Start your Los Angeles area historic theatre explorations by heading to one of these major sections:
| Downtown | Hollywood | Westside | Westwood/Brentwood | Santa Monica | [more] L.A. Movie Palaces |
To see what's recently been added to the mix visit the Theatres in Movies site and the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.

Ahrya Fine Arts Theatre

8556 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA 90211
| map |

Opening: April 21, 1937 as the Wilshire Regina Theatre. The location is a block and a half west of La Cienega Blvd. On the screen for the opening was "That Girl From Paris" and "Black Legion" plus a March of Time newsreel and a cartoon. The theatre was a project of local businessman Joseph De Bell. The construction cost was about $75,000.

Opening day advertising mentioned a "Magic Fountain for Young and Old" and a "Theaterette in Ladies Lounge." That theatrette was a fancy name for the cry room. Thanks to TJ Edwards on Cinema Tour for the ad details. After 1948 the building sported a nice vertical sign at the center of the facade. 

The 1938 photo of the "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" double bill from Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives can be seen on on page 112 of his Arcadia Publishing book "Early Beverly Hills" and on the Hollywood Historic Photos site. Thanks to Kimberly Reiss of Beverly Hills Heritage for posting it on the LAHTF Facebook page

Phone: 310-478-3836   Website:

Seating: Evidently 800 at the opening, 700 after a 1948 remodel, 433 currently.

Architect: Seattle-based B. Marcus Priteca, who was primarily known for his earlier work in many cities for the Pantages circuit. In the L.A. area, he also did three houses for Warner Brothers in San Pedro (still going strong), Beverly Hills (demolished) and Huntington Park (a retail conversion).

The Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres in Los Angeles" notes on page 84 that the building was designed by B. Marcus Priteca and S.E. Sonnichen, the latter being the local "associate architect."  

Status: Alive and well again under Laemmle management. The single screen house reopened September 18, 2015. The Laemmle blog post about the company's return to the venue noted the new name, the Ahrya Fine Arts. The name is that of the eldest son of the building's new owner, Shawn Far. Mr. Far is in the clothing business downtown (Vertigo USA) and lives in Beverly Hills. Photo: Bill Counter - 2007

Major Films: Due to the convenient Wilshire Blvd. location, the house was a favorite for premieres. The Fine Arts premiered George Stevens' "A Place in the Sun" in 1951. "Room at the Top" ran 6 months in 1959.

In the 60s and 70s, the Fine Arts was one of the major Los Angeles Art houses. "David and Lisa," "Never on Sunday," "That Man From Rio," "Belle de Jour," "Zorba the Greek," "Persona," and "Last Tango in Paris" all had their initial engagements here.

In 1974 "The Exorcist" had lines around the block for months, to the ire of local residents. Later the Fine Arts had 70mm capability with two Norelco DP70s that had come out of the National Theatre in Westwood.

Many owners, many operators: The theatre got the Fine Arts name in December 1948 after a renovation by Fox West Coast Theatres. The opening attraction on December 28 was "The Red Shoes" with lots of stars attending. The theatre continued to be operated by Fox West Coast (then National General and, finally, Mann Theatres) until December 1985 when their lease was up. Laemmle Theatres took over they operation at that time. They had purchased the building in 1984 after Mann declined. The theatre was operated by Laemmle until 1993.

In 1993 Italian Film distributor Cecci Gori purchased the building from Laemmle. After Laemmle's exit, Landmark Theatres was then the operator for a while. Joseph Musil, who also designed the renovations of the El Capitan and Crest, supervised a 1993 renovation for Cecci Gori. After the renovation the theatre was known as the Cecci Gori Fine Arts.

The lobby was pushed into the auditorium a bit and a larger screen (14' x 33') installed in front of the proscenium. The concession area was expanded and restrooms enlarged using what had been adjacent retail space. The space around what had once been an island boxoffice was enclosed with new doors out near the sidewalk line.

