Opened: 1926 as the Masque Theatre, a legitimate playhouse. It's on the north side of the street, just a block east of MacArthur Park. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010
The news: Currently it's for lease. Phone: 310-556-1805
Architect: Stiles O. Clements, whose firm Morgan, Walls and Clements also designed about 100 other buildings along Wilshire Blvd. and many theatres around Los Angeles including the Mayan, Belasco and Music Box.
Dwight Gibbs was the architect for the conversion into the Vagabond Theatre in 1950. Gibbs is best known as the architect of the Carthay Circle Theatre. The side walls in the theatre at some point were decorated with murals depicting various silent film scenes. The restaurant on the corner at the time was called the Vagabond's House.
In the 50s the Vagabond found a niche running British films and other artie releases. It was one of 5 local art venues operated by Herb Rosener. It became a celebrated venue for revivals in the 70s under Tom Cooper's management. The theatre had a great reputation for unearthing quality prints and offering a top-notch presentation.
The building was designated as a Cultural Historic Landmark by the City of Los Angeles in 1983.
In 1985 Cooper, who had operated the Vagabond for 10 years, pulled the plug on the operation, a casualty of home video. The L.A. Times had the story: "Vagabond Theatre Fades Out."
After Cooper's tenure the Vagabond limped along with other operators running classics and 3-D festivals until 1993. Later the theatre went through a spell as an evangelical church.
The Hayworth Theatre Company, a legit operation, used the building from 2006 until 2014 and gave it the Hayworth Theatre name. In addition to the productions of this resident company headed by Gary Blumsack, other producers frequently rented time on the building's three stages.
Seating: As a movie theatre it was 190 seats. Currently the building houses 3 small auditoria with the main floor space seating 200. Upstairs the two smaller theatres seat 63 and 45. There's also a 1500 s.f. ballroom. The ballroom area was formerly used as a dance studio. The story is that Rita Hayworth's father taught there. There are also two 400 s.f. rehearsal rooms.
Status: For lease. The Hayworth building got sold in late 2013 to Jenji Kohan, a TV writer with the intention of using the second floor spaces for her production work. The hope is that the main 200 seat theatre space will attract interest from theatrical producers. The L.A. Times had the story in March 2014. The sale price was $4 million.
The La Fonda restaurant on the corner closed in early 2014. The new owner is trying to find another restaurant tenant.
A May 2014 Curbed L.A.story "Mapping the Huge Wave of Gentrification About To Hit Westlake" discusses new housing, transit accessibility and two neighborhood theatres in the news: the Hayworth and the Playhouse.
The Vagabond in the Movies:
We're in lots of exotic places like Berlin, Switzerland and on Wilshire Blvd. in John G. Avildson's surprisingly good thriller about the oil business "The Formula" (MGM, 1980). After a prologue in Germany, police detective George C. Scott is seen leaving the Vagabond.
The film also stars Marthe Keller, John Gielgud and, of all people, Marlon Brando. Near the end of "The Formula" we get a glimpse of the Fox Westwood Village out oil tycoon Brando's office window. See the Theatres in Movies post for a shot from that scene.
Leslie Nielson and Priscilla Presley see "Platoon" at the Vagabond in David Zucker's "The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad" (Paramount, 1988). Thanks to the site It's Filmed There for the screenshot.
Several interior views:
An auditorium view from the post-film house era added to the Cinema Treasures page by that site's contributor Jwells.
The rear of the house. It's a photo on Cinema Treasures from Jwells. Thanks! Sorry, but there seem to be no photos anywhere taken during its time as a film theatre.
A few more exterior photos:
An early 50s look east on Wilshire. Thanks to Sean Ault for sending this lovely shot our way. It was a find of his on eBay.
A detail from the photo above.
A wonderful Hopperesque view of the ticket taker at the Vagabond. It was added to the Cinema Treasures collection by prolific contributor Bill Gabel. The photographer is unknown.
The Vagabond during a 3-D festival. It's an undated photo by filmmaker and cinematographer Gary Graver (1938-2006). He took many photos of older theatres that can be seen in two compilations on YouTube: "Second Run - part 1" and "Second Run - part 2." Thanks to Sean Graver for use of the photo.
A 1980 look east toward the Vagabond by Meredith Jacobson Marciano. It was a post on the Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page.
A 1982 view from the website American Classic Images. They're running "Silk Stockings" and "High Society."
Also in the American Classic Images collection is this 1983 photo of the theatre running "Pin Up Girl."
A 2005 photo of the Vagabond from Cathy Cole on Flickr -- when it was being used as a church. It's part of her Westlake set.
A classy photo by Martin of the La Fonda Restaurant and the Hayworth Theatre on his great site You Are Here.
A view from a bit to the west on You Are Here. Visit Martin's Wilshire Boulevard page for a great tour of all the buildings he's photographed.
The view from the east. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010
More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page for more about the Hayworth Theatre including tales of great cinematic adventures spanning several decades. Joe Vogel again has done wonderful research regarding the conversion of the Masque into the Vagabond.
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