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Warner Grand: history + exterior views

478 W. 6th St. San Pedro (Los Angeles), CA 90731 | map |

More pages on the Warner Grand: lobby areas | auditorium | stage + basement | booth |


Opened: January 20, 1931 as the Warner Bros. Theatre with "Goin' Wild" with Joe E. Brown as the initial attraction. It's reported that Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell were among those attending the premiere. Jack Warner called it the "Castle of Your Dreams." The facade of the Warner, especially when lit at night, is an impressive big city sight in generally low-key San Pedro. It's owned by the City of Los Angeles. Photo: Bill Counter - 2013

Phone: 310-548-7672  Website: grandvision.org | events | restoration | tech specs |



The cover of the opening night program. Thanks to Michelle Gerdes for rounding it up for display at a Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation tour of the theatre. It's in the collection of the San Pedro Bay Historical Society.

The new theatre got a big spread with nine photos in the Better Theatres section of the July 4, 1931 issue of Motion Picture Herald. The article, "The Warner in San Pedro" is on Internet Archive.

Several articles have noted that it was the first theatre equipped for sound in the South Bay area but that can't be true. 1931 was pretty late. Maybe it was the first South Bay theatre built for sound. Certainly Fox West Coast wouldn't have waited that long to equip their nearby Cabrillo and Strand theatres.

Architect: B. Marcus Priteca, who also did the Warner Huntington Park and Warner Beverly Hills for the cicuit. Plus over 100 other theatres. Interior decoration was by Anthony Heinsbergen.  Priteca's other Los Angeles theaters include the Hollywood Pantages, the downtown Pantages (later renamed the Warner), and the Fine Arts in Beverly Hills.



A section of the theatre. You can click on it for a larger view. Also see a main floor plan and a basement plan. Thanks to Mike Hume for including the plans on the Warner Grand page of his Historic Theatre Photography site. 

Seating: 1,598 at one time, now 1,523.

Stage: The Warner got a stage with flying capability with a 65' high grid. The original rigging was replaced with a new counterweight system in 2007. All the dressing rooms are in the basement. The stage is very wide and shallow: 50' proscenium width (32' high) but a stage depth of only 20'8". They've made the facility more usable with a stage extension out beyond the original apron. The stage is 80' wall to wall. See the stage + basement page for more data.

Pipe Organ: It never got one. The nice empty chambers are used for storage.

Film equipment: The booth has a pair of Norelco AAII 35/70mm projectors and a RCA 16mm machine. Digital is done with a portable unit from the front of the balcony. See the booth page for more details. The screen is 21' x 48'.

History: Life was rocky for the Warner during the depression but the theatre stayed open. And prospered during World War II with lots of employment nearby at the port, the shipyards, and other military locations.

In 1953, as a result of the Federal consent decree splitting studios from their theatre chains, Warner Bros. split their business into two firms with existing stockholders getting shares in both new companies. Warner Bros. remained the film production and distribution company. The theatres ended up with the new Stanley Warner Corporation -- Stanley Corp. being the name of a largely east coast theatre chain the Warners had purchased in 1927.

The Stanley-Warner combine eventually grabbed the RKO circuit theatres as well becoming RKO-Stanley Warner. In the city directories it's been listed under all sorts of variations of the Warner name: Warner Bros. (1932), Warner Bros. San Pedro Theatre (1937), Stanley Warner San Pedro Theatre (1956), Warner Theatre (1957) and Stanley Warner Theatre (1959).

Pacific Theatres took over the southern California theatres in the chain in 1968, becoming the Warner San Pedro's new operator and, presumably, owner. The building was sold in 1974 to Arnulfo Estrada and had a run as a Mexican film house under the name Teatro Juarez. It's unknown if Pacific ran the house right up to the 1974 sale or not.

In 1984 after another sale to Raymond Howell and Clay Colbert it was renamed the Warner Grand. They started a refurbishment program and ran classics, organ concerts, and other programming. Howell had previously managed the Chinese for Fox West Coast. Other sales in 1986 and 1991 left the venue adrift. In 1996 it was purchased by the City of Los Angeles.

