More Warner Huntington Park pages: lobby areas | auditorium | projection booths | stage | basement |
Opened: November 19, 1930 with Joe E. Brown as the MC. The opening attraction was "The Life of the Party," a Vitaphone release in 2 strip Technicolor. The Warner is on the east side of the street between Zoe Ave. and Saturn Ave. The theatre has been repurposed as a gym called Blink Fitness. The building is just a block south of the now-dormant Fox California Theatre and the still alive Park Theatre.
Thanks to Bill Housos for the 1930 photo of the newly opened theatre from his collection. He notes that he purchased his photos of the Warner from the Theatre Historical Society several decades ago. The theatre's vertical sign appears in a trade magazine ad from its manufacturer, Metlox Corp. of Manhattan Beach. Thanks to Hugo Ruiz for identifying it. The ad mistakenly says it's on the Warner Hollywood.
Architect: B. Marcus Priteca, who also designed the similarly sized Warner San Pedro (opening January 20, 1931) and the Warner Beverly Hills (opening May 19, 1931). The San Pedro house is alive and well as a performing arts center owned by the City of Los Angeles. The Warner Beverly Hills was demolished in the 80s.
Priteca was a Seattle based architect who designed hundreds of theatres all over the country, including everything the Pantages circuit built after 1911. Locally his work included the Pantages (1920, later renamed the Warner Downtown), the Hollywood Pantages (1930) and the Fine Arts (1937).
The three Warner neighborhood houses designed by E. Marcus Priteca [sic] were featured in this article appearing in the April 5, 1930 issue of Motion Picture News. It's on Internet Archive if you wish to expand it for easier reading. They describe the design as Italo-Spanish, a concept later modified.
Thanks to theatre explorer Mike Hume for finding the article. Visit his Historic Theatre Photography site for news of his latest investigations. And don't miss his page on the Warner Huntington Park.
Stage: The Warner Huntington Park was designed with a full stage with fly capability but only limited rigging was installed. It got an orchestra pit and organ chambers although, like the Warner theatres in San Pedro and Beverly Hills, an organ was never installed.
Consent decree and new operators: After Warner Bros. spun off their theatre circuit as a result of late 1940s consent decree rulings, the theatre was operated by Stanley Warner Corp., later to become RKO-Stanley Warner. From 1968 onward it was operated by Pacific Theatres. It's been advertised over the years as the Warner, Warners and Warner Huntington Park.
Becoming a twin: In the 80s the balcony was walled off by Pacific Theatres to become a separate auditorium and the twin was called Pacific's Warner 2. In later years business was good as the theatre ran a lot of Spanish language and Spanish subtitled films in what was then a vibrant business area.
Closing: Pacific Theatres closed it in 2000 with "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2" as one of the last films. One correspondent notes that firefighters were there and evacuated the theatres after some of the signage caught fire. After that it sat vacant, except for the storefronts on either side of the entrance. The Warner remained under the ownership of Pacific's Robertson Properties division until a June 2013 sale.
New owners: The building sold for $1.6 million to Pouya Abdi's Pacific Blvd. Holdings/Retail Management Corp. (310-275-9222) and they went looking for a tenant as well as permission to remodel the building. Bianca Barragan had a story for Curbed L.A. in December 2014: "Historic Warner Huntington Park Theater Could Get Dramatic Retail Renovation."
The City of Huntington Park had declared the theatre a historic landmark in 2007. They were able to negotiate with the new owners regarding preservation of the facade as well as certain interior architectural features including the ornate ceiling and the auditorium walls. The city's website has a page on the Warner as a "designated historic resource" but it now seems to be stripped of all information.
The owners got a variance for the adaptive reuse work by a unanimous vote of the City of Huntington Park Historic Preservation Commission at a December 2014 meeting. The City's Planning Commission then gave the project their approval at a January 2014 meeting. The Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation was involved in the negotiations. They reported:
"The three-member City of Huntington Park Planning Commission convened Wednesday evening, January 14, to consider a request for a variance from the HP Historic Resources code for the remodeling of the Warner Theatre. As expected, the Commission supported the Historical Commission decision that a variance should be granted to allow the theatre to be converted to retail purposes. A lengthy presentation by city staff was fraught with serious mistakes and assumptions.
"Essentially, the City never gave real consideration for preserving the Warner as an entertainment center. Steve Gerdes, Escott Norton and Hillsman Wright offered solid evidence during public comments to the Commission that many of the points made by city staff stating that there was no viable way to operate the Warner as a theatre were simply incorrect and that the city staff had not thoroughly investigated successful historic theatre operations and the economic, social and cultural benefits that would be gained from re-activating the Warner.
"Warner Theatre owner Pouya Abdi clearly recognizes his property as a historical treasure and seems sincere in finding the best way to bring it to life and still make a return on his investment. Pouya is willing to consider reviving the Warner as an entertainment and community center if an operator is identified. Mr. Abdi met an LAHTF delegation at the Warner the next morning to open the doors for a thorough tour of the theatre. The Warner is in amazingly good condition after being closed for almost 20 years..." The LAHTF attempted to find a tenant interested in reopening the building as a theatre but no one emerged who was willing to pay the rent the owner was expecting.
Renovations: Selective demolition began in September 2015. The twinning was undone, the seats removed and the main floor leveled. The wall separating the rear of the main floor from the lobby is gone, upstairs restrooms and office area partitions were removed and the first four rows of the balcony were chopped off. The stage area is now locker rooms.
