Opened: August 13, 1947 as the Culver Theatre with the film "Red Stallion." It's now reborn as a legit playhouse, the Kirk Douglas. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010
Architect: Albert R. Walker was the architect of record. Carl G. Moeller was the design consultant. Steven Ehrlich was the architect for the 2004 renovation into the Kirk Douglas.
Moeller was involved in a number of Fox West Coast projects. The interior of the Culver was a "Skouras Style" confection. At a time when much design was getting the modern look, the head of Fox West Coast Theatres, Charles Skouras, had his architectural team in the late 40s and early 50s take a different tack towards a lush neo-baroque feel.
The program was an attempt to create a program so theatres could be remodeled (or constructed from scratch) in an economical fashion while creating a new sumptuous feel for post-war audiences with new expectations of luxury.
Seating: 1,091 -- with the rear of the house in a stadium style configuration.
The Culver was operated by Fox West Coast and its successor companies National General Corporation and Mann Theatres. It was later an independent operation after being dropped by Mann.
The auditorium was triplexed in 1975 with a reopening on January 14, 1976. All three theatres were served from the original projection booth. It closed in 1989 and was gutted in 1994 after some of the triplexing work suffered damage in the Northridge earthquake.
Interior remodeling began in 2002 for a 317 seat legit house operated
by the Center Theatre Group, the Kirk Douglas Theatre. The venue
reopened in 2004.
The auditorium of the Culver in 1947. It's a photo from the Ken Kramer collection appearing in the 1987 Preston J. Kaufmann publication "Skouras-ized for Showmanship - Skouras' West Coast Theatres." It's available on Amazon. This 1987 Theatre Historical Society annual (#14) is packed with photos of theatres that Fox West Coast gave the moderne "Skouras look" in the 40s and 50s. THS website: historictheatres.org | THS on Facebook
A light fixture at the Culver. Photo: "Skouras-ized for Showmanship" - Ken Kramer collection
Drapery at an auditorium exit. It's a photo from the Ken Kramer collection appearing in the THS annual "Skouras-ized for Showmanship."
While many of the Fox West Coast Skouras-style buildings ended up quite different from each other, you could always spot certain prefabricated elements: lush red draperies, exotic gold plaster swirls encompassing the proscenium, etched aluminum surround panels at the snack bar and drinking fountains, etc. The basic program was applied to hundreds of theatres. While the components differed, the consistent style was unmistakable. Fox maintained its own huge assembly plant to produce many of the decorative elements.
In a remodel it might be just a shiny "padded-looking" gold and aluminum snack bar and a few Skouras swirls below the proscenium like the Palace downtown. Or it could mean gutting the building and ending up with a totally new creation in an old shell like the Crest in Sacramento.
A 1950s photo by Nate Singer of the Culver's snackbar. It's in the Tom B'hend and Preston Kaufmann Collection, part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collection.
The Culver in the Movies:
A 1963 photo taken from the Culver Hotel looking west along Culver Blvd. The side of the Meralta Theatre is visible on the left just beyond the next intersection. City Hall, with the "Culver City" roof sign, can be seen beyond. It's an L.A. Times photo in the UCLA L.A. Times Photographic Archive. It makes an appearance in "Culver City: From Barley Fields to the Heart of Screenland," Nathan Masters' fine KCET article about the city's history.
Looking east on Washington Blvd. toward the Culver in a nice 70s view from the Sean Ault collection. That's part of the Sony (old MGM) studio complex on the right.
A 1977 photo by John Margolies taken when the theatre was operating as a triplex. It's in the Library of Congress collection. Julia Wick, in a 2017 article about the photographer on LAist, calls him "the King of Roadside America." The Library also has 146 additional photos of California theatres by this photographer. Thanks to Mike Hume for spotting the photo and doing the other research. Check out Mike's own great theatre photos on the Historic Theatre Photography section of his website.
A c.1987 look at the Culver's tower on the Theatre Historical Society Facebook page. It's a photo by Robert Finucan. Thanks to Jason Vega for spotting the post.
Looking west toward the theatre in 1987. Thanks to Mike Tuggle for his photo, appearing as a post on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.
A shot of the Culver Theatre as a triplex. John L. Rouse took the photo in 1988. He had posted it on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles but it seems to have gone missing from there.
A undated view of the Culver Theatre taken after closing by Gary Graver. Gary (1938-2006) was a noted filmmaker and cinematographer. More theatre photos by him can be seen in two compilations on You Tube:"Second Run - part 1" and "Second Run - part 2." Thanks to Sean Graver for the use of the photo.
A view up the tower and facade. Photo: Craig Schwartz for Center Theatre Group - 2004.
A facade photo taken during the first season as the Kirk Douglas. Photo: Craig Schwartz for Center Theatre Group - 2004.
The theatre's grand reopening. Photo: Craig Schwartz for Center Theatre Group - 2004.
An evocative 2005 look at the Culver Theatre neon at night thanks to world-wide cinema explorer Ken Roe on Flickr.
A 2007 photo by Steve Lyon on Wikimedia.
A 2008 view of the facade by T N Jones on Flickr. It's part of his Culver City set. More from Mr. Jones: boxoffice | tower | exterior looking west | other theatres |
Thanks to Mark Smith for this 2014 photo from his collection.
Another look at the back of the building. Thanks to Martin for his photo on the site You Are Here.
Debra Jane has several nice photos of the Culver on her immense site Roadside Architecture. See California Theatres page 6.
See the pages here on this site about two other nearby theatres, the Meralta and the earlier Culver City Theatre. The page on the latter has a few more Culver City history resources listed.
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