In "City looks to private operator to run San Pedro's Warner Grand Theatre," a February 21, 2016 Daily Breeze story by Donna Littlejohn she discussed the city's interest in getting an operator to run the Warner. There were no offers from promoters to take on the theatre. Ms Littlejohn had the update in a November, 2016 Daily Breeze article: "Theater benefactors stand ready to expand, promote San Pedro's Warner Grand."

The benefactor mentioned was the Grand Vision Foundation, the official "Friends" group for the Warner that was organized in 1995 to save the theatre. Over the last two decades they have done significant fundraising for various restoration projects and also promote frequent events at the theatre. They also operate the Annex, a black box house down the block. On several occasions they have asked the City to let them run the theatre. Again they expressed their desire to manage the building -- but evidently not on the terms that were being asked.

The Warner Grand in the Movies: The theatre (and adjoining business strip) has been a favorite for Los Angeles movie shooting due to its nice period feel.

The Warner gets seen in the film "In The Mood" (Kings Road/Lorimar, 1987) with Patrick Dempsey and Beverly D'Angelo. The theatre puts in an appearance in "Invasion Earth: The Aliens Are Here" (New World Pictures, 1988). In "Remote Control" (Vista, 1988) with Kevin Dillon the lobby of the Warner is turned into a video store. "Worth Winning" with Mark Harmon, Madeline Stowe and Lesley Ann Warren (Fox, 1989) also used the Warner.



Steve Martin is onstage at the Warner for a 1991 TV special featuring Ricky Jay: "Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women." The footage is included in "Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay" (Kino Lorber, 2012).



Steve Martin and Ricky Jay offstage right at the Warner in a clip from "Learned Pigs..." The dimmerboard we see has been removed and is now in storage. The rigging got replaced with a new counterweight system. See the Theatres in Movies post on the film for another shot showing more of the dimmerboard.



We pay a visit to the Apollo Theatre in New York in Brian Gibson's "What's Love Got to Do With It?" (Touchstone Pictures, 1993). This story of Tina Turner and her abusive husband Ike stars Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne. We get a quick shot of the actual Apollo exterior but when we go inside we're at the Warner Grand in San Pedro. See the Theatres in Movies post for several more Warner shots as well as views from the film of the State Theatre, the Academy in Inglewood and Hollywood Playhouse.

The Warner is seen in Rob Reiner's "Ghosts of Mississippi" (Columbia, 1989) with Alec Baldwin, Virginia Madsen, James Woods and Whoopi Goldberg.



The Warner gets dressed up in its World War II finest as a theatre on Oahu in Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor" (Touchstone, 2001). While at the show, Kate Beckinsale and Josh Hartnett see a newsreel about the war. Thanks to Lindsay on the blog I Am Not a Stalker for the screenshot. See the Theatres in Movies post for several more.



Tobey Maguire, Chris Cooper, Jeff Bridges and Elizabeth Banks watch a newsreel at the Warner in Gary Ross's "Seabiscuit" (Dreamworks / Universal, 2003). 



A look toward the screen with Tobey Maguire at the movies in "Seabiscuit." 



The Warner was used as a West Virginia theatre in "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton!" (Dreamworks, 2004). Thanks to Lindsay on the blog I Am Not a Stalker for the screenshot. See the Theatres In Movies post for more shots from the film featuring the Warner.



The Warner was used for "Illusion" (Illusion Productions, 2004) starring Kirk Douglas as an aging filmmaker. We see a lot of the theatre in the film but if you watch it you'll probably want that 90 minutes of your life back. Thanks to Robb Hedges for the intel on this one.



The most fun you'll have looking at the Warner in "Illusion" is this shot with the seats covered the three colors of the Mexican flag, from when the theatre was a film house called the Juarez. (Well, sort of yellow rather than white in the center section). The projection booth scenes of the movie were filmed at the Roxie in San Francisco. See the Theatres in Movies post for two more Warner shots from the film.



