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Pasadena Civic Auditorium

300 E. Green St. Pasadena, CA 91101 | map |


Opened: February 15, 1932. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010

Phone: 626-449-7360  Website: www.thepasadenacivic.com | tech specs | history | photos |

Architects: Bergstrom, Bennett, Haskell and Stanton. Fitch Haskell was the chief designer. Jess Stanton designed the exterior tiles and interior decorative scheme. The ceilings were executed by Giovanni Smeraldi.

The funds for the building came from the City's Water & Power department. The Civic Auditorium was the last of three major Civic Center construction projects. The area was planned by Bennett, Parsons and Frost, a Chicago firm that was the successor to Daniel Burnham. The earlier Library building was done by Myron Hunt. The City Hall was by Bakewell & Brown of San Francisco.

Seating: 3,029 originally, now 2,997. In addition to the main theatre space, the second floor Gold Room above the lobby can handle up to 300 for receptions and parties. There's also a 17,000 sf exhibition hall behind the stage that was restored in 2015.



The layout of the Pasadena Civic complex.  The illustration is from the Civic's Technical Specs page on their website.  There's also a separate tech pdf with more details.

Stage specs: 

Proscenium: 56' wide x 32' high

Stage depth: 43' from the smoke pocket to the back wall

Last available lineset: 36' from the smoke pocket

Stage right wing space: 23'

Stage left wing space: 25'

Road power: 2 400A 3 phase USR, 1 400A 3 phase USL

Grid height: 75'

Rigging: 58 linesets, on 6" centers, 1,000 lb. arbors,  60'  battens with 4 lift lines per set, operated at stage level stage right. There's 45,000 lbs of counterweight available.

Flyfloors: Stage left 27' above the stage, stage right 19' above the stage.

Paint bridge: It's along the back wall, 33' above the stage.

Stage to house floor: 3' 9"

Orchestra pit lift: It drops to 5' 6" below stage level -- does not go to the basement. It's actually two hydraulic lifts with the pit split into left and right sections.

Pit width: 16' from lip of apron to the pit rail

Organ lift: A hydraulic lift at center drops to basement or comes up to stage level. The console stores in the basement and is not attached to the lift.

Dressing rooms: Star room SL, 16 small rooms up a floor SL and SR, 2 chorus rooms in basement.

Projection throw: 120'. The two followspots are Strong Gladiators, converted to Xenon. 


Organ: It's a 5/28 Moller

Status: The theatre is operated by the Pasadena Center operating Company, an entity that also runs the Convention Center. It's used for a wide variety of touring legitimate theatrical productions, concerts, and special events. 

The Pasadena Civic in the Movies: We get a look at the exterior as the location for Jason Bateman's spelling bee finals in "Bad Words" (Focus Features, 2014). The interiors were done elsewhere. In the film they say the interior views are at "Figueroa Hall."


The lobby areas:


The ticket lobby. The main lobby is off to the right, boxoffice windows straight ahead. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



A 1932 view of the main lobby from house left taken by Mott Studios. It's in the California State Library collection, one of eleven photos in their set #1387322. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor BifRayRock for digging some of these views out of the archives and including them in his Noirish post #15202.



A 2018 view from house left. Photo: Bill Counter



A lobby view from house right posted by Graeme McBain on the Facebook page Theatre Architecture. He added it as a comment to an auditorium photo of the Civic that he had posted.



A lobby ceiling detail taken by Mike Hume in 2017. Visit his Historic Theatre Photography site for hundreds of great photos of theatres he's explored. And, of course, there's a lovely page on the Pasadena Civic Auditorium



The house left stairs. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



The balcony lobby seen from house right. The Gold Room is through the door on the left edge of the image. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



Looking back down to the balcony lobby level from the house left balcony vomitory. At the bottom level there are stairs to the main lobby on the left, the men's room on the right. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



The second floor Gold Room, located above the ticket lobby and main lobby. The photo is on a page devoted to chamber music venues in the L.A. area on the site Da Camera. The page also has a nice history of the building by Ann Scheid. The photo is one from the Pasadena Convention and Visitors Bureau.



The rear of the Gold Room, here set up for a reception following a performance. Note the projection ports. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018


The auditorium:


A c.1932 rear of the main floor wall detail from the Pasadena Public Library on the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration website. 



A look across the main floor c.1932 from the Pasadena Public Library collection on the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration website.



