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Fairfax Theatre

7907 Beverly Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90048
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The doomed Fairfax Theatre at Beverly Blvd. and Fairfax Ave. The facade may remain but the owner got city approval in 2013 to gut the rest for a condo/retail project. Work has yet to begin. Photo: Bill Counter - 2007 

Opened: March 26, 1930. It was a project of The Fairfax Theater Company Inc. whose partners were Gus A. Metzger, Harry Srere and Charles A. Nichthauser. Metzger and Srere also built the Roxie on Broadway in 1931.



A 1930 Mott Studios photo in the California State Library collection, one of four in their set #001387204. The film is the Ziegfeld epic "Sally" with Marilyn Miller, released in January 1930.

Seating: 1,504 when it opened, all on one level. As a triplex it was initially 913 seats. It was down to 786 (172 + 422 + 192) after reseating by Laemmle with wider seats in 2001.

Architect: William C. Pennell

History: The Fairfax was operated for decades by Fox West Coast Theatres and, later, Mann Theatres when they acquired the remnants of the circuit. Mann got out around 1979 and the house became an independent.



The Fairfax occasionally ran live shows. In 1969 it was the venue for the L.A. engagement of "Oh, Calcutta." Thanks to Arnold Darrow for finding this program on Amazon.

In late 1981 it was tri-plexed. The front half of the theatre was left intact with two little theatres carved out of the rear. A hallway down the middle (between the two rear auditoria) provided an entrance to the main theatre.

Cineplex Odeon took over the operation in the spring of 1985 and kept the triplex scheme but gave the venue a refurbishing under the direction of Mesbur + Smith Architects of Toronto. The large house was equipped for 70mm.

Laemmle Theatres got it in 2001 (around the time Loew's Cineplex Odeon headed into bankruptcy). The Laemmle renovation work included new wider seats and new carpet. They exited the property in September 2006.

The theatre closed in January 2010 after heavy rains on an already problematic roof made it not feasible for the last operator, Lyndon Golin's Regency Theatres, to continue running films. The building owner was unwilling to make repairs. Hillsman Wright called it "demolition by neglect" in a story on the blog LAist on the Historic Fairfax Theatre.



The original look of the lobby. Thanks to Hillsman Wright of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation for the photo. It's one of four vintage views that were used to document the application for landmark status for the building's interior. Despite a valiant fight by the LAHTF and other groups, the application was denied. The owner plans to save some facade and entrance elements while gutting the rest.

The LAHTF 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 the buildings. www.lahtf.org | group Facebook page | official FB page



The lobby west wall. Photo: Wendell Benedetti - LAHTF  - 2009



The Fairfax snackbar. Photo: Don Solosan - LAHTF Facebook page - 2009. Thanks for all your photos, Don! 



A lobby ceiling view from Shari Determan on the lobby photos page of the Save The Fairfax Theatre! website.



A lobby view at the end.  Photo: Bill Counter - 2010



The c.1930 appearance of the Fairfax's auditorium.  Photo courtesy of Hillsman Wright - LAHTF


 
 The original proscenium decor and drapery treatment. Photo courtesy of Hillsman Wright - LAHTF



The view toward the screen after some 1940s Skouras-style redecoration. Photo courtesy of Hillsman Wright - LAHTF



The hallway between the two smaller theatres at the rear that gets you to the big house. It's a Don Solosan photo appearing on the Save the Fairfax Theatre! website.



The main auditorium. It's a Wendell Benedetti photo for the LAHTF that appeared with the 2010 Curbed LA article "Fairfax Theatre Saga: Day 214."



A proscenium detail by Shari Determan appearing on the Save the Fairfax Theatre! website's page of interior views.



The front of the main auditorium. Photo: Ken Roe on Flickr - 2002. Thanks, Ken!



The house left area in the main auditorium of the Fairfax in a 2009 view by Don Solosan on the LAHTF Facebook page.



If you're a fan of Skouras-style decoration here's a Wendell Benedetti shot for you.  It appeared on the Save the Fairfax Theatre! website's page of interior views.



A main auditorium ceiling view.  Photo: Ken Roe on Flickr - 2002



The main auditorium west wall. Thanks to Don Solosan for the 2009 photo.



The view from the back of the big house, auditorium #2. The two little ones were carved out of the rear of the auditorium when it was triplexed. Thanks to Don Solosan for the photo on the LAHTF Facebook page.



A main auditorium ceiling view. Thanks to Don Solosan for his 2009 photo on the LAHTF Facebook page.



A view of the auditorium chandelier. It's a photo by Wendell Benedetti for the LAHTF that appeared with the 2010 Curbed LA article "Fairfax Theatre Saga: Day 214."



The rear of the main auditorium, house #2. Photo: Ken Roe on Flickr - 2002 



Auditorium #1. Photo: Ken Roe on Flickr - 2002



Auditorium #1 in 2009. It's a Don Solosan photo on the LAHTF Facebook page



Auditorium #3 in a view by Don Solosan on the LAHTF Facebook page.



Projection equipment in the original booth. The Don Solosan photo appeared on the LAHTF Facebook page in 2009. He notes: "Fairfax Theater, projection for auditoriums 1 and 3. Because of the unusual way this theater was divided, projection for auditorium 2 is down that long hall at center."



Booth gear for auditorium #2 -- the front half of the original auditorium.  Thanks to Don Solosan for his photo on the LAHTF Facebook page.



