9036 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills 90211 | map |
Opened: 1936 as the Elite Theatre. It's between Doheny Dr. and Wetherly Dr. on the south side of the street. The Writers Guild Theatre is around the corner on Doheny and the AMPAS Samuel Goldwyn Theatre is just two blocks east on Wilshire. Photo: Bill Counter - April 2021
The Elite running "A Song To Remember," a January 1945 release. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for posting the ad on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
It was renamed the Music Hall on August 8, 1945 and operated as one of four "Music Hall Theatres" which frequently ran the same bookings. In Hollywood the group had the Holly Theatre and the Hawaii Theatre, which they called the Hawaii Music Hall. Their downtown theatre was also called the Music Hall, now back to its original name of the Tower Theatre.
Between 1950 and 1956 it was a TV studio operated by KLAC-TV. Some seats were removed and a lighting grid and control room installed. The theatre was the home to "Life With Elizabeth" with Betty White in the early 50s and "The Liberace Show" on NBC from 1953 to 1955.
In 1956 it again was a movie house. During the 60s and into the 70s it was operated by the Walter Reade circuit of New York as one of L.A.'s premiere art houses. Reade also operated the Beverly Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills and the Granada Theatre in West Hollywood. Major films in the 60s at the Music Hall included "La Dolce Vita," "La Strada," and "War and Peace."
A 1970 ad for the Walter Reade circuit located by Ken McIntyre. It was a post on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. Walter Reade ran into troubles and the circuit ended up in bankruptcy in 1978. They had dropped the Music Hall earlier.
In 1974 the Music Hall had become part of the Laemmle circuit, specializing in independent and foreign films. They triplexed it in the 90s. When the circuit's 15 year lease was up in April 2011 there was discussion of closing as the landlord wanted to explore other options for the building. They succeeded in getting a lease extension. In 2019 the circuit decided to end their 45 year tenure and their last day of operation was November 21.
In an article in the Beverly Hills Courier, Greg Laemmle said: "It’s not about ticket sales being up or down and not specifically about rent increases. The theater just didn’t quite fit for us anymore given the direction of wanting to be our own landlord. It’s just time." Thanks to Donavan S. Moye for spotting the story. See the Laemmle blog post "After a 45-Year Run, Lemmmle To Leave Music Hall."
When Laemmle announced their exit, the the building owner started showing the premises to other theatre operators as well as potential non-theatrical tenants. Deadline's November 22, 2019 story "Why Laemmle Theatres Decided Not To Sell..." was about the circuit as a whole no longer being up for sale and also discussed the Music Hall's fate. See the page about the Royal Theatre for links to other stories about the circuit.
New operators: Three veterans of the Laemmle circuit took over the theatre and reopened November 29, 2019 as the Lumiere Music Hall. They formed a new company with the intention of offering programming similar to what had been done under Laemmle management.
Lhe Lumiere management team: Luis Orellana at the left, Lauren Brown, and Peter Ambrosio. It's a photo by Allen J. Schaben that appeared with Gary Goldstein's lovely December 31, 2019 L.A. Times article about the trio's ambitions for the theatre. The article noted that they had a one-year lease plus four renewal options. Thanks to Donavan S. Moye for spotting the story.
A message from the team: "We are very excited to announce that the Laemmle tradition will be kept alive at the Music Hall. We are three Laemmle Theatre employees (two former and one current) and we are opening a new company, Lumiere Cinema...It is our intention to honor the Laemmle family’s commitment of bringing the best of independent cinema to the big screen in Los Angeles. Each of us has worked at the Music Hall and we are proud to be able to grant it a new lease on life. We would like to thank Greg Laemmle and the entire Laemmle team for enabling us to make this dream a reality..."
The theatre shut down in March 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions. Films continued to be offered virtually via the lumierecinemala.com website. The theatre had also been open in the evenings for the sale of drinks, popcorn and merchandise.
A Variety story on February 17, 2021 by Pat Saperstein had the news that it had been leased out from under the Lumiere team by indie distributor Blue Fox Entertainment. The story discussed a renovation including an expanded lobby, upgraded food and drink options, new screens and recliner seats. The company, headed by James Huntsman, said at the time that it would book their own product as well as that of other distributors and will also make the theatres available for screenings and special events. An opening was expected in October. The renovation was to be designed by Fred Dagdagan. Well, that deal fell apart.
The Lumiere Music Hall reopened March 19, 2021. See a post about the event on their Facebook page. The Music Hall was one of several theatres profiled in "Movies and theaters are coming back. But what about L.A.'s treasured art houses?," a July 13, 2021 L.A. Times article by Ryan Faughnder and Mark Olsen. The story featured several photos taken at the theatre.
Upstairs with the booth on the right, restrooms on the left. There's another booth farther forward that was added for the front theatre, house #3. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
Down the corridor along the house right wall to the big house in front, auditorium #3. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
Thanks to William David French, Jr. for this 1952 photo from his collection. He's got it on Cinema Treasures.
Director Bertrand Blier at the theatre in 1980. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating the photo for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
The theatre in 2007. Photo: Bill Counter
A detail of the ornament in the center of the facade. Thanks to Steve Milner for his 2017 photo on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page.
To see the rest of the hidden facade you have to go high. It's a 2017 Steve Milner photo on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page. Thanks, Steve!
More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Music Hall for links to more exterior photos some additional historical detail.
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