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Warner Beverly Hills: history + exterior views

9404 Wilshire Blvd. Beverly Hills, CA 90212 | map |

Also see: Warner Beverly Hills - interior views


Opened: May 19, 1931. The first feature was "The Millionaire" with George Arliss. The Warner Beverly Hills had a glorious career over many decades as a deluxe venue for prestige films. This opening week photo is from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

Seating: 1,500

Architect: B. Marcus Priteca designed "The Pride of Beverly Hills." The contractor was McDonald & Driver. Mike Hume found this item in the May 17, 1931 issue of the L.A. Times: "Warner Brothers Beverly Hills Theater, completed by McDonald & Driver, contractors, is scheduled to be opened with appropriate ceremonies Tuesday evening." Decoration was by the Robert E. Power Studio. In initial press reports the decor was described as being Spanish in style. An article titled "Modern Ceiling Designs" in the August 29, 1931 issue of Motion Picture Herald lists Power as the decorator and calls the interior "a modern interpretation of Mexican motifs."

This was the last of the three suburban houses in the L.A. area that Warners built. Ahead by a few months were the other two Priteca-designed houses: the Warner Huntington Park (opening November 19, 1930) and the Warner San Pedro (opening January 20, 1931). In addition to many theatres elsewhere, Priteca was also the architect of the downtown Pantages (1920, later renamed the Warner Downtown), the Hollywood Pantages (1930) and the Fine Arts (1937).

Also in the Warner pipeline in the L.A. area was the Wiltern (opened October 7, 1931), a design by G. Albert Lansburgh. But they didn't build that one, they were just a tenant. They also had the Warner Hollywood, another Lansburgh design (built by Warners in 1928), the Warner Downtown (which they bought in 1929) and the Forum (opened 1924) which was initially an independent that they took over. 



Priteca's rendering for the Warner from the collection of the Beverly Hills Historical Society. Thanks to Kimberly Reiss for posting it on the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation Facebook page.

The project was announced in the February 12, 1930 issue of the L.A.Times with this nice comment that was located by Mike Hume: "This will be the third new theater in the greater Los Angeles district to be put into construction by the Warners immediately. Last week it was announced that work will start on theaters in Huntington Park and San Pedro."

The theatre was discussed in the April 5, 1930 Motion Picture News article "Ultra Modern Is How Warners Describe Plans For West Coast." The article featured drawings for the Huntington Park and San Pedro theatres and noted that the Beverly Hills house would be up next in the lineup. Warners promised that the new houses "will represent the most advanced types of architecture and construction....The plans include air conditioning and refrigerating plants, remote control pre-set switchboards and other modern features..." It was also noted that the theatres would be designed to accommodate the new "large screens." Regarding Beverly Hills they noted:

"Warners' Beverly Hills theatre will be the next addition to the rapidly expanding chain on the West Coast. Warner Brothers Pacific Coast Theatres has acquired from the owner, Harley J. Hoyt, the property at the southwest corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Reeves Drive, opposite the Beverly Hills Branch of the Bank of California, and will at once start construction on a 2,000-seat deluxe theatre that will cover the entire site...The Beverly Hills theatre will house all Warner and First National pictures. The theatre, while not quite as commodious as the Warner Hollywood, will nevertheless be comparable in design, treatment, equipment, and comfort to that structure. It will be entirely modern in architectural treatment..."



"Designs For Various Cities Shown - To the upper left is depicted the Warner Brothers Theater at Wilshire Boulevard and Reeves Drive in Beverly Hills, to be started this month. To its right is shown the Fox Pantages Theater at Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle, the opening date for which has been set for the 29th inst. To the lower left is the Fox Theater soon to be built on Greenleaf avenue, Whittier, while Warners' San Pedro project is pictured at the lower right. In the center is the Fox Wilshire Theater now being erected at Wilshire Boulevard and Hamilton, Beverly Hills. Completion is scheduled for September."