It closed in 2004 and was then leased to Screening Services Group / Classic Movie Theatres in 2005. This operation ran a few films commercially but then the theatre just became a venue open for screenings and special events and got equipped for digital. In mid-2009 it again closed and for a while was supposedly undergoing renovation work. But basically it just sat there.

In 2010 the building was sold to Singaporean conglomerate Spice Global for $4 million. They had intended to triplex the venue and run Bollywood films. In 2012, those plans were abandoned and the theatre was put up for sale again. Curbed LA posted the story at the time, which they picked up from a Daniel Miller article in Hollywood Reporter. In October 2013 the City of Beverly Hills Cultural Heritage Commission issued a report that started the landmarking process for the theatre.

The theatre was purchased in March 2014 by philanthropist Paula Kent Meehan with the intention of preserving it as a community resource. But Ms. Meehan died at age 82 in June, 2014. The L.A. Times ran an obituary. The listing on Loopnet had reported an asking price of $4 million for the 7,767 s.f. building on the 9,281 s.f. lot. Another report had listed the building size as 6,862 s.f. The 2014 sale price was not disclosed but was for less than the asking price.

Martha Groves discussed the sale and outlined the history of the theatre in a April 25, 2014 L.A. Times story. She reported at the time that the new owner planned to reopen the theatre and "let it evolve." Sadly, she didn't get the chance. With her death, it went back on the market.

Ms. Meehan, who made her fortune with the Redken hair products line, had been in the news earlier for buying the local Beverly Hills Courier, covered in an April 2014 story in the L.A. Times. Her philanthropic endeavors had included substantial donations for restoration of the Beverly Hills Post Office and toward construction of the adjacent Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. See the Wikipedia article on Ms. Meehan for more career details.

The theatre was granted City of Beverly Hills landmark status May 16, 2017. The owners also had an application for Mills Act funding approved by the City Council on Sept 19. The act provides a credit against taxes for restoration projects in a historic building. Specific amounts and details of the initial projects have yet to be determined. According to Sally Fugimoto, directing the process for the owners, it'll be a ten year endeavor with work on the signage and storefront restoration as the first steps.

A 2002 lobby photo by Ken Roe appearing on Cinema Treasures.

The snack bar at the Fine Arts. It's in a nook off to the right as you enter.  It's a photo from the Classic Movie Theatres collection on the Cinema Tour page about the theatre.

Thanks to Ken Roe for this 2002 auditorium photo on on Cinema Treasures. See the photos section of the site's Fine Arts page for several more interior views.

A great interior view from Kirsten Levison on Flickr. It's part of her 2008 Los Angeles photo set.

A look at the rear of the house by Kirsten Levison on Flickr. Thanks for these two photos, Kirsten!

A ceiling fixture detail from indefatigable theatre explorer Michelle Gerdes. No, the fixtures aren't original. They're from the remodel designed by Joe Musil.

A Michael Robinson Chavez photo appearing with the November 13, 2012 L.A. Times story by Corina Knoll about the difficulties faced by the Fine Arts Theatre: "Historic Theatre in Beverly Hills an Empty Shell."  Well, hardly.

The photo reappeared in a March 2014 story about theatres trying out discounted admissions one day a week. Of course, there was no chance at the time of buying a ticket at any price to the Fine Arts as it was closed.

The auditorium in 2017. The event was a tour as part of the Theatre Historical Society Conclave. Photo: Bill Counter

Thanks to John Hough and Mark Mulhall for this 2017 photo across the back of the house. The lobby has been pushed into the rear of the seating area. Visit John and Mark's ever-growing website for terrific collections of photos they've taken of many Los Angeles area theatres as well as others around the country.

A look toward the screen end of the auditorium during the visit by members of the Theatre Historical Society. Photo: John Hough / Mark Mulhall - - 2017

A peek behind the drapes to see some original decor. Photo: John Hough / Mark Mulhall - - 2017 Thanks, John and Mark! 

A c. 2007 photo of the Fine Arts booth on the DP70s in California page of Thomas Hauerslev's terrific site Michael Hall, the operator of the theatre at the time, is seen with two Norelco DP70 35/70mm machines he bought when the National in Westwood closed. When his lease was up, he left them in the booth. It's a Robert Weisgerber photo.

