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Westwood and Brentwood Theatres: an overview

A ramble through the theatres of Westwood and Brentwood...

Westwood Village was the third significant theatre district to evolve in Los Angeles. The theatre business had started downtown, of course. In the mid 20s Hollywood became the second area with a major concentration of first-run theatres and the site of fancy premieres.

With the construction of the UCLA campus beginning in the late 20s there was a chance to develop a unique shopping and entertainment district for faculty and students. Janss Development, the firm that was the developer for the district, cultivated a uniformity of style while still encouraging unique forms for the various buildings. By the 1970's the area had evolved so that Westwood had the largest concentration of first run screens of any neighborhood in Los Angeles.

With the decline of the traditional theatre districts downtown and in Hollywood, having a premiere and exclusive run at a Westwood Village theatre gave a film a touch of class that couldn't be duplicated elsewhere in the city. Sadly, Westwood has lost almost all of its screens in recent years. With the advent of multiplexes, the demise of exclusive runs, and the rise of other Westside locations things aren't what they once were in Westwood.

In the postcard we're looking up Westwood Blvd. from Wilshire. In the center is the tower of one of the district's survivors, the Fox Westwood Village. Thanks to Brian Michael McCray for the card from his terrific collection.

If you're looking for something that doesn't appear here you could check the Westside Theatres section for a wider geographic area. All of the Westwood and Brentwood theatres are also listed on the Westside Theatres: by street address page. There were many name changes. All the known alternate names are listed on the Westside theatres: alphabetical list page. 

Brentwood Theatre
11301 Wilshire Blvd.

This theatre on the Veteran's Administration campus opened in 1942 as an entertainment facility for veterans. During the 40s the theatre was heavily used for USO shows, movies and lectures. Later it saw only occasional use. The 500 seat theatre got a renovation in 2004 and was used for legit theatre as well as occasional film screenings. It now seems to be in a dormant period. For more information see the page on the Brentwood Theatre.

Brentwood Theatre
11611 Wilshire Blvd.

This 414 seat house perhaps opened around 1935 and closed around 1950. It's been demolished. For more information see the page on the Brentwood Theatre.

Brentwood Twin
2524 Wilshire Blvd. Santa Monica

This building had started as a bowling alley and was converted into a 600 seat twin theatre in 1970. It was an independent operation running second run double features. It was also known as the Brentwood I & II. Cineplex Odeon operated the venue for a while in the 80s as a first run house. They exited after opening their new Broadway 4 on the 3rd St. Promenade and competition increased from other nearby complexes. For more information see the page on the Brentwood Twin.

Bruin Theatre
948 Broxton Ave.

The 1937 vintage house is a design of  S. Charles Lee. It currently seats 696, all on a single level. The Bruin remains a major first run venue. Long operated by Mann Theatres, in 2010 it became, along with the Fox Westwood across the street, part of the Regency Theatres chain. For more information see the page on the Bruin Theatre.

Crest / UCLA Nimoy Theatre
1262 Westwood Blvd.

It opened as the UCLAN in 1940, a design of Arthur W. Hawes. The 500 seat house has also been known as the Metro, the Pacific Crest, the Westwood, Westwood Crest and Majestic Crest. When Pacific had the house it received a big deco style makeover in conjunction with Disney. It's now owned by UCLA and is getting made over into a facility for live events. For more information see the page on the Crest Theatre.

Festival Theatre
10887 Lindbrook Dr.

It opened in 1969 as the United Artists Westwood in part of a building that was originally designed by Russell Collins for the Ralph's supermarket chain. The theatre, seating 560 with a balcony, was later remodeled by United Artists Theatre Circuit as the UA Egyptian. Cineplex Odeon took over the lease and remodeled again for a 1988 opening as the Odeon Cinema. After Cineplex lost their lease, a bidding war resulted in the operation going to Mann Theatres and a new name: Mann Festival. The theatre closed in 2009. After being vacant for a decade it's getting turned into a rock climbing gym. For more information see the page on the Festival Theatre.