The illustration appeared in the May 4, 1930 issue of the L.A. Times. This article appeared on the same page:


The new Fox theatres mentioned for Wilshire Blvd. at Beverly Drive in Beverly Hills and in Huntington Park never happened. Fox broke their lease on the theatre in Whittier and it opened as an independent called the Wardman, named after its owner.



"Beverly Hills, Cal -- Low, roomy and Spanish in motif, the new Warner Theatre to be built at Wilshire Blvd. and Reeves Drive, in fashionable Beverly Hills. B. Marcus Priteca of Los Angeles prepared the plans." This monochrome version of Priteca's rendering appeared in the June 7, 1930 issue of Motion Picture News on a page titled "Some New Fashions in Theatre Concepts." It's on Internet Archive. The page also had illustrations of new Warner theatres in Erie, Pennsylvania and Youngstown, Ohio.

Thanks to Mike Hume for locating the Motion Picture News and Times items. Check out his wide-ranging explorations on the Historic Theatre Photography site.



Jack Warner, Jr. at the groundbreaking ceremony. The shot is from nine minutes of film from the Beverly Hills Historical Society on You Tube of the groundbreaking, the development of Beverly Hills, and the finished theatre. The film is narrated by Marc Wanamaker and includes footage that was screened at the opening shot by Warner Bros. of both the ceremony and the completed theatre.



Talking about the theatre, the opening night program noted that "It is not for us to tell you whether it is beautiful, but for you to tell yourselves."  That message was also repeated in film on the screen, as seen here.



More of the filmed opening message. The 1st Anniversary film, also on You Tube, included footage of the festivities at the opening a year earlier.



The front cover of the opening night program. It's from the Mark Tipton collection. He found the program in Cincinnati in 1985. The front cover is actually silk screened on gold foil, which he comments does not photograph well.



The inside of the front cover of the opening night program. On the left you get a look at the gold foil of the front cover.



A welcome from Jack! 



The opening night events.



A message from the growing City of Beverly Hills. Thanks to Mark Tipton for sharing the images from his rare copy of the program.

VistaVision at the Warner: In 1954 the Warner was equipped with two of the special horizontal projectors to run the format, one of the few installations in the country. Scroll down the timeline for more on the process.

70mm at the Warner:  In 1960 or 1961 the theatre was equipped with Norelco AAII 35/70 projectors and 6 channel Ampex sound for 70mm presentations. It was a four machine booth -- the other two were Simplex XLs. 70mm roadshow engagements included:

"Lawrence of Arabia"- 1962
"Becket" - 1964
"Lord Jim" - 1965
"Flight of the Phoenix" - 1966 - possibly 35mm, not reserved seats
"Taming of the Shrew" - 1967 - possibly 35mm
"Doctor Zhivago" - 1968 - moveover, not reserved seats
"2001" - 1969 - moveover from the Warner Hollywood, reserved seats
"Julius Ceasar" - 1970 - possibly 35mm
"Ryan's Daughter" - 1970
"Doctor Zhivago" - 1970 - moveover from the Paramount/El Capitan, not reserved seats
"Patton" - 1970 - moveover, reserved seats
"Mary, Queen of Scots" - 1971
"Sound of Music" - 1973 - return engagement, not reserved seats
"Gone with the Wind" - 1974 - 70mm blowup, not reserved seats

Operators in the 50s and 60s: After the consent decrees of the 50's, the Warner Beverly Hills was operated by the RKO-Stanley Warner Corporation as the Stanley Warner Beverly Hills and, starting in the late 60's, by Pacific Theatres as Pacific's Warner.

The final years: As the good bookings migrated to Westwood and more suburban locations, this once glorious theatre found the pickings slim and it became a second run house. After Pacific left it was called The Beverly Hills Theatre. There was a brief fling as a legit house in the late 70s. Then  it had a spell of sitting vacant.