A fine view of the marquee soffit and the ticket booth. As of 2017 the terrazzo is still in place. Note that at the time the theatre was built, the sidewalk didn't extend west past the theatre. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library - 1930



Looking from across the Beverly and Fairfax intersection. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library - 1930. A cropped version of the photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



A marquee detail. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library - 1930  



An early night view of the theatre in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. It's the 1930 premiere of "Troopers Three." With star Rex Lease there in person!



An undated Los Angeles Public Library photo. Is that an Edward Everett Horton film they're advertising on the marquee?



The view east on busy Beverly Blvd. toward Fairfax in 1931. It's a photo from the Dick Whittington Studio in the USC Digital Library collection.



Where's the theatre? Zooming in toward Fairfax gets us this view. 



An even closer look at the entrance from the Dick Whittington photo. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor BifRayRock for finding the photo in the USC Archives and deconstructing it in his Noirish post #20189.

Also see the Noirish Los Angeles post #20187 by Chuckaluck for more views of the Beverly/Fairfax intersection.

 

A c.1938 view of the intersection of Fairfax and Beverly by Herman Schultheis. Admission is up to 40 cents! The photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
 


A 1943 view of the Fairfax appearing in the terrific Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres in Los Angeles" by Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Amy Ronnebeck Hall and Marc Wanamaker. There's a preview for you to browse on Google Books. The photo also appears in Mr. Wanamaker's Arcadia book "Hollywood 1940-2008."



A lovely 1967 view of the theatre on the wall of Marvin Meister's camera store at Beverly and Hayworth. James Bartlett took a photo of it for his 2016 L.A. Weekly article about the shop "...How an Old L.A. Photo Center Survives in 2016." Thanks to Cinema Treasures contributor Nixols for the link to the story.



A classic Fairfax district shot. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for the post on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. The theatre is running "Blue Water White Death" and "Little Big Man" which puts in 1971.



A 1985 boxoffice shot from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

Status: It's going to be a five story 71 unit apartment complex with a rooftop pool and ground level retail. The developer will retain the facade, the theatre's terrazzo entrance and rehab the marquee. The rest will be demolished. The project got approval from the City Council's Planning and Land Use Committee in April 2013.



This rendering of the Howard Lax design for the project is from an April 2013 Curbed L.A. story "Fairfax Theatre Apartments Finally Almost Approved." They also had a followup story about the final city council approval.

In 2009 the owner, Alex Gorby of B&F Associates in Santa Monica, had first proposed demolishing the building to erect a mixed-use condo building with street level retail and basement parking. The architect for the condo project, Howard Laks, proposed saving the facade and erecting a new building behind it. The Hollywood Conservancy termed this "a facadectomy" and unacceptable. See a January 2010 Curbed article "Laks, Gorby Defend Fairfax Project."

In June 2010, the Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission voted to deny the Fairfax Landmark status citing the division of the auditorium and changes to the facade over the years.



A photo from Ken Roe on Flickr of the signage still visible on the Fairfax stagehouse in 2005. It's from his great Movie Theatres USA set. Thanks, Ken! The sign has now been painted over.



Thanks to Don Solosan of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation for this 2009 view of the boxoffice.



A look in behind the boxoffice. Photo: Ken Roe on Flickr - 2002



A view east in 2002 when the theatre was part of the Laemmle circuit. Photo: Ken Roe on Flickr



A good look at the neon in 2009 when the theatre was under Regency management. The photo from Kids Need To Read Foundation on Flickr was taken when they sponsored an event at the Fairfax.



The theatre's tower. Thanks to Don Solosan of the LAHTF for his 2009 photo. It's on the website Save the Fairfax Theatre!



The top of the tower. It's a photo from Shari Determan on the website Save the Fairfax Theatre!



A 2009 entrance photo by Wendell Benedetti appearing on the Save the Fairfax Theatre! website.



Another Wendell Benedetti facade shot on the website Save the Fairfax Theatre!



The entrance of the closed Fairfax. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010 


 
The east side of the building. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010

The Fairfax on Video: See Haeyong Moon's 2 minute 2009 video "Save the Fairfax Theatre" on YouTube for a nice tour including closeups of many of the decorative elements of the building. Also see her short 2010 video about the preservation campaign: "Honk to Save the Fairfax."
 
More Information: See the page on Cinema Treasures for a lively discussion about the history of the Fairfax Theatre. The page also has interesting research on W.C Pennell, the architect of the building.

The Cinema Tour page on the Fairfax has a good collection of photos of the theatre (including lots of interiors) by Adam Martin. American Classic Images has a 1982 photo.

Curbed L.A. did a nice Mad Libs piece about the Fairfax preservation battle in 2009. Dakota Smith's  Curbed story from January 2010 "Fairfax Theatre Saga Day 214" featured some nice Wendell Benedetti photos. Also see additional stories on Curbed L.A..

The Hollywood Lost and Found blog's 2006 post "The Fairfax Theatre" by Rick Mitchell is an interesting discussion of the Fairfax and the changing booking patterns in the movie business.

The L.A. Times ran a January 2010 piece entitled "Fairfax Theater May Do a Slow Dissolve." The L.A. Times reported on the LAHTF's preservation battle again in March 2010 in their story: A Cliffhanger at Fairfax Theater."

Check in with the Friends of the Fairfax group on Facebook and the Save the Fairfax Theatre! website.

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