A few more exterior views: 

A 1942 view of what was still called the Regina Theatre added to the Beverly Hills Heritage Facebook page in 2013 by Kimberly Reiss. The occasion was the beginning of the landmarking process for the building. They're running a newsreels + feature policy. Here "Juke Box Jenny" is the feature film. The photo also appears on the LAHTF Facebook page.

Orson Welles' "Macbeth" at the Fine Arts. It's a 1949 Los Angeles Public Library photo showing the name change following the 1948 Fox West Coast remodel. Note that the area around boxoffice wasn't enclosed until much later.

A 1949 Los Angeles Public Library photo showing the vertical sign that had been added during the 1948 remodel.

"Adolph Zukor gets a military welcome at a personal appearance to launch “My Son John” in 1952 at the Beverly Hills Fine Arts Theatre." Thanks to Dallas Movie Theaters for their post of the trade magazine photo on Cinema Treasures

A 1952 "My Son John" photo from Ken McIntyre on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.

A 1952 "A Place in the Sun" photo from the collection of Hollywood Historic Photos. Also see their selection of other Beverly Hills theatre photos.

A 1959 view when the Fine Arts was in the 19th week of their run of "Room at the Top." The photo, from Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives, appears in his Arcadia Publishing book "Postcards of America - Beverly Hills 1930-2005." It's also on a post of the blog My Love of Old Hollywood. The photo is also on the website of Hollywood Historic Photos. Other Fine Arts photos on the site include "The Ghoul" from 1939 and "The Group" from 1965.

The film "Jessica" from 1962 featured Angie Dickinson as a character who rode around on a scooter. The two ladies were out doing promo for the film by cruising around. Thanks to David Dingo Kenny for posting the photo on the Facebook page for the non-public group Mid Century Modern Los Angeles.

Thanks to Nick Faitos for this photo of the Fine Arts he snapped in April 1974. It was a post of his on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page.

A 1978 "Autumn Sonata" shot by Anne Laskey in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

A marquee view during the "Autumn Sonata" run. It's another Anne Laskey photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

A 2002 photo by Betty Sword from the Theatre Talks collection of Cezar Del Valle. Thanks, Cezar!

A 2005 view when the Fine Arts was a rental venue. Thanks to K Blood on Flickr for the photo.

A 2006 entrance photo by Tejana on Flickr as part of her Wilshire Beauty set.

Thanks to Tejana on Flickr for this great detail of the marquee neon.

Another 2006 marquee detail by Tejana on Flickr. Also see a view of the signage from across the street. Thanks for the photos!

Thanks to Ken McIntyre for this 2008 photo looking east.

A 2009 photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr nicely showing off the neon. There are many more great pictures in his Los Angeles Neon set.

A rainy afternoon view. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010

Thanks to Hunter Kerhart Architectural Photography for this 2014 neon shot. |

An entrance view. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014. Thanks, Hunter!

More Information: Claudia Mullins has some great interior views in her 2017 photo set posted on the LAHTF Facebook page.

Take a look at Sandi Hemmerlein's Avoiding Regret photo essay "The Last Movie Theatre of Beverly Hills," by which she means the one remaining single-screen neighborhood style house. Sandi has some nice marquee views and shots of interior details to share.

See the Cinema Treasures page on the Fine Arts for many interesting submissions. Of special interest are the posts by Vokoban from the L.A. Times and other sources. See the story about Peter Lorre posted in February 2006.

Some of the data on this page comes from the detailed history of the theatre by TJ Edwards on Cinema Tour (also showing up on Cinema Treasures). The Cinema Tour page also has some nice photos, including interior views.

| back to topWestside theatres | Hollywood | Westwood and Brentwood | Santa Monica and Venice | Westside theatres: alphabetical list | Westside theatres: by street address | Los Angeles theatres - the main alphabetical list | theatre history resources | film and theatre tech resourceswelcome and site navigation guide |

No comments:

Post a Comment