It was back to movies in 1980. A September issue of Boxoffice had a three page story on the Warner becoming Beverly Hills' first 99 cent theatre. Later it was resurrected as a concert venue named The Beverly (not to be confused with the other nearby Beverly Theatre). Evidently neither the residents nor the city fathers were happy with the noise or the late hours.

The Warner in the Movies: The theatre is featured in "Blood Theatre" (1984).

Status: Demolished in 1988 -- a sad day for Beverly Hills. One of the stated reasons for the demolition was that the bank owning the building didn't want to do seismic retrofit work and offered a possibly bogus $12 million cost estimate as their justification.

Bill Givens comments: "The night when activists, including the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation were testifying at the Beverly Hills City Council to preserve the beautiful Beverly Warner, S&L oligarch Charles Keating brought in bulldozers and began demolishing the building. Literally..during the hearing. He planned to build on the lot, but prison time intervened. Years later, the site remains a parking lot."



A great 1931 view looking down the street toward the Warner Beverly Hills. On the marquee is "The Millionaire - The Finest Picture of the Year"  It's a Dick Whittington Studio photo in the USC Digital Library



Thanks to Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives and Beverly Hills Heritage for this detail of the tower.



Looking south on Canon Dr. toward the Warner in a photo from the Marc Wanamaker collection. The Warner is playing "Born To Love," an April 1931 release with Constance Bennett. Thanks to Kimberly Reiss on the Facebook page Beverly Hills Heritage for the photo.



A closer "Born To Love" shot the same week in 1931 from Marc Wanamaker and Beverly Hills Heritage.



A Mott Studios photo with "City Lights" on the marquee. It's one of seven photos of the Warner in the California State Library collection cataloged as set # 001387281. Duplicates of two of the seven are also listed as set # 001387287. They have no interior photos. 



Another "City Lights" shot, this time looking a bit west. It was a second run engagement -- the film had opened the Los Angeles Theatre in January 1931. Photo: Mott Studios -  California State Library 



A fine view of the original marquee. "The Finger Points" was a May 1931 release with Richard Barthelmess, Fay Wray and Regis Toomey. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library



The corner of the building. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library  - 1931



Another look along the east wall.  Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library - 1931



A tower detail. Photo: Mott Studios - California State Library - 1931 



A 1931 night shot of the tower. Wow! Photo: Los Angeles Public Library



Bobby Jones is again on the end of the marquee in this view looking west. Jones made a whole series of golfing shorts for Warner Bros./Vitaphone in 1931. Thanks to Kimberly Reiss on the Facebook page Beverly Hills Heritage for the photo from the Marc Wanamaker collection.



It looks like we have bunting up for the 4th of July. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library



A ticket for the 1935 premiere of Max Reinhardt's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with Mickey Rooney. It was a post on the Beverly Hills Heritage Facebook page.



Premiere night for "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Thanks to Marc Wanamaker and Beverly Hills Heritage for the photo.



A c.1937 view looking south toward the Warner. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library



A 1937 street view looking west. Photo: Los Angeles Public Library



A wonderful aerial view of Beverly Hills thanks to Marc Wanamaker and Beverly Hills Heritage.  The dome over toward the left is that of the Beverly Theatre.



A detail from the photo above.
 


A parade photo looking east from Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives. It was a post on the Beverly Hills Heritage Facebook page.



A c.1938 Dick Whittington view east on Wilshire. We get the Warner on the right. On the left, just beyond the Brown Derby sign, you can see the dome and stagehouse of the Beverly Theatre. It's in the USC Digital Library collection.



Another Dick Whittington view from the same shoot -- but a bit closer to the Warner. It's on the USC Digital Library website. There's also a similar shot of the same vintage in the collection.



A Life photo looking east with the Beverly Theatre on the left and the Warner Beverly Hills in the distance. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor BifRayRock for including the shot on Noirish post #40301



A 1938 marquee view with the theatre running "Valley of the Giants" and "Four Daughters." Photo: Los Angeles Public Library



A closer look at the Warner's entrance during the run of "Valley of the Giants." It's a photo from the Beverly Hills Heritage collection. Want to enter the $250,000 movie quiz?



