Opened: December 25, 1948 with a second-run engagement of "The Three Musketeers" starring Gene Kelly along with "Rusty Leads the Way." The theatre was on the south side of the street just west of Westwood Blvd. This photo by Michael Greene with the opening attractions on the marquee is on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection.
Architect: S. Charles Lee
A sketch of the boxoffice. It's on Calisphere from the the UCLA collection.
A section of the building from S. Charles Lee's office. It's on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection.
More S. Charles Lee theatre photos in the UCLA collection can be located via the S. Charles Lee Papers home page on Calisphere or the UCLA Library page for the collection. There's also a Finding Aid for the S. Charles Lee Papers on the Online Archive of California site.
Seating: 1,100 originally, later reseated for 950.
It was an independent operation at first. The L.A. Times noted on November 7, 1948: "Opening soon of the new Picwood theater at Pico and Westwood Blvd. has been announced. The new structure has 1,500 seating capacity, 1,000 on the first floor. The theater is owned by Earl Collins and will be managed by Phil Isley, of Dallas."
A December 31, 1948 article in the West LA Independent noted that the owners had intended to open the theatre with a first run film but nothing was made available to them. They filed a lawsuit against several studios and exhibitors. MGM had advised that they could bid against the Fox Wilshire for product but they had no hopes of succeeding in competition against Fox West Coast. See part of the article reproduced at the bottom of the page.
It got a remodel in 1966 that obliterated most of the original tropical themed decor. Pacific Theatres draped the whole thing -- including a curtain across the front of the booth to hide those unsightly portholes during intermission.
The Picwood was run until 1985 by Pacific Theatres, often with exclusive runs. The theatre was equipped for 70mm presentation. 70mm engagements included "Apocalypse Now" (1979-80 - 26 weeks), "Raiders of the Lost Arc" (1981), "E.T." (1982), "Amadeus" (1985) and many more.
The Picwood in the Movies:
We get a lovely view east toward the theatre in this shot from "Young Doctors in Love" (20th Century Fox, 1982). The film was directed by Garry Marshall and stars Michael McKean and Sean Young. The cinematography was by Don Peterman. Thanks to Eric Schaefer for spotting the theatre in the film and getting the screenshot.
A look at the lobby of the Picwood. It's a 1948 Julius Shulman photo on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection.
The view toward the exit doors. It's a Julius Shulman photo on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection.
A later photo of the Picwood snack bar that appeared in the Motion Picture Herald. It appears on the Picwood Theatre page in the 70mm in Los Angeles section of the site From Script To DVD.
A look down from the top. The 1948 photo is on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection. No photographer is credited.
An uncredited photo of the rear of the house. It's on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection.
A chance to check out that tropical sidewall decor. The 1948 photo is on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection. The photographer is not credited.
A detail of those flamingos on the side wall. Thanks to Matt Spero for the photo. He comments: "This was taken shortly before teardown. They had ripped down the drapes that covered the original S. Charles Lee wall art for many years. Notice the bracket for surround speakers. I only had a few shots left to this roll and this was the best interior shot I got."
A view of the draped auditorium of the Picwood in its later years. The photo is credited to the L.A. Times / Lucasfilm / Pacific Theatres. It appears on the Picwood Theatre page in the "70mm in Los Angeles" section of the site From Script To DVD.
Thanks to Bill Gabel for this view to the rear in the theatre's later "draped" days. Note the booth is obscured by its own motorized curtain that would be closed during intermissions. Bill has the photo on the Cinema Treasures page about the Picwood.
More exterior views:
A 1949 view of the theatre by Julius Shulman in the Getty Research Institute collection. The main feature the week of the photo was "Angel on the Amazon," a November 1948 release. The Getty indexes this as Shulman job #474: Picwood Theatre.
"The barrio is real - not glamorous." It's 1979 photo of the Picwood for
the premiere of "Boulevard Nights"-- and a protest. It's a Dean
Musgrove photo in the Herald Examiner collection at the Los Angeles Public Library. Also in the collection: another "Boulevard" view | yet another "Boulevard" shot - "Stop Gang Exploitation Films"
"We Killed a Theatre AND a Bowling Alley," Ken Levine's 2008 blog post, included this photo of the theatre's last engagement, "Volunteers," in 1985.
"Cleveland Wrecking Co. Brings Down the House." A look at the Picwood with its fate left in the hands of the demolition company. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for the post on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.
More information: See the Cinema Treasures page for lots of discussion about the Picwood's history. Michael Coate posted a list of the Picwood's 70mm runs in 2008.
Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating this portion of an article from the December 31, 1948 issue of the West LA Independent for a thread about the theatre on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
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