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Opened: In June 1937 as part of the Pacific States theatre chain. It's on the north side of Wilshire Blvd. four and a half blocks west of La Brea Ave. Photo: Bill Counter - 2007
Phone: 323-936-6400 Website: www.theelrey.com | on Facebook
In 1940 Fox West Coast added it to their circuit and it was later operated by their successor companies National General and Mann Theatres. Mann pulled out of the El Rey in the late 70s during a time when they were dropping many of their older single screen theatres.
It was closed for a while and then ran as an independent and by the mid 80s was a third run venue and in need of repairs.
Architect: Clifford A. Balch designed this Miracle Mile art deco gem. The theatre was designated as Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument No. 520 on February 26, 1991.
Seating: 900 originally. Current capacity as a club is 771.
Status: In the late 80s it became a dance club called Wall Street. Since 1994 it has been a club, again called the El Rey, offering live concerts and other bookings. There's not much of interest left inside. All the fun is on the sidewalk: the terrazzo, the facade and the neon.
El Rey in the Movies:
In the film "Night of the Comet" (Atlantic Releasing,1984) we see a lot of the El Rey. It's about two girls from the Valley who survive a toxic comet. Here, a rare look at the El Rey lobby.
Larry the projectionist after a night of sleeping bag sex on the booth floor with an usherette in "Night of the Comet." See the Theatres In Movies post about the film for more lobby, booth and exterior shots. Nope, no auditorium views.
A look at the El Rey in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" (Touchstone, 1988). It's a good mockup of the facade, actually a set on Hope St. between 11th and 12th. Thanks to Bill Volkmer for the photo. You can see his whole set taken during the shooting on the website Dave's Rail Pix. The "El Rey" shooting site is now a vacant lot. See the Theatres in Movies post for two more filming views plus a shot of the "El Rey" in the completed film.
The El Rey is a nightclub in "License To Drive" (20th Century Fox, 1988) with Corey Haim and Carol Kane. Jason Vega found the screenshot on the El Rey's Facebook page.
The El Rey appears as the site of a film premiere in "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" (Dimension / Miramax, 2001). Thanks to Joe Pinney for the tip on this one. The screenshot comes from a page about the film's shooting locations on the site Filming.90210locations.
In Paul Schrader's "Auto Focus" (Sony Pictures Classics, 2002) the El Rey is the theatre in the film as the venue where the Bob Crane film "Superdad" is playing.
Mia (Emma Stone) goes to the El Rey to see her boyfriend Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) playing keyboards with The Messengers, a band fronted by Keith (John Legend) in Damien Chazelle's "La La Land" (Lionsgate, 2016). Sorry, we don't see much of the building itself. See the Theatres in Movies post for views from the film of the Rialto in South Pasadena, the Magnolia in Burbank and the Variety Theatre in West Adams.
A look across the house mix position toward the front of the auditorium. It appears on Yelp's El Rey Theatre page from Brian W., one photo in an album that at last look had 447 others. The photo also appears on the Skyscraper City forum Historical Theatres post #13 by Commandant.
A busy night at the theatre. The photo once appeared on a Biz Bash El Rey page but seems to have vanished during a makeover of the site.
The rear of the hall. It's another photo posted by Brian W. on Yelp. No photos of the auditorium as a movie theatre have yet surfaced.
More exterior views:
A 1937 view of the El Rey running "Maid of Salem" with Claudette Colbert, a February release. The photo appears on page 52 of the Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres in Los Angeles" by Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Amy Ronnebeck Hall and Marc Wanamaker. Most of the photos in the book are from Mr. Wanamaker's Bison Archives. There's a preview of this fine volume on Google Books.
Looking east with the El Rey on the left and the Fox Ritz farther down on the right. The 1937 photo by the Dick Whittington Studio is in the USC Digital Library collection.
A detail of the El Rey from the 1937 USC photo. They're running "The League of Frightened Men," a May release with Walter Connolly and Lionel Stander along with "You Can't Beat Love" with Preston Foster.
Christmas on the Miracle Mile. We get a bit of the El Rey on the left in this c.1937 Herman Schultheis view from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. On the right is the Desmond's / Wilshire Tower Building at 5500 Wilshire.
Another Dick Whittington Studio photo in the USC Digital Library collection.
A detail from the USC photo above. Free parking!
Looking east toward the El Rey Theatre in 1947. They're running "Mr. District Attorney" with Dennis O'Keefe and Adolphe Menjou along with "Strange Journey." It's a Burton Frasher photo from a postcard in the Pomona Public Library collection. Their Frasher Foto Postcard Collection has hundreds of photos from all over southern California.