Fox Westwood / Regency Village
961 Broxton Ave.

This 1931 vintage theatre was a design of Percy Parke Lewis, evidently his only theatre design. The 1,489 seat project was a joint venture of Fox West Coast Theatres and Janss Development, the developer of Westwood Village. Still a top first run house, it became a part of the Regency Theatres circuit in 2010. Long known for its top quality sound and projection, it has always been a favored house for major premieres. Under Mann Theatres management it became known as the Village Theatre, a practice continued by Regency. For more information see the pages on the Fox Westwood Village: history + exterior views | interior views |

Geffen Playhouse
10886 Le Conte Ave.

The Geffen is a 525 seat legit theatre offering a varied season on both the main stage and the smaller Audrey Skirball Kenis stage. The building was constructed in 1929 as the UCLA Masonic Lodge. It was a furniture store, Contempo Westwood, in the early 60s. The auditorium started being used for shows while it was still a furniture store. You could browse for your new bedroom set during intermission. It was then known as the Westwood Playhouse. At some point the furniture disappeared but the shows continued. It later was renamed the Geffen Playhouse. For more information see the page for the Geffen Playhouse.

iPic Westwood / Avco Cinemas
10840 Wilshire Blvd.

The complex was opened in 1972 as a triplex by General Cinema. The large theatre was twinned in the 90's. It was later operated by AMC after the General Cinema bankruptcy. The theatres got a major overhaul and it's now a premium priced six screen venue with food service in the auditoria plus a full service restaurant called Tanzy. For more information see the page on the iPic Westwood.

Landmark Westwood
1045 Broxton Ave.

Laemmle opened this 400 seat house in 1966 as the Regent Theatre, a remodel of a building constructed for retail use in the 40s. Mann later ended up with the lease and Landmark got it in 2002. Initially the policy included lots of Disney product but later settled into more of an art format. It got a big renovation beginning in June 2019 and reopened in February 2020 with its new name. For more information see the page on the Landmark Westwood.

Mann Westwood 4
1050 Gayley Ave.

It was opened in 1975 by Mann Theatres as a tri-plex in a building that had been a Safeway. The largest auditorium was twinned in 1985. This was largely a moveover house for Mann. They closed it in 2002 and the location is once again in the grocery business as a Whole Foods Market. For more information visit the page on the Mann Westwood 4.

National Theatre
10925 Lindbrook Dr.

It was opened in 1970 by National General, then the operator of the remnants of the Fox West Coast chain. It was acquired by Mann Theatres when they bought the chain and operated by them until 2007. The 1,112 seat theatre hosted many record breaking exclusive runs over the years and was known for its giant screen and terrific 70mm presentations. After Mann exited the theatre in April 2007 it was running for a while as an independent but closed again in October 2007. It was demolished in 2008. For more information see the page on the National Theatre.

Plaza Theatre
1067 Glendon Ave.

The 650 seat theatre was opened in 1967 by Laemmle Theatres and operated by them until 1991 when Mann Theatres acquired the lease. It closed in 2004 and was demolished for a new development encompassing the whole block. More information can be seen on the page about the Plaza Theatre.
Royce Hall - UCLA
340 Royce Dr. Los Angeles, CA 90095

It opened in 1929 as the original building on the UCLA campus. The first performing arts season was in 1937. The building, designed by James Edward Allison & David Clark Allison, was modeled in part on the 10th/11th century San Ambrogio church in Milan. The 1,834 seat venue has hosted numerous greats including George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Arnold Schoenberg, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, Twyla Tharp and Mikhail Baryshnikov. It's the main performance venue for the UCLA Center for the Art of Performance series and is considered one of the nation's top concert halls.  For more information see the page on Royce Hall.

United Artists Westwood 4
10889 Wellworth Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90024

This house opened as the UA Cinema Center in 1972, a remodel of an auto showroom. It later was known as the UA Coronet and finally as the UA Westwood. It opened as a 4-plex but in the final years was only 3 as the two smallest auditoria were combined to make a larger one. United Artists closed it in 2001. It's now been remodeled into a CVS pharmacy. In the photo you can see the Crest Theatre just down the street on Westwood Blvd. as we look north toward Wilshire. For more information see the page on the UA Westwood 4 Theatres.

