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Beverly Canon Theatre

205 N. Canon Dr. Beverly Hills, CA 90210 | map |

Opened: November 23, 1946 as the Hitching Post Theatre. The opening was attended by Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Trigger (among other celebrities). A crowd of 2,000 turned out. It was on the west side of Canon Dr., just a block north of Wilshire. This is evidently the only surviving look at the theatre with its original Hitching Post signage. It was taken at the grand opening. 

The date was originally going to be November 8 and then November 22 according to this article on page 65 in the November 2, 1946 issue of Boxoffice. Thanks to Joe Vogel for spotting it.

A big ad announcing the November 23 opening. Thanks to Mike Rivest for locating it.

Trigger put his hoof print in concrete at the opening. The event was covered in this story on page 49 of the December 7, 1946 issue of Boxoffice. They noted that this venue was the fifth under the Hitching Post name.

In addition to the Hitching Post theatres in Hollywood and Santa Monica the article notes that they were in Pasadena and Long Beach as well. City directories for those two cities have not turned up any theatres operating under the Hitching Post name. The theatres were operated by the local ABC Circuit, no relation to the later nationwide ABC Paramount circuit. The partners were Buddy Adler, Horace Boos and Gregory Carter.

Architect: Unknown

Seating: 500 initially, 382 at the end as a legit house.

By early 1947 the theatre was on a split week basis with westerns on the weekends and newsreels and shorts mid-week. The change was announced in this article on page 68-B in the January 25, 1947 issue of Boxoffice that was located by Joe Vogel.

By April 1947 the theatre was running regular features and had been renamed the Canon Theatre. An item on page 56 of the April 19, 1947 issue of Boxoffice noted: "Horace Boos booking for his Beverly Hills House, the name of which was recently changed to the Canon. At the same time it adopted a new policy, switching from all-western and all-newsreel programs to more orthodox bookings." Thanks again to Joe Vogel for spotting the item. The first feature under the new policy was "Blue Skies" with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire.

By 1949 the theatre was on an art house policy. This 1950 Times ad for the Paris (the former Hitching Post in Hollywood) and the Canon was a find of Ken McIntyre for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 

By 1953 it was being called the Beverly Canon. During the 60s the theatre was operated by the Walter Reade circuit of New York as one of L.A.'s premiere art houses. Reade also operated the Granada on Sunset and the Music Hall on Wilshire.

The Reade circuit was still running the theatre in 1971. Starting in 1972 the Canon was operated as a soft core porno venue by Select Theatres.

A 1973 ad that included the Beverly Canon. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating it. Later in 1973 the theatre was on a revival policy with programming by Jerry Harvey.

In 1976 Rudy Solari's Solari Theatre Ensemble acquired the theatre and gave it a remodel, adding a stage plus dressing rooms in a new basement. It reopened as a legit house January 5, 1977 as the Solari Theatre. That company was there until 1981.

Bruce Kimmel notes that Susan Dietz later operated it as the Canon and presented her long-running production of "Forever Plaid" there for over a year around 1992. "Ruthless!," another Dietz production, also had a long run. Other shows having a run at the theatre included "Cloud 9," "Isn't It Romantic," "Love Letters," "The Vagina Monologues" and "Afterbirth: Kathy and Mo's Greatest Hits."

Closing: The Canon closed in March 2004. The final show was the Susan Dietz production of William Finn's song cycle "Elegies." After the final performance, Deitz invited everyone who had ever worked at the Canon to come onstage.

Status: It was demolished in 2005 for construction of the Montage Beverly Hills. The hotel project also claimed the Beverly Theatre a block west on Beverly Dr. The end was discussed in "Canon’s Final Act," a March 26, 2004 L.A. Times article by Don Shirley:

"'The jackhammers were going from 9 a.m. to 2 the next morning,' Rudy Solari said in a 1976 Times interview. The producer-director was recalling how he and a group of actor friends had personally removed 255 tons of concrete and dirt from beneath a Beverly Hills movie house to create dressing rooms under the stage of the new Solari Theatre. They were converting the former Beverly Canon cinema into what the article went on to describe as 'the only live commercial theater in the history of Beverly Hills.'

"Soon, the sound of jackhammers will resume in the neighborhood. This time, however, the theater and adjacent buildings will bite the dust. The area that houses the 382-seat Canon Theatre, for a time known as the Solari, will be the site of a new hotel. The Canon's final show, a presentation of William Finn's theatrical song cycle 'Elegies,' opens tonight and closes Sunday. Last week, Calendar assembled half a dozen people on the Canon stage to share their memories of the theater. Solari, who operated the theater only through 1981, died in 1991. But Susan Dietz, the venue's primary producer from 1983 until now, was there, as was Joan Stein, her producing partner during most of the '90s.

"The other members of the group:  * Beatrice Arthur of 'Maude' and 'Golden Girls' fame, who appeared at the Canon in 'Bermuda Avenue Triangle' and 'Afterplay.'  * David Engel, an original member of the 'Forever Plaid' quartet, who performed 'Plaid' at the Canon for 20 months in the '90s.  * Steven Banks, a performer who was the warmup act for Dick Shawn during Shawn's nine-month Canon run of his solo outing 'The Second Greatest Entertainer in the Whole Wide World' in 1985. While he was offstage -- during most of the show -- Banks retired to the theater's booth, where he wrote his own one-man show, 'Home Entertainment Center' -- which he brought to the Canon in 1989.  * Philip Himberg, artistic director of the Sundance Theatre Institute and director of 'War Letters' at the Canon in 2002. He's staging 'Elegies.'