A c.1932 view of the proscenium and the asbestos from Bennett Kennedy Studio. The photo is in the collection of the Pasadena Public Library and appears on the website of the Pasadena Digital History Collaboration.



Restoration work on the asbestos in 2018. The photo appeared as a post on the Pasadena Civic Facebook page where they note that the curtain had sustained damage in a fire fifty years earlier. Thanks to Mike Hume for spotting the post.



One of the murals at the rear of the main floor. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



A stage view from house left. The set onstage was for a Christmas Pantomime production. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



The house right organ grille area. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017 



The proscenium mural house right. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



A detail of some of the grillework above the proscenium. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



Looking across the front of the auditorium. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



A fine photo of the Mighty Moller being played up in "picture" position with the asbestos seen behind. The shot appears on a page about the theatre on the Visit Pasadena website. 



A lovely Stephen Russo shot up at the ceiling from under the balcony.  It was a 2016 post on the LAHTF Facebook page. Thanks, Stephen!



A great look toward the rear of the auditorium. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017


 
Another view of the Greek Revival paintings at the back and sides of the main floor. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018 


Up in the balcony:


A view across the auditorium. The photo appears on a page about a 2008 performance of the Divine Wisdom Performing Arts Company on the site Clear Wisdom.



A proscenium view from Sam Osman on Flickr. The stage is set for a speech in 2009 by Bill Clinton.



A look at the house right organ grill area. Thanks to Sam Osman for his 2009 photo on Flickr.



The Pasadena Civic shows up in the season 5 episode 23 of the TV series "House." Thanks to Walter Santucci for the screenshot, a post on the LAHTF Facebook page.



Thanks to Stephen Russo for this look down from the back of the balcony. He added it as a comment on the LAHTF Facebook page to the shot from "House."



A balcony view from the website of the Chinese dance troupe Shen Yun Performing Arts.



Across the front of the balcony. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017 



The back wall. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017 



A side wall detail. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017


The ceiling from house right. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



A detail of one of the coffers on the perimeter of the ceiling. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017


Up in the booth:  


The view from the house left side of the booth. The two spots in use are Strong Gladiators with the original carbon arc lamphouses replaced with Strong Lume-X units. There's a third spot, unconverted, up against the back wall. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018 



The booth view from the other side. There's no direct access from the auditorium. The doorway leads to a hall going to a stairway down to office areas and a connection to the house left stairs serving the balcony. There's another hall on the house right side of the booth going down to another stairway to the balcony lobby. The doorway we see behind the spot goes to a small room with a long-unused Norelco 16mm projector. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018 



A view down from the booth. The stage was set for a Christmas Pantomime production. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018


Backstage: 

 
The counterweight system and flyfloor stage right. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



Offstage left. Those are the loading doors on the left side. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017


Stage basement:  


Under the orchestra pit lift looking across to stage left. The organ console is in its storage position. The organ lift (on the stage centerline) is seen in the distance at the center of the image. Note that the floor in this area has been built up to match the level of the organ lift at the bottom of its travel. Thus heavy items can be brought down for storage and easily rolled off the lift. The hydraulic pit lift is split on the centerline into left and right sections. They don't come down to basement level. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018



The hydraulic organ lift. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



The trap room as seen from stage right. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017


More exterior views: 


A 1932 look at the exterior of the Civic Auditorium by Mott Studios. It's in the California State Library collection, one of eleven photos in their set #1387322.



An entrance detail. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library - 1932



Looking north toward the City Hall. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library - 1932



An early postcard from the site Card Cow.



A 1937 photo from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



Another postcard appearing on Card Cow. The caption reads: "The Civic Auditorium (costing $1,250,000) is especially noted for the dances given by top-ranking orchestras, where over 3000 may dance in the large Exhibition Hall. The theatre, which is used for operas, concerts and lectures, seats 3000 persons."



A 1944 view of the Civic Auditorium from the great Frasher Foto Card collection at the Pomona Public Library.



A late 40s look at the theatre by Harry Quillen that's in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



A facade view. Photo: Mike Hume - 2018 



A second floor detail. Behind the windows is the Gold Room, located above the lobby. Photo: Mike Hume - 2018



The west side of the building. Photo: Mike Hume - 2018 



The east side of the Civic. Photo: Mike Hume - 2018. Thanks, Mike! Visit his Historic Theatre Photography site for hundreds of great photos of theatres he's explored. And, of course, there's a lovely page on the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.



Snowflakes for Christmas. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018

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