The Warner is seen briefly in "Must Love Dogs" (Warner Bros., 2005) with Diane Lane and John Cusak.  Here's John coming out of the theatre. See the Theatres in Movies post for more about the film.

Various areas of the Warner were used as locations for Steven Soderbergh's "The Good German" (Warner Bros., 2006). The scenes of the film theatre we visit (and its booth), however, were done downtown at the Tower. See the Theatres in Movies post for some shots featuring the Tower.

The Warner's marquee and auditorium appear as Carnegie Hall in "Running With Scissors" (Sony, 2006) starring Annette Bening. The Warner is seen in Haskell Wexler's "From Wharf Rats to Lords of the Docks" (Harry Bridges Project, 2007).



In "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" (Columbia, 2007) we get John C. Reilly and his buddies at the Warner Grand rehearsing for a concert performance. See the Theatres in Movies post for another Warner shot as well as views of the Palace Theatre, Variety Arts, and the Shrine Auditorium from the film.

We get a shot of Robert Downey, Jr. under the Warner marquee in David Fincher's "Zodiac" (Paramount, 2007). The Warner stands in for a Modesto theatre in Ice Cube's "The Janky Promotors" (Dimension Films, 2009). Interior views of the Warner appear in "Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer" (Relativity Media, 2011).



It's a gangster pic set down south but here we have Ben Affleck and his kid buying tickets at the Warner in "Live By Night" (Warner Bros., 2016). See the Theatres In Movies post for more shots from the film as well as photos taken during the filming at the Warner.

The Warner Grand in Music Videos:


Stephen Russo spotted the Warner as the location for Tesla's "Modern Day Cowboy." It's on YouTube.

Status: It's been owned since 1996 by the City of Los Angeles. The Warner hosts many live events as well as occasional screenings of foreign and classic films. The theatre is being gradually refurbished. It's operated by the City's Department of Cultural Affairs (CultureLA.org) with Lee Sweet as manager.

More information: See the Warner Grand page on Cinema Treasures for lots of details about the theatre's history. Visit the Cinema Tour page on the Warner for lots of photos by Bob Meza and others. The Warner got a nice bit of publicity with several delicious photos in a June 2014 Curbed L.A. story.

Don't miss Sandi Hemmerlein's two 2013 "Avoiding Regret" photo essays on the Warner. One on the public spaces, "Open to the Public, "one on the non-public areas, "Behind Closed Doors." See Mike Hume's Warner Grand page on his Historic Theatre Photography site. Mr. Arteest has a lovely 72 photo Warner Grand set on Flickr.

Claudia Mullins has a nice set of 21 photos taken in 2017 on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. For more information on historic San Pedro consult the San Pedro Bay Historical Society. The San Pedro Historic Downtown Waterfront organization sometimes offers tours of the theatre, such as during their Summerfest. For a history of San Pedro's streetcar lines, check out Tom Wetzel's Uncanny website's Los Angeles to San Pedro page.


More exterior views:


A view of the facade from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The attraction on the marquee is "Goin' Wild" with Joe E. Brown, the "Opening Week's Laugh Riot."



Another opening week view. It was one of nine photos with "The Warner in San Pedro," an article in the Better Theatres section of the July 4, 1931 issue of Motion Picture Herald. It's on Internet Archive.

"The facade, finished in white stucco, restrainedly embellished with cornice and plaque patterns pressed into the material."



A 1931 look at the boxoffice from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. A version of the photo also appears in the July 4, 1931 issue of Motion Picture Herald.



A lovely c.1931 look across San Pedro to the Palos Verdes Hills with the Warner sticking up over on the right. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Ethereal Reality for finding the photo on eBay. It appears on his Noirish post #23970. A detail from the photo as well as other Warner views appear on Noirish post #23971.



A 1934 view of the Warner that appeared on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles. Thanks to Nile Hight for the post. A smaller version of the photo is included with Sam Gnerre's lovely 2009 Daily Breeze article "South Bay Movie Theatres of the Past."