Thanks to Eric Lynxwiler for this sharing this view from his collection of the August 1939 "world premiere preview" of "The Old Maid" with Miriam Hopkins and Bette Davis. It's on Flickr in the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation photo pool.  



The 1939 premiere of "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex," a November release. It's a Dick Whittington Studio photo in the USC Digital Library collection. They also have another view taken on the sidewalk to the west.



A c.1939 view looking east toward the Warner -- with a bit of the Beverly Theatre's onion dome on the left. It's a photo from Marc Wanamaker and Beverly Hills Heritage.



Rita Hayworth strolls Beverly Hills in a 1939 photo by Frank Worth. Behind her we get a view east on Wilshire toward the Warner Beverly Hills. The photo appears on a Padddle 8 page about the photographer. Thanks to Stephen Russo for spotting this one. For more on Frank Worth good places to begin are a Wikipedia article, a 2010 story in the Los Angeles Times and the many photos on Google.



A great undated view showing both the Beverly Theatre and, farther east, the Warner Beverly Hills. It's a photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



A postcard using the photo seen above. Thanks to Sean Ault for sharing this one from his collection.



A nice early 50s view looking east with a glimpse of the WB on the stagehouse. Thanks to Marc Wanamaker and Beverly Hills Heritage for the photo.



The November 1953 premiere of "Torch Song."  It's an L.A. Times photo on Calisphere from the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archives at the UCLA Library.

Horizontal VistaVision at the Warner: In October 1954, the Warner was equipped with a rare installation of the special Century horizontal VistaVision projectors for the run of "White Christmas."



A 1954 ad for the opening of the first film in the VistaVision process, "White Christmas," at the Warner Beverly Hills and the Paramount (formerly the Metropolitan) downtown. Jack Theakston, in a comment on a post on the Motion Picture Technology Facebook page, says that "White Christmas" was projected horizontally at both theatres. They both appear in an ad for Peerless Hy-Candescent lamphouses that listed the first horizontal VistaVision installations.

Evidently "White Christmas," "Strategic Air Command" and "The Far Horizons" were the only films shown horizontally at the Warner. The equipment at the Warner was removed in the early 60s.

The third Los Angeles area theatre to get the machines was the El Capitan in Hollywood, then known as the Hollywood Paramount, for the runs of "The Seven Little Foys" (opening June 23, 1955) and "To Catch a Thief" (an eight week run opening August 3, 1955). Michael Coate in his article "...Remembering Hitchcock's 'To Catch a Thief'" on the site The Digital Bits notes that the Hollywood Paramount was one of six theatres nationally to get a horizontal print.

According to Theakson, the initial installations elsewhere were: Radio City Music Hall (for "White Christmas," sound on separate machines), Paramount New York (for "Strategic Air Command," "The Far Horizons," "The Seven Little Foys" and "To Catch a Thief"), Criterion New York (equipment delivered but never installed), Stanley Philadelphia (for "Strategic Air Command," "The Far Horizons" and "The Seven Little Foys"), Saenger New Orleans (for "Strategic Air Command," "The Far Horizons," "The Seven Little Foys" and "To Catch a Thief"), Capitol Washington (for "Strategic Air Command" and "To Catch a Thief"), State-Lake Chicago (for "Strategic Air Command," "The Far Horizons" and "The Seven Little Foys"), Loew's Penn Pittsburgh (for "Strategic Air Command," "The Far Horizons" and "The Seven Little Foys"), Imperial Toronto (for "Strategic Air Command," "The Seven Little Foys" and "To Catch a Thief," machines later sold to ILM), Paramount Opera in Paris (for "Strategic Air Command"), and the Plaza (aka Vue Picadilly) in London.