"Himberg has a longer history with the Canon than any of the others. On his first trip to the area in 1976, he recalled, 'I got off the plane, rented a car and drove here because my one friend in L.A. had given money to Rudy to help convert the theater. There were all these bare lightbulbs. They were so excited that they were starting this major serious theater company in L.A.' Those plans for a serious company didn't last. True, Solari presented a few ambitious plays with starry casts, and when Dietz took over, she was running a nonprofit called L.A. Stage Co. that opened with Caryl Churchill's 'Cloud 9.' But by the end of the '80s, the Canon was known primarily as a place where shows -- seldom of the serious persuasion -- could sprout their commercial wings, including a handful of transfers from the Pasadena Playhouse.

"In the early '90s, two of those Pasadena transfers, 'Love Letters' and 'Forever Plaid,' took off for roughly two-year runs, clearly stamping the Canon as L.A.'s primary home for small-scale, locally produced commercial theater. 'It had a 'quintessential off-Broadway feeling,' Himberg said. 'You mean, like, crappy?' Dietz joked. 'It's not a fancy regional theater that received zillions of foundation dollars,' Himberg continued. 'It reminds me of working at the [off-Broadway] Cherry Lane.' On the other hand, Banks said, 'it's such a step above Equity waiver' -- the term once used to designate L.A.'s many sub-100-seat theaters. 'This is like Xanadu compared to those.' When Stein began describing the Canon as 'a dream of a space for performers and audience -- you have a unique opportunity to play to a house that feels substantial,' she was interrupted by Arthur: 'Except when the air conditioning goes out. Which is often. Which is horrendous.' 'The reason why,' Engel offered, 'is it has no real fly space. So there is nowhere for the heat to go and all the lights just cook it onstage.' 'You have no idea,' responded Stein, 'how much money Susie and I spent on that air conditioning.'

"Later Arthur acknowledged that she, too, loved 'the very fact that it was not state-of-the art. It was sort of like the Judy Garland: Let's put on a show.' 'But you just complained about the air conditioning,' Dietz noted, to laughter all around the table. Another feature that wasn't to Arthur's liking was one of the dressing rooms that Solari and friends had labored to build. When the subject came up, Arthur uttered 'Oh, my God' -- twice. The dressing rooms, as a post-conversation tour confirmed, are windowless and accessible only by steep stairs. When Arthur performed in her plays at the Canon, her son Daniel Saks -- who designed the set for the first, 'Bermuda Avenue Triangle' -- built a small dressing room for his mother on the stage, behind the set.

"Banks recalled how Shawn fell asleep onstage during the intermission of his show one night. 'I remember standing in the wings. We were pounding the floor, going, 'Wake up, Dick!' Dietz remembered that Shawn also used the theater phones to call a 900 sports-related phone line. 'I went down to the dressing room very sheepishly one day and said, "Dick, a hundred dollars this month for Sports Line." He said, "Oh, my God, I'll pay you for it." So every month I wrote a little invoice for his Sports Line calls.' A minute or two away from the opening of a Harry Chapin revue, 'Lies and Legends,' in 1988, Dietz said, 'the cast was downstairs, they went into their circle that they did, they held hands, they said, "OK, go" ... Blackout. The entire block of Beverly Hills -- the power was gone. Everybody had to go home. It kind of ruined the show. It just never took off.' Canon audiences were often star-studded. 'I'm an old movie fanatic,' Engel said. 'It was exciting for me that the Beverly Hills community totally embraced this theater. I would be performing for the same people who had entertained me my whole life.'

"Dietz and Stein talked about the value of a local theater producing commercial shows amid the primarily nonprofit landscape of L.A. theater. 'A commercial theater can offer a long run,' Dietz said. 'A subscription theater can't. You wouldn't get a two-year "Forever Plaid" at the Mark Taper Forum. They have to have subscribers, who get a certain number of shows a year.' 'The thrill of a commercial hit is like nothing else,' Stein said. 'It's great to go backstage and tell the actors: Set up your dressing room. We're going to be here for a long time.' 'I've done a lot of nonprofit theater,' Engel said. 'But the difference in performing for an audience in a commercial house is that they actually want to come to see it.' Yet, Himberg said: 'This may sound crass, but in the end the Canon is just a building. It depends primarily on who's running it. And on the people who were inside it.' 'You and I attracted the best of the best,' Stein told Dietz. Dietz quoted a line from 'Elegies': 'Living was the prize, the ending's not the story.'"

A 1950 view of the Beverly Canon from Kimberly Reiss on the LAHTF Facebook page. The theatre is running "Trio," a film based on three stories by W. Somerset Maugham. Check out the Beverly Hills Heritage Facebook page that Kimberly curates.

A full house for "O'Henry's Full House" in 1952. Thanks to Dallas Movie Theaters for locating the trade magazine photo for a post on Cinema Treasures

A photo from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The caption: "Carrier boys from the Herald-Express posed in front of the Beverly Canon Theater after they saw a special showing of the motion picture, 'Kon-Tiki,' as guests of producer Sol Lesser and the manager of the theater, July 20, 1958."

The theatre was still operated by Walter Reade during the moveover engagement of "Summer of '42" in 1971. The photo is one that appeared in the December 13, 1971 issue of Boxoffice. Thanks to Cinema Treasures contributor Moviejs 1944 for spotting the item which noted that the blow-up of star Jennifer O'Neill had blinking eyes and it "stopped pedestrians and caught glances from passing motorists."

A Larry Underhill photo of the doomed theatre. On the marquee is "Elegies," the final production. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Ethereal Reality for including it in his Noirish post #41006.

 The site of the theatre, now the back side of the Montage Hotel complex. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the theatre, which they list as the Solari, for some nice stories about the theatre and fine research by Joe Vogel and others.

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