Opened: May 14, 1924 as an independent operation with D. W. Griffith's "America" featuring Lionel Barrymore. It's on the south side of the street two blocks east of Crenshaw Blvd. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010
Architect: Edward J. Borgmeyer. The murals were by Christian von Schneidau. In addition to the theatre space, there was the Forum Ballroom on the third floor over the lobby areas. The building has a number of lounge areas and meeting spaces including some in the basement. There's an elevator to get to the various levels.
The cover of a 1925 issue of the Forum's magazine. Thanks to Dallas Movie Theaters for locating it for a post on Cinema Treasures.
Gus A. Metzger and Harry Srere acquired a partial interest in the theatre around 1926. Srere had been running the Rialto downtown in the late
20s. Metzger and Srere, and other partners, had taken over the Palace Theatre in 1928. The duo were the lessees of the Fairfax Theatre when it opened in 1930 and the Roxie when it opened on Broadway in 1931. Metzger and Srere also did business as Pacific Amusement Co. and
The theatre's lighting was discussed in "Life o' the Show-House: Light," an article by Nellie Barnard Parker from the publication "Light" that was reprinted in the February 19, 1927 issue of Exhibitors Herald. It's on Internet Archive. Ms. Parker comments:
"Here is a place of restful charm -- that is, if you crave languishment -- accentuated by careful lighting that has prompted over 200 letters from enthusiastic patrons during the past year. ... Concrete pillars and urns along both the side walls give a feeling of space to the panorama of Grecian scenes painted upon the walls. The audience experiences the sense of looking between colonnades upon a vast and beautiful country. Forty 1000-watt spots above the canopy ceiling illuminate these walls from above and a three-colored lighting system hidden behind a low baluster enables the electrician to obtain marvelous effects on these scenic walls. Colored lights in the urns give the appearance of burning insence. Four hundred 60-watt cove-lighting lamps and other sources and 'spots' placed to judicious advantage, all operated by a splendidly equipped switchboard, help to make this show-house one of the show places of Los Angeles."
Thanks to Mike Hume for finding the article, which also discusses the Egyptian, Orpheum and Carthay Circle theatres. Visit Mike's Historic Theatre Photography site for historical data and many fine photos of the theatres he's explored.
Soon it became part of the Warner Bros. empire and was advertised as the Warner Bros. Forum Theatre. Metzger and Srere continued to have a part in the operation, at least as late as 1930. They were also involved in the Fairfax and in the Roxie downtown.
Warners was still operating the Forum in 1948. At the time, in addition to the Warner Beverly Hills and Warner Huntington Park listed in the ad, they also operated the Wiltern, the Warner Hollywood and the Warner Downtown (the former Pantages). They were out of the Warner San Pedro that they had built but it eventually was back in the circuit. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the ad.
An early 1950s view from the booklet produced in an attempt to sell the building. Note the Simplex E-7 with the front shutter still on the machine. It's pre-Cinemascope. That large lower magazine we see is a preview attachment so 1,000 ft. reels could be run with picture and sound on separate reels.
The Forum closed as a film house sometime in the early 50s and then had a fling as a legit theatre. This ad for the revue "My L.A." appeared in the November 4, 1951 Times. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for posting it on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. The show was not a success and only had a short run.
In 1955 the theatre was used for recording sessions for the Pacific Jazz label that included Chet Baker, Art Pepper, Bill Perkins, Hoagy Carmichael and other artists.
The program cover for "Pajama Tops" with Barbara Eden at the Forum in 1956. It was for sale on Amazon. Thanks to Arnold Darrow for spotting it.
This murky proscenium view is seen 1957 Ed Wood pilot TV "Final Curtain." The 22 minute film, on YouTube, has many more views of the Forum, including lots of low-res backstage shots. See the Theatres in Movies post for a chandelier shot and an exterior view of the Dome Theatre in Ocean Park.
Sound equipment being installed at the Forum for Cinerama. The photo is from the collection of Cinerama historian Roland Lataille on his InCinerama.com page devoted to the Forum Theatre. Thanks, Roland!
The theatre was used for testing lenses, evaluating prints and as a shipping depot. It was initially equipped for 3 strip projection and (later) with 2 Norelco DP70 35/70mm projectors when Cinerama started working with a 70mm format.
The Forum booth with two Norelco DP70 35/70mm machines as well as Cinerama 3-strip equipment. Thanks to Thomas Hauerslev for the photo in his terrific site In70mm.com. It's on the page about DP70s in California.