The Warner running "Mysterious Crossing," a December 1936 Universal release. It's a photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



Looking east down 6th St. from Pacific toward the Warner in a photo from the the Los Angeles Public Library. They date this one as 1937. The last streetcars ran on those tracks in 1934.



The Warner as the Teatro Juarez, a Spanish language film house, in 1982.  It's on the American Classic Images website.



Another 1982 shot from American Classic Images. Also on their site see a January 1983 photo of the theatre after it closed.



A 2002 photo from the website Seeing Stars. They also have a 2006 photo in their The O.C. Filming Locations page. Also check out the Hollywood Movie Palaces section.



A look up the vertical.  Photo: Bill Counter - 2007



A facade detail. Photo: Bill Counter - 2007



A 2009 look at the signage at dusk that was included with Sam Gnerre's 2009 Daily Breeze article "South Bay Movie Theatres of the Past."


A view of the vertical from one of the balcony exits. The marquee and vertical got stripped down and repainted in original colors in 1996. Thanks to Sandi Hemmerlein for her 2013 photo. Don't miss her two "Avoiding Regret" photo essays on the Warner. You'll find more photos, a history of the building, and lots of information about her exploration of the theatre. There's one on the public spaces, "Open to the Public," and one on the non-public areas, "Behind Closed Doors."



The Warner boxoffice. Photo: Bill Counter - 2007 



The area behind the boxoffice. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - Avoiding Regret - 2013 



A detail of the ceiling above the boxoffice area. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - Avoiding Regret - 2013



A lovely view toward the street by San Pedro artist Lee Uran. It was post by Michael Koth on the Downtown San Pedro "The Edge of LA" Facebook page. Thanks to Jason Vega for spotting this one.



Another look at the boxoffice. Thanks to Mr. Arteest for the 2008 photo. It's one of 72 great photos in his Warner Grand set on Flickr.



The Warner's neon lit up for an event. Photo: Stephen Russo - LAHTF Facebook page - 2013. Thanks, Stephen! 

The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation is actively involved in the study and preservation of the vintage theatres in the Los Angeles area. The group frequently supports events and offers tours of the buildings. www.lahtf.org | on Facebook



The boxoffice area at night. Photo: Mr. Arteest on Flickr - 2008



A look skyward. Photo: Mr. Arteest on Flickr - 2008



Thanks to Steve Milner for this 2014 look at the signage. It was a post on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page.



An edge view of the Warner marquee after demolition of the adjacent building. Photo: Larry Diaz  - 2016. The building at 6th & Pacific, just west of the Warner, caught on fire in November 2015 and was later demolished. The Daily Breeze had the story: "Warner Grand Theatre spared...."



A bit of deco detailing on the west edge of the marquee. Photo: Larry Diaz - 2016. Thanks, Larry!



A Spring 2016 facade view by Steve Milner. It's in a set of six photos he posted on the SoCal Historic Architecture Facebook page.  


Around the back:


Looking out the house left fire escape over the alley. Photo: Sandi Hemmerlein - Avoiding Regret - 2013 



In the alley looking toward the lobby end of the building. Photo: Bill Counter- 2014



The alley view toward the stage. Photo: Bill Counter- 2014



A 2017 photo of the mural by Kent Yoshimura being painted on the stagehouse wall. The photo was a post from Kent on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. He comments: "When I started creating murals 2.5 years ago, I never thought I'd be painting a historic landmark for the city I grew up in. Now, sore from nine full days of climbing 10 floors of scaffolding, we finally did it. This has been the biggest project I've done to date, but it was all made possible by the amazing people around me. Thank you San Pedro for being so cool to us - it's been an absolute pleasure...now to go celebrate." Note the muralists up on the scaffolding.



A view of the mural from the ground. With Kent are Paul Juno, Laura Weinberger and John Felix Arnold III. It's on Photos of Los Angeles.

The Warner Grand pages: back to top - history + exterior views | lobby areas | auditorium | stage + basement | booth |

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