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The Cinema Theatre. It's a photo on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection.
Architect: S. Charles Lee did a conversion from what had been retail space. The location is just north of Santa Monica Blvd. The building evidently dates from 1937. Boxoffice reported the remodel cost as $22,000.
Seating: 800 was the number in a 1940 Boxoffice article, perhaps 700 later.
The building as it looked before S. Charles Lee went to work. The photo is on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection. This photo and the one of the finished theatre at the top of the page appeared in the March 2, 1949 issue of Boxoffice with the headline "Old Store Building Becomes Modern Movie." The caption read:
"The Cinema Theatre in Los Angeles was recently created from an old store building. Before and after views show how much can be done with a moderate expenditure of money. Note the marquee in which changeable posters are used; sometimes enlarged photographs and at other times price signs are used in this panel. The Cinema, seating 800, cost approximately $22,000 to remodel. It was designed by Architect S. Charles Lee of Los Angeles." Thanks to Tinseltoes on Cinema Treasures for finding the article.
The initial operator of the Cinema was Louis Berkoff, a member of a family of Russian dancers. The Berkoff family was also involved in the Coronet Theatre and the Esquire.
An article located by Cinema Treasures researcher Joe Vogel that appeared in the June 3, 1939 issue of Boxoffice magazine noted: "Lou Berkoff opened his new Cinema Arts Theatre in Hollywood with ‘Ballerina,’ a French production, as his first attraction. The de luxe theatre will play foreign ‘art’ films."
A Boxoffice item in March 1949 (located by Ken McIntyre) noted that the theatre had been taken over by Joe Moritz, who was doing an extensive remodel.
From the early 50s onward it ran as an art house owned and operated by Louis Federici. Joe Vogel, on Cinema Treasures, found a Boxoffice item from May 28, 1962: "Approximately $75,000 was expended to give the Cinema Theatre a complete facelift in time for the Pacific Coast premier of ‘Through a Glass Darkly.’ Remodeling included a new lobby, marquee, carpets, drapes, and an elaborate mezzanine art gallery."
In the mid to late 60s Art Theatre Guild was running the Cinema. The theatre was a hotbed of independent film action in the mid-60s with Kenneth Anger, Andy Warhol and others represented on its screen in popular midnight shows. See the 2012 Getty Iris blog post by Jessica Portner "L.A.'s Cinematic Experiment, Then and Now" for a fine history of the era.
By 1969 the theatre had gone to porno. Closing date as a theatre is not known but it was running into the mid 1980s.
The Cinema Theatre in the Movies:
The Cinema is one of many Los Angeles area theatres (including the Monica and the Esquire Theatre) that we get a quick look at in the nine minute short, available on the Internet Archive, "Let's Go To The Movies." It was produced by RKO in 1948 for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. See the Theatres in Movies post for shots of the other theatres featured.
We get a look at the Cinema in John Frankenheimer's "52 Pick-Up" (Cannon/Golan-Globus, 1986). Thanks to Yuri G. for spotting the shot and including it on his Movie Tourist page about the film where he also has many more photos of other locations that were used.
Up in the booth in "52 Pickup." See the Theatres in Movies post for another booth view and several lobby shots.
Status: Now a church. The current church group bought the building in the 80s.
A 40s view north on Western from Santa Monica Blvd. The Cinema is over on the left of the image. Thanks to Sean Ault for the photo from his collection.
A detail from Sean's photo.
Filmmaker Kenneth Anger, along with Raymond Rohauer, picketing the theatre in 1964 over grievances. Anger alleged the projectionist stole one of his prints. The photo, from the Getty Institute collection, is by Charles Britten. It appears with "L.A.'s Cinematic Experiment, Then and Now," a 2012 Getty Iris blog post by Jessica Portner.
The Cinema running as an adult venue in 1983. It's a photo from the American Classic Images collection.
The Cinema in the late 80s after closing as a theatre. It's the exciting Grand Opening of the Hollywood Swapmeet Mall. The photo is by filmmaker and cinematographer Gary Graver (1938 - 2006). He took many shots of theatres in Los Angeles and Portland. More can be seen in his compilations on You Tube: "Second Run - part 1" and "Second Run - part 2." Thanks to Sean Graver for use of the photo.
A c.2005 look at the Cinema from Doug Boethin on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles. Thanks, Doug!
Thanks to Don Solosan for this c.2009 photo, taken as part of a L.A. Conservancy survey of the status of former theatre buildings. And thanks also to Hillsman Wright of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation for making it available.
A look north on Western Ave. with the former Cinema Theatre on the right. Photo: Google Maps - 2014
More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Cinema. The Cinema Tour page has exterior photos from 2002 and 2003. The Cinema is also featured by Chuckaluck on his Noirish Los Angeles post #13543.
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