Wadsworth Theatre
11301 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90073

This 1,378 seat theatre on the Veteran's Administration campus opened in 1939. It's used for legit theatre, concerts and special events.  In 2002 it had a thorough renovation and its moderne interior is in pristine condition. For more information see the page on the Wadsworth Theatre.

Billy Wilder Theatre
10899 Wilshire Blvd.

This 295 seat venue in the Hammer Museum building opened in 2006. It's used both for various programs of the museum but also as the major screening site for the UCLA Film and Television Archives. For more information see the page on the Billy Wilder Theatre.

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A few classic views of Westwood:

An aerial view as a postcard. Thanks to Brian Michael McCray for the card from his wonderful Hollywood Postcards collection, formerly on Picasa.

A later postcard aerial view from the now-vanished website Yesterday LA.

A look at the entrance in 1945 that Stephen Russo posted on Vintage Los Angeles.

This view of the domed Bank of America building in the 40s is from the now-vanished website Yesterday L.A.. The caption reads: "A shopping center par excellence. Fascinating shops and swank department stores serving residential areas of Beverly Hills, Bel-Air, and Brentwood."

A great Julie Wilson photo of the Bank of America building in 1941 on Noirish Los Angeles. The view also appears on the Neat Stuff Blog

A postcard view giving us a look at the Bank plus a vista up toward the Fox Westwood. It's from Card Cow, a great collection of vintage cards. The postmark is 1955.  

A c.1960 view of the Janss Drug tower from the Richard Wojcik collection. It appeared on the Facebook page for the non-public group Mid Century Modern Los Angeles

This view of the Ralph's building in the 50s is from the on the now-vanished site Yesterday L.A. The caption reads: "Westwood Village is ultra-modern, different in every respect, in a land of unusual communities. Smart shops, intimate restaurants, outdoor skating rink and college atmosphere, all lend to make Westwood one of the most unusual and picturesque of California's newer cities."

The Ralph's building was designed by Russell Collins in 1929. It was one of the first six buildings constructed in Westwood Village and has had a number of tenants over the years. Peet's coffee is currently in the corner space. We're at the corner of Westwood Blvd. and Lindbrook. The wing off to the right on Lindbrook was until 2009 the Festival Theatre. 

A wonderful Julie Wilson photo of Ralph's in the 40s on a page of the Noirish Los Angeles discussion forum. The view also appears on the Neat Stuff Blog

An early postcard view of UCLA. It's from Brian Michael McCray's Hollywood Postcards collection. Thanks, Brian!

A postcard view up Westwood Blvd from Wilshire in the 1930s that was the collection of the defunct website Yesterday L.A. That rotunda on the right is Ralph's Market. In the distance is the Fox Westwood Village Theatre.

A 1938 view up Westwood Blvd. in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

Here we're moving up Westwood Blvd. a bit. From the Nile Hight collection we get this ultimate gas station photo c.1930. It's on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.

The photo also appears on Photos of Los Angeles. And it's on SoCal Historic Architecture where the ever-alert Bill Gabel notes that it has to be earlier than 1931 as we don't see the Fox Westwood Theatre as we look up the street. 

And this is a real treat -- a rare view of that gas station assemblage from the east. Again it's from Nile Hight's collection appearing on Vintage Los Angeles.

Another great gas station view. This 1945 shot was posted by Gary Fimbres on the Facebook page SoCal Historic Architecture.  

A wonderful Julie Wilson photo from the 40s appearing on Noirish Los Angeles. It also appears on the Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page and on the Neat Stuff Blog.

A closer  postcard view looking north. It's from the Yesterday LA site.

See the page of Fox Westwood Theatre exterior views for more postcards and some lovely early 30s panoramas from the Huntington Digital Library.

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