Status: It's been a Korean church since the late 70's. The original auditorium ceiling is obscured with a dropped ceiling and the murals have either been painted over or otherwise covered. A 2006 report from Jeff Bridges on Cinema Treasures:
A 1924 lobby photo from Architectural Record. Thanks to Brooklyn-based theatre historian Cezar Del Valle for including it in a post on his Theatre Talks Tumblr blog. For other interesting material see his other Theatre Talks blog on Blogspot and visit him on Facebook. The photo is also in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
A 50s view looking in from the rotunda toward the inner lobby. The photo is one that was included in a 25 page brochure produced when the building was up for sale. The full brochure is reproduced at the bottom of the page. Thanks to Ronald W. Mahan for sharing it.
A 50s inner lobby view from the brochure in the Ronald W. Mahan collection.
A look across the house appearing in the Arcadia Publishing book "West Adams" by Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Don Lynch and John G. Kurtz. There's a preview on Google Books. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Gaylord Wilshire for including the photo in his Noirish post #4448.
The rear of the house in the 50s, a redo presumably prompted by acoustical issues. Photo: Ronald W. Mahan collection
A view of one of the murals in a 1978 photo by Tom Zimmerman that's in the California State Library collection.
The churched auditorium. It's a photo by Richard M. appearing on Yelp. Thanks to Deanna Bayless for spotting it.
An auditorium view from David Jung on Google Maps. Again thanks to Deanna Bayless for finding the photo.
The 3rd floor ballroom above the lobby. The doors we see just went out to an exit corridor. The matching doors out of the frame on the left opened onto a colonnade overlooking Pico Blvd. Photo: Ronald W. Mahan Collection
More exterior views:
1924 - A view from an Architectural Record article. Thanks to Cezar Del Valle for including it in the post about the Forum on his Theatre Talks Tumblr blog.
c.1924 - An early look at the facade before any signage went up. It's a photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
c.1924 - An aerial view of the Forum Theatre. Note the gas station to the left of the theatre -- and the theatre's "acres of free parking" behind it. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.
c.1925 - The Forum's facade from the east with the beginnings of a marquee. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.
1925 - A view of some sort of filming outside the theatre. Ken McIntyre located the photo for the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. On the marquee is "The Home Maker" with Alice Joyce and Clive Brook.
1926 - A photo appearing in the May 22 issue of Exhibitors Herald. Thanks to Mike Hume/Historic Theatre Photography for finding it on Internet Archive. The caption: Here's how Billy Dooley's 'The Goofy Gob,' Educational comedy made at the Christie studios was given its due, on a par with the long feature, in the electric light space of the Forum theatre, Los Angeles.
1926 - This view of the theatre running Lois Weber's "The Marriage Clause" appeared in the October 2 issue of Exhibitors Herald. Thanks to Mike Hume for finding the photo on Internet Archive. The caption: "The Stern Brothers 'Newlyweds and Their Baby' comedies, released by Universal, won their way into the lights at the Forum theatre in Los Angeles. This photo was taken the night 'The Marriage Clause' opened there."
1932 - A lovely nighttime look at the Forum from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
1938 - A view of the Forum's new marquee. It's a photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
1950s - A shot looking down the colonnade outside the third floor Forum Ballroom. Photo: Ronald W. Mahan collection
1955 - A shot by Brunk for the Herald Examiner from the USC Digital Library collection. The theatre was being used for a transportation workers union meeting.
1955 - Another Herald Examiner transportation strike photo from the USC Digital Library collection. Her husband's in the meeting where they're discussing bringing the strike to an end.
1958 - A marquee view from Jeff Bridges on Flickr. He notes: "This is a snapshot that I found in a term paper at an estate sale. The paper is titled 'A Geographic And Cultural Analysis Of A Metropolitan Area', by Adele H. Mason." The photo also appears on Cinema Treasures and on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.
early 1960s - A look at the theatre when it was a Cinerama test house. It's the only known photo of the facade with "Cinerama" on the marquee. Thanks to Matt Spero for the find -- and for doing some work on the postage stamp sized image. Evidently one of the gentlemen in front is Lowell Thomas.
1979 - A photo by William Reagh. It's in the California State Library collection. It's also in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
2002 - A view of the Forum facade from Cezar Del Valle's Theatre Talks collection. It's a Betty Sword photo.
More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page for lots of historical data and links to additional photos. Bill Gabel and Ken Roe have contributed an informative history of the theatre.
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