A c.1948 postcard view looking east from Burnside with a bit of the El Rey Theatre on the far left. The roof sign of the Fox Ritz is down the street in the middle of the image. Thanks to Elizabeth Fuller for the card. It's in her wonderful Old Los Angeles Postcards collection on Flickr.
In the distance beyond at La Brea is the E. Clem Wilson Building. On the right it's Desmond's department store and the Wilshire-Dominguez Building. A version of the card is also in the collection of the Miracle Mile Residential Association where they credit as being from the collection of the California State University at Dominguez Hills.
A c.1955 look at the El Rey in a photo from the collection of Bruce Kimmel. The theatre is running "Romeo and Juliet" with Lawrence Harvey and "A Time Out of War," a 20 minute short. It was a post on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. Thanks, Bruce!
A terrific 1956 look west on Wilshire from the Richard Wojcik collection appearing on Alison Martino's Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles. Playing at the El Rey is "Private's Progress," a British film directed by John Boulting. Thanks to Stephen Russo for spotting the post on VLA.
It's a great 4 minute drive along the Miracle Mile in "Wilshire Blvd. Miracle Mile December 1967" on YouTube. In this shot from the Producers Library footage looking east the El Rey is over on the left. We also get a drive by of the Four Star (with 4 flashing stars atop the tower) and the Ritz theatres.
A late 70s photo by Tom Zimmerman when the El Rey was still a film house. It's in the collection of the Miracle Mile Residential Association. Also in the MMRA collection: facade view 1937 | Frasher photo 1947 | looking west 1956 |
A view of the El Rey in 1978 during a vacant period. The Anne Laskey photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. Also see another facade view by Ms. Laskey.
A signage detail. Photo: Anne Laskey - Los Angeles Public Library - 1978
A facade ornament detail. Photo: Anne Laskey - Los Angeles Public Library - 1978
The boxoffice. Photo: Anne Laskey - Los Angeles Public Library - 1978
Entrance terrazzo. Photo: Anne Laskey - Los Angeles Public Library - 1978
Another terrazzo detail. Photo: Anne Laskey - Los Angeles Public Library - 1978
A detail from a June 1984 photo in the American Classic Images collection. Also see an April 1982 daytime view.
Looking west toward the El Rey when it was running as a bargain house. The undated photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
A 1987 William Reagh photo in the collection of the California State Library.
Still vacant in 1989. It's a Steve Grayson photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
The El Rey back in business again as a concert venue. The photo taken in 2000 by Robert Pacheco is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
A 2002 Betty Sword photo from the Theatre Talks collection of Brooklyn-based theatre researcher Cezar Del Valle. Thanks, Cezar!
An entrance photo from Howard Gray on Photos of Los Angeles in 2016.
A detail of the terrazzo. Thanks to Ana Zapata for the 2005 photo on Flickr. Also see her photo of the boxoffice and entrance doors. They're part of Ana's Wilshire Beauty album.
Thanks to Ken McIntyre for this facade detail. It's a 2012 photo appearing on Photos of Los Angeles.
Another signage view from 2012 by Ken McIntyre on Photos of Los Angeles.
A lovely photo looking west on Wilshire by a certain Mr. Cone. Sorry there aren't more details.
The signage at twilight. Thanks to Shawn Dudley for this lovely 2017 photo, posted with another view on the LAHTF Facebook page.
Thanks to Scott Pitzer for this great c.2002 look west on Photos of Los Angeles.
A fine 2003 photo of the El Rey's neon from Deanna Bayless on Photos of Los Angeles.
A detail of the vertical. Thanks to Steve Milner for the photo, one in a set of four from his 2017 post on the Facebook page Vintage Neon Heaven.
Checking out that terrazzo at night. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014
The El Rey neon from the west. It's a 2010 photo from Mark Peacock on Flickr.
Thanks to Geoffrey Goddard for this terrific 2015 photo. It used to be viewable on Flickr but at last look that was no longer the case.
The front of the marquee. It's a Steve Milner photo on the Facebook page Vintage Neon Heaven.
The front of the marquee. It's a Steve Milner photo on the Facebook page Vintage Neon Heaven.
A look up from the sidewalk. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014
The facade from across Wilshire. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014
The wonderful deco signage as we look east. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014. Thanks, Hunter!
More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the El Rey Theatre. Wikipedia has an article on the El Rey. There's a Facebook page about this strip of Wilshire: I Heart Miracle Mile.
Hyper-realist artist Davis Cone has a painting of the El Rey featured in a 2014 Huffington Post story about his devotion to capturing vintage movie theatres. The site Public Art in L.A. has two photos of the El Rey's signage.
Once on the Miracle Mile as neighbors: The Ritz and the Four Star.
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