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The Silent Movie Theatre in 2010. It's been operated by Cinefamily since 2007. Thanks to Don Solosan of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation for his photo.
Phone: 323-655-2510 Website: www.cinefamily.org
Opened: February 1942 by John Hampton and his wife Dorothy as a venue for silent films. Hampton had been collecting silents since he was a boy in Oklahoma. In 1940 he and his wife moved to L.A. and bought the lot on which to build their theatre.
Dorothy sold the tickets and the candy bars, John ran the booth. They lived in an apartment above the theatre. With gradually dwindling audiences over the years, they closed the theatre in 1980. John Hampton died in 1990.
A pre-opening view. The photo appears on the Water and Power Associates Museum page Early L.A. City Views (1925+) page 3. It's also on their Early L.A. Buildings (1925+) page 4. It's from Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives.
Film buff (and friend of the Hamptons) Laurence Austin reopened the venue in 1991. Among his improvements was bringing in a live organist for the films. Austin was shot and killed at the theatre in 1997. The crime involved Mr. Austin's partner (and projectionist) James Van Sickle and several accomplices.
The theatre was put on the market in 1998 and purchased by film enthusiast Charlie Lustman, who reopened it in 1999 with Chaplin's "Modern Times." His improvements included a new marquee, new screen and a cafe as well as a general redecorating.
The film end of the business was break-even at best and Lustman supplemented by building a clientele for private parties and other events. In 2006 he sold the business due to declining health.
Status: In 2006 the theatre was taken over by Dan and Sammy Harkham and Hadrian Belove of the organization Cinefamily. They reopened in 2007. It's alive and well as the home of revivals, cult films, festivals and more.
A look back at the rear of the house on the Time Out page about the Silent Movie Theatre. It's a Jakob Layman photo.
The screen end of the Silent Movie Theatre's auditorium. It's a Jakob Layman photo on the site Time Out.
Looking south on Fairfax from Melrose before the theatre's 1942 opening. The photo appears on the Water and Power Associates Museum page Early L.A. City Views (1925+) page 3. It's also on their Early L.A. Buildings (1925+) page 4. The photo is from Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives.
The theatre in 1942. The photo was once a post on Vintage Los Angeles by Philip Mershon but it has now vanished from that Facebook page.
A 1980 look at the Silent Movie Theatre. It's a Herald Examiner photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
A 1997 photo from the page about the Silent Movie Theatre on the website Seeing Stars.
The theatre's reopening in 1999 with "Modern Times." It's a photo that appeared on the now dead website Dead History project.
The theatre in 2000. It's a photo from the site Seeing Stars. See their Silent Movie Theatre page for some history of the venue.
A 2010 marquee detail by Don Solosan from the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation. Thanks, Don! The LAHTF is actively involved in the study and preservation of the vintage theatres in the L.A. area. The group frequently supports events and offers tours of the buildings. www.lahtf.org | group Facebook page | official FB page
The Silent Movie Theatre is one of a number of revival venues discussed in Mark Olsen's 2017 L.A. Times article "A film festival every night: The new ecology of the old-movie scene in L.A." It's a photo by Lawrence K. Ho for the Times.
More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Silent Movie Theatre. Living in Cinema had a 2007 story about the theatre's Cinefamily reopening. Cinema Tour has a page with a 2002 night view.
The L.A. Times had a story about the 2007 takeover by Cinefamily. Seeing Stars has a page about the theatre's history.
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