The Playhouse Theatre came back to life in March 2015 as the Teragram Ballroom, a venture of the team originally behind New York's Bowery Ballroom. It's both a music venue and a restaurant. The photo is one from Ken McIntyre that appeared on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles in 2016.
Partners in the venture include Bowery founder Michael Sweir, local bar owner Joe Baxley (also from New York) and Michael's brother, architect Brian Sweir. The room's name is "Margaret" spelled backward, a tribute to Michael's late wife Margaret Hannigan, who died of cancer in 2009.
The location is on the south side of the street two blocks west of the 110 freeway and a block east of the Mayfair Hotel. Wilshire is two short blocks north.
Original opening: The theatre opened as The Playhouse possibly as early as 1913. It was advertised in 1914. It's listed in the 1917 and 1921 directories with the 1234 W. 7th address. It was featured in a 1923 Paramount ad. This venue shouldn't be confused with the later legit venue, also called The Playhouse, that was in the Friday Morning Club Building on Figueroa. That one's now called the Variety Arts Theatre.
The address varies a bit. In the 1916 city directory it's listed as Playhouse, 1236 W. 7th. In 1919 and 1922 the address is 1234 1/2 W. 7th. It's listed as McKinney's Play House in the 1929 city directory and used that name at least until 1933.
Architect: The architects of the 9,453 s.f. building were the firm of Mayberry & Parker, architectural engineers, with offices in the Pacific Electric Building. Thanks to Joe Vogel for finding information on the project in the December 14, 1912 issue of Southwest Contractor & Manufacturer.
Seating: 490 at one time. As the Teragram the capacity of the main space is 600. A balcony was added as part of the renovation.
It was operating as a film house into the mid 1950s. Afterward it became a print shop and for years after that it was a strange combination of violin store and Victory Outreach church. Some of the theatre's lobby area was still intact before the renovation. In the auditorium, the original arched ceiling and lighting coves were still in place.
The stage area has been upgraded and three large dressing rooms added. The adjacent Quality Cafe in the west storefront is part of the project, now the Teragram Cafe. The cafe had been a popular filming location. Break.com has a nice recap of scenes from some films using the space.
The auditorium prior to the renovations. The photo appeared on Curbed L.A. with Adrian Glick Kudler's November 2013 story: "NYC's Bowery Ballroom Operators Wants To Revive...." Bowery Ballroom's former operator Michael Sweir and his partners had filed plans at that time to use the building as a live performance space and restaurant.
Curbed reported that the intent noted was for a space with 440 seats or 708 patrons and featuring live entertainment, "incidental patron dancing" and, of course, alcohol. The photo is a 2009 view from Loopnet. Curbed L.A.'s Bianca Barragan had a followup story on January 2, 2015: "Westlake's Playhouse Reopens as Teragram Ballroom in March."
The New York Times ran a December 31, 2014 story by Ben Sisario, "A Bowery Titan Puts Down L.A. Roots," that profiled Bowery founder Michael Swier, seen at the right in this photo. His brother Brian is on the left in this view of the unfinished space by Michal Czerwonka for the Times. Thanks to Torr Leonard for spotting the story.
The view across the soundboard into the house. This Noah Webb photo appeared with a June 2015 Billboard story by Andy Gensler about the new venue, "Music Impresario Michael Swier Transforms Former Silent Movie Theater...." Gensler interviewed Michael Swier, Bowery co-founder and the driving force behind Teragram. He said it was a $3 million investment.
The photo gallery with the article includes six additional photos by Mr. Webb. Thanks to Sandi Hemmerlein, of Avoiding Regret fame, for spotting the Billboard story.
A mid 50s view east on 7th toward downtown. The Playhouse is on the right. The film the theatre was running was "Aida" (1954) with Sophia Loren and Renata Tebaldi. Thanks to L.A. transit historian Sean Ault for the photo from his collection.
The Playhouse Theatre building in 2010. Photo: Bill Counter
A view of the rear of the theatre. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010
A facade view. Photo: Noah Webb / Billboard - December 2015
Thanks to Robert Juzefski for this pre-renovation look at the Quality Cafe adjacent to the theatre's entrance. It was added as a comment on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.
A cafe interior view from Robert Juzefski on Photos of Los Angeles. He notes that many movies used the cafe as a filming location.
More Information: Visit the Cinema Treasures page on the Playhouse for additional information.
See the June 1, 2015 LA Downtown News story "Teragram Ballroom is Another Step in Downtown's Rock Revival." L.A. Weekly had a June 2 story "The Teragram Ballroom Could Be L.A.'s Next Great Rock Club."
A May 2014 Curbed L.A.story "Mapping the Huge Wave of Gentrification About To Hit Westlake" discussed new housing, transit accessibility and two neighborhood theatres in the news: the Hayworth and the Playhouse. Land Use L.A. broke the 2013 story about the plans for the building.
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