Status: The theatre space reopened in 2018 as Blink Fitness, a subsidiary of Equinox. They've got a 20 year lease with the monthly rent ranging from $52,000 to $74,000 a month over the term. That starting rate equaled $2.07 psf. Much of the stunning decor remains and has been nicely patched, touched up and otherwise restored. Jeff Raum Studios did the interior decorative restoration work. The building also has several storefronts.
In 2019 it was on the market again with Brandon Michaels Group the broker for the offering. The word is that they're asking for something in the neighborhood of $12 million. There's a 23 page pdf about the property.
A 1931 shot with participants in some sort of "talking contest" at the Warner to celebrate talking pictures at the theatre. The feature film is "Seed," a May 1931 release. Thanks to Jude Mel Rosales for posting the photo on Facebook. And thanks to Jason Vega for sending it along.
The Warner got its photo in the April 1933 issue of Architect and Engineer. "The building is of reinforced concrete and was undamaged by the earthquake of March 10, 1933. Signs in front announce auditorium safe for occupancy by order of Municipal Building Department. Photograph taken after the quake." The issue is on Internet Archive.
A 1934 view of the Warner running "Mandalay" with Kay Francis. The photo from Marc Wanamaker's Bison Archives appears in the Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres of Los Angeles" by Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Amy Ronnebeck Hall and Marc Wanamaker. The page with this photo is included in the preview of the book on Google Books.
Fashions have changed a bit in Huntington Park. Here's a c.1937 view by Herman Schultheis in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
A 50s postcard view looking north on Pacific. It's part of Wayne Poe's Noirish Los Angeles post #16310 about Huntington Park. That's the Warner with its vertical lit up on the right. Wayne found the card somewhere in the collection of Ozfan22 on Flickr. It also appears on the Friends Of The Warner Facebook page.
A lovely 1956 photo by George Tate taken when the Warner was running "The Man Who Knew Too Much." Thanks to Jason Vega for spotting this one on a now-vanished George Tate Instagram page. For more about Mr. Tate (1920-1992), see the George Tate Photography page on Facebook, a biography and several pages of images on the website of the Craig Krull Gallery, and a 2013 article about his work on Slate.
A lovely 1962-63 Christmas season photo looking north on Pacific toward the Warner. Thanks to L.A. transit historian Sean Ault for finding the photo.
An April or May 1963 view with rails still in the street although at the time of the photo buses had replaced the rail cars. Thanks to Sean Ault for sharing the photo from his collection.
Another December 1963 image located by Sean Ault. The show was "Four For Texas" with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin along with Jeff Hunter in "The Man From Galveston." The readerboard under the marquee was advertising their New Year's Eve show. Thanks, Sean!
A c.1964 view looking north on Pacific Blvd. The Warner is on the right. The California Theatre vertical sign can be glimpsed in the next block. It's from the Downey Conservancy's Huntington Park set on Flickr. The photo also appears on the Friends Of The Warner Facebook page.
A detail from the photo above. It was a post of Jude Mel Rosales on Facebook. Thanks to Jason Vega for spotting it.
A fine 1994 view up the vertical of the Warner from Claudia A. Rivera on the I Support the Warners Theatre Facebook page.
A Christmas season photo of the closed theatre. Pacific had closed it in late 2000. The photo was added to the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page by Robert Mora.
A look up the vertical from Debra Jane Seltzer's site Roadside Architecture. It's on her California Theatres page 6. Also see a facade view from across the street.
A 2009 photo of the tower by Mark Peacock on Flickr. For more of Mark's terrific work see his Vintage Theatres photo set.
A 2014 photo once posted on Facebook by Bryan Diaz.
A September 2015 photo by Hugo Ruiz gives a look into what had been the lobby. The snackbar is gone as is the wall separating the lobby and auditorium -- we can see all the way to the front of the house.
A January 2016 peek in the front door gives a look all the way to the front of the auditorium. Thanks to Hugo Ruiz for his photo.
The block at night. Photo: Hugo Ruiz - March 2016
Exploring the top of the tower. Photo: Paul Schneider - 2017. Thanks, Paul!
The barricaded entrance. Photo: Hugo Ruiz - 2017
A look up at the tower with its new paint job. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2017
A closer tower view. Photo: Bill Counter - December 2017
The view north on Pacific. Photo: Bill Counter - February 2018
Looking out across the terrazzo. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019
A marquee view. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019
More Information: Mike Hume has a great page about the Warner on his Historic Theatre Photography site. Curbed L.A. featured many photos by Hunter Kerhart in their 2014 article "Here Are the First Photos in Decades...."
See the Warner Huntington Park page on Cinema Treasures for lots of stories and photos. The Cinema Tour page on the Warner Theatre has some 2004 exterior photos from the Ken Roe collection. There are two now-dormant Facebook groups: Friends of the Warner page and I Support Warners Theatre in HP.
Matt Lambros has a fine 2018 post about the theatre on his After the Final Curtain site that includes photos he took in 2017.
Eric Lynxwiler has a number of fine 2007 exterior views in his Los Angeles Theatres set on Flickr including: looking up at the vertical | display cases | terrazzo | marquee soffit | facade looking up | from across the street | top of the tower | side tower detail |
Robert Tower, a former projectionist at the Warner, has a set of exterior views from 2009 in his HP Warner Theatre set on Flickr. He recounts tales from his time at the theatre on his blog It Rains...You Get Wet.
The Warner Huntington Park pages: back to top - history + exterior views | lobby areas | auditorium | projection booths | stage | basement |
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