Other theatres not on Theakson's list that got the equipment included the theatre at Colonial Williamsburg (running 6 channel mag for "Story of a Patriot," machines later went to ILM), the Orpheum in Omaha (for "Strategic Air Command" and "To Catch a Thief"), Normandie in Paris (for "Oeil pour Oeil"), London's Odeon Leicester Square (Kallee equipment for "The Battle of the River Plate" and, possibly, "To Catch a Thief") and the Reposi in Turin (for "The Montecarlo Story"). See the In70mm.com article "VistaVision presented in Horizontal Projections" for a nice list of installations and films. 



The West Coast premiere of "White Christmas" October 27, 1954. The Paramount downtown joined the run the following day. In New York it had opened at the Radio City Music Hall October 14, also running in the horizontal format. Thanks to Kimberly Reiss for the photo, a post on the Beverly Hills Heritage Facebook page.



A look down on one of the prototype horizontal VistaVision projectors. Photo: Mark Gulbrandsen collection. He notes that the initial machines had no soundhead -- the projector was synched to a separate film with the track.



The "Lazy-8" projector with a Peerless Hy-Candescent lamphouse. Photo: Mark Gulbrandsen collection. This was the production unit with the soundhead below the projector head. Inasmuch as the film started on the bottom magazine, the sound was read before the picture. It was a single optical track using the Perspecta Sound process to simulate stereo. With 8 perforations per frame, the film speed was twice normal 35mm -- 180 feet per minute.

The illustration can also be seen in "The Horizontal VistaVision Projector," an article on Martin Hart's great site American Widescreen Museum. The article, by Larry Davee of Century Projector Corporation, notes that of the first six hand built prototype projectors two went to Radio City Music Hall, two went to the Warner and two went to the Paramount lot. The assumption is that the two shipped to the studio ended up at the Paramount downtown for the run of "White Christmas." For more data on the process see the wonderful VistaVision section on Widescreen Museum.



The VistaVision soundhead.  Photo: Mark Gulbrandson collection. Thanks to Mark Gulbrandsen for his photos, added as comments to a post of his on the Motion Picture Technology Facebook page.

While Paramount photographed many films (perhaps 80!) in the process, only "White Christmas" (1954), "Strategic Air Command" (1955), "The Seven Little Foys (1955), "To Catch A Thief" (1955), "The Montecarlo Story" (1956) and "The Battle of The River Plate" (1956) were exhibited using horizontal projection -- and these with only a few prints struck. All the others were printed down to conventional 35mm "flat" prints designed to be shown at aspect ratios between 1.66 to 1 and 2.0 to 1. Special framing marks appeared at the beginning of each reel. At least one film also had prints done in 'scope format.



A 1955 ad for the invitational premiere of "Strategic Air Command" at the Stanley Warner Beverly Hills. Thanks to Martin Hart for the ad in his American Widescreen Museum VistaVision section. The copy mentions their horizontal projectors and big new screen. In the full horizontal projection format, VistaVision was ideally as wide as a theatre's Cinemascope picture but twice as tall -- a screen size that could be as big as was being used for TODD-AO or Cinerama.



An ad touting the virtues of VistaVision from a now-vanished Robert Harris article "Motion Picture High Fidelity" that was once on the site The Digital Bits.



The dimensions of the 8 perf VistaVision frame, from the Wikipedia article "VistaVision." Paramount wasn't big on true stereo sound at this point so the system employed Fairchild's Perspecta Sound, a system using inaudible low frequency control tones on the single optical track so it could be directed to any of the three stage speakers or the surrounds.



Frames from the VistaVision film "Vertigo." Thanks again to Martin Hart -- the image is from his Widescreen Museum's VistaVision section page 5. No, it didn't play the Warner Beverly Hills (or perhaps anywhere else) in the horizontal format.

The VistaVision process was later used for special effects work in many films, such as "Star Wars," due to its use of a large image area on standard film stock. And it morphed into a wider aspect ratio version, Technirama. See the Los Angeles Theatres Film and Movie Technology Resources for more about VistaVision and other projection processes.



