Vista is over on the right in this shot looking north on Virgil toward Sunset from "Hot Rod Gang" (American International, 1958). The film, directed by Lew Landers, is about a kid who joins a rock band to earn money to support his drag racing habit. It stars John Ashley, Jody Fair and Gene Vincent. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for another Vista shot, two views of the Monica Theatre and two very fuzzy images of the Los Feliz.

We get a look at the Vista as part of a montage displaying many of L.A.'s high culture sites near the opening of "The Swinger" (Paramount, 1966). The film stars Ann-Margret and Tony Franciosa. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots of five other theatres seen in the little travelogue.  

The Vista when it was having a fling as a porno house. It's a shot from a Charlie's Angels episode "Catch A Fallen Angel" in 1980. Thanks to Daniel Siwek for posting the photo on Vintage Los Angeles.

Danny DeVito goes to the movies at the Vista in "Throw Momma From the Train" (Orion Pictures, 1987). He's looking for ideas about bumping off mother and enlists Billy Crystal to help. Yes it's a comedy. DeVito directed a cast that also includes Oprah Winfrey, Rob Reiner, Kate Mulgrew and Branford Marsalis. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in the Movies post for two shots inside the theatre.

On the right aspiring filmmaker Kevin Bacon is walking with Jennifer Jason Leigh in this shot from Christopher Guest's "The Big Picture" (Columbia, 1989). The film also features Michael McKean, Emily Longstreth, J.T. Walsh, Teri Hatcher, Martin Short, Eddie Albert and June Lockhart. The cinematography was by Jeffrey Jur. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for three more shots of the Vista as well as five shots where we see the top of the Cinerama Dome when Kevin shoots a music video.

Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette are fooling around outside the Vista in Tony Scott's "True Romance" (Warner Bros., 1993). It's supposedly a Detroit theatre where they meet during a triple bill of "Street Fighter," "Return of the Street Fighter" and "Sister Street Fighter." See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for six additional shots from the scene at the Vista. The screenplay was by Quentin Tarantino, who now owns the place.

In Barry Sonnenfeld's "Get Shorty" (MGM, 1995) we have John Travolta and Rene Russo seeing a film at the Vista. At least it's the Vista inside. For the exteriors, we're at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for that shot.

The Vista in Wes Craven's "Scream 2" (Dimension Films, 1997). The exteriors and lobby shots for this sequence near the beginning of the film were done at the Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena. The film also used the Variety Arts Theatre downtown for scenes near the end of the film. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots showing the Rialto and Variety Arts.

At the beginning of "Black Limousine" (Cineville, 2010) David Arquette is watching a movie in the theatre. His character was the composer of the score. The film, directed by Carl Colpaert, also stars Bijou Phillips, Vivica A. Fox, Nic Bishop, Carla Ortiz, Lin Shaye, Patrick Fabian and Tom Bower. The cinematography was by Seo Mutarevic. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for three more shots at the Vista.

We get a bit of marquee footage in "Dear White People" (Lionsgate, 2014) when there's a gathering of students at their local theatre to protest the inanities of the latest Tyler Perry movie. But other shots in the scene were done elsewhere. The story of four Black students at an Ivy League college stars Tessa Thompson, Tyler James Williams, Kyle Gallner and Teyonah Parris. Justin Simien directed.

The Vista is one of a half dozen theatres to get a marquee shot included in the title sequence of "Entourage" (Warner Bros., 2015). The film, directed by Doug Ellin, stars Kevin Dillon, Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier and Kevin Connolly plus many others doing cameos. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more screenshots.  
We get nice a facade view of the Vista in Woody Allen's "Café Society" (Lionsgate, 2016) when Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart take in "The Woman In Red" with Barbara Stanwyck. Earlier Eisenberg checks out the footprints at Grauman's Chinese. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for that shot as well as a view of a New York theatre lobby that Woody is passing off as being in Hollywood. 

Brain researcher Julia Brizendine (Whitney Cummings) heads to the Vista to see a silent movie with Kevin (Toby Kebbell), a participant in one of her research studies, in "The Female Brain" (IFC Films, 2018). As a date, it doesn't go well. She just wants quick sex, Kevin's interested in something more. Cummings also directed the film. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a shot outside as well as one in the auditorium. 

The word is that we see the Vista in the "Breaking Fast" (Vertical Entertainment, 2021). The film, directed by Mike Mosallam, features Haaz Sleiman, Michael Cassidy and Amin El Gamal.

Some of the gang in "Summertime" (Good Deed Entertainment, 2021) end up at a burger joint where they're offered the use of a limo by two new rap stars. Here it's sailing by the Vista while they were running Quentin's "Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood" in 2019. Carlos Lopez Estrada directed this story of 27 young Angelenos with much of the material written by the young stars. The cinematography was by John Schmidt. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots of the Chinese, Arcade, United Artists and Los Angeles theatres.

More Information: The Cinema Tour page on the Vista has 51 photos by Bob Meza, Steven Rood and Mark Campbell. Also see the Cinema Treasures page on the Vista Theatre.

TJ Edwards and Garan Grey's Cinema Sightlines page on the Vista Theatre has a great photo spread and commentary. Curbed L.A. had a 2015 Bianca Barragan piece "Watch a Brief History of the 1923 Vista Theatre...."

John Hough has some great photos of the theatre on the Vista Theatre page of, the site he runs with Mark Mulhall. Mike Hume's Historic Theatre Photography site has a terrific page on the Vista Theatre. See the Los Feliz Ledger's "The Vista Theatre," a 2007 article in PDF format by Laura Massino Smith and Karen Numme. 
Urbanize had a July 2022 story about the owner of the property just west of the Vista planning to build a new residential complex on that site. The Vista Theatre website has a nice array of photos. There are also over 200 pictures of the theatre on Yelp.

The Laguna Beach Indy had a September 2017 story "Historic Theatre Readies for a Sequel," about Vintage Cinemas taking over the South Coast Cinema, a twin in Laguna beach.

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  1. I used to go here as a kid saw Four Rooms

  2. Saw my first movie, the land before time here as a kid

  3. The Vista can be seen clearly, if briefly, in locarion shooting for some Monogram films.

    1. Thanks, Otis. I'd love to get some specific titles to include on the page. And eventually screenshots. Do you have any specific data? You can leave a note here or via my email:

  4. Went there as a kid and saw the usual cowboys and Indian movies and catoons. I sold newspapers outside of Stand Drive-in. Next store for many years was Burls Coffee Shop and around the corner on Hill burst the upscale Burl Room. Between the Vista Theater and Burls was Good Drugs. It had a direct entrance into the coffee shop from the interior of the drug store. The last movies I saw there were first run, I believe Starwars. Excellent combo sound as I recall

  5. My firm, Relativity Architects, did the ice cream shop to the right of the theater. Happy to provide you those plans if you’d like.

    1. Hi! Well, if the plans show the theatre and not just that one storefront, I'd definitely like to see them. I'm at Thanks!