The updated marquee in 1956 during the run of "The Ten Commandments." It was shot in VistaVision but no horizontal release prints were made. Note the SW (for Stanley-Warner) on the corners instead of the WB. Thanks to Kimberly Reiss for the photo on the Beverly Hills Heritage Facebook page.



Thanks to Eric Lynxwiler for sharing this great 50s view from his collection. It's on Flickr.



A dazzling look at the opening of "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1962. The photo appears in Brad Smith's great Theatre Marquees set on Flickr consisting of 133 photos taken by his father George Mann.

Mr. Mann was half of the famous comedy dance team Barto and Mann, who toured the circuits of Loew's, Orpheum, Paramount Publix and others. He was in "Hellzapoppin" on Broadway for three years and later did lots of club work. He took thousands of evocative photos documenting what is now a lost theatrical world and, later, many around Los Angeles. Brad Smith's wife, Dianne Woods, has taken on the task of preserving and organizing Mr. Mann's photos in the George Mann Archive.



A 1964 view looking west on Wilshire from Beverly Dr. toward the tower of the Warner Beverly Hills. Thanks to Alison Martino for the photo from her collection once posted on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles



Thanks to movie palace historian Kurt Wahlner for this shot of the 1968 west coast premiere of "The Subject Was Roses" with Patricia Neal and Jack Albertson. It was a find on eBay. For a treat visit Kurt's extensive site about Grauman's Chinese.

Check out the people on top of the marquee. And note the signage -- Pacific Theatres had taken over the theatre from RKO-Stanley Warner earlier in 1968.



A mid-70s look at the theatre as a second run house. Thanks to Chas Smith for the photo on Cinema Treasures.



A nice detail of the top of the tower -- after the Warner sign came down. Note the added neon. Photo: Javier Mendoza - Los Angeles Public Library  



A 1978 entrance view taken during the theatre's brief time as a legit house. Photo: Ken Papaleo - Los Angeles Public Library



End of the short legit era -- the theatre's for lease again in this c.1978 photo. It's a photo by Anne Laskey in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.  Also see a tower detail.



Thanks to American Classic Images for this December 1982 photo from their collection.



A 1984 view from American Classic Images.



A 1988 shot of the closed theatre. Note the signage in use during its days as a concert venue: "The Beverly." Photo: Chris Gulker - Los Angeles Public Library



Looking in from the stage end of the building during the demolition. Thanks to Bill Gabel for the photo from his collection, posted on Cinema Treasures.



The site of the Warner as a parking lot. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019

More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Warner for an interesting history as well as a selection of photos. For a great compilation of information about 70mm runs at the Warner and other venues, see the 70mm in Los Angeles section on FromScriptToDVD.com.

There's some footage on Internet Archive featuring a wonderful drive down Wilshire in 1935. We see the east end of the Warner marquee at the beginning as well as a drive-by later. Playing at the time is the feature "Oil For The Lamps of China."

Pages about the Warner Beverly Hills: back to top - history + exterior views | interior views |

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3 comments:

  1. Brings back memories. From my bedroom window in the 60's on Peck Drive,I could see the vertical sign at the top of the building at night alternately flashing Stanley..Warner, Stanley..Warner.

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  2. The Warner Beverly Hills once employed a young Nick Adams, who went on to play Johnny Yuma in famed television show "The Rebel." He also appeared in major films like "Rebel Without a Cause," "No Time for Sergeants" and "Picnic" and was also Oscar nominated for "Twilight Of Honor." Nick was employed at the theater as a jack of all trades after hitchhiking his way across country from Jersey City, New Jersey. However, the manager fired Nick after he added his name to the marquee during a premiere of a new film. Nick died under mysterious circumstances in 1968 at the age of 36. He and the Warner Beverly Hills left an indelible mark on Hollywood and are forever missed.

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