Opened: December 29, 1927 as the Windsor Square Theatre with a production of Sigmund Romberg's "The Desert Song." It's four blocks west of Crenshaw on the south side of the street. We're looking at the theatre's entrance on 8th St., around on the back of the building. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010
Phone: 323-939-0126 Website: www.ebellla.com
Seating: 1,266 currently with 883 on the main floor and 383 in the balcony. In 1949 it was listed as 1,294 with 911 of that on the main floor and 383 in the balcony.
Pipe Organ: It's a 3/13 Barton that's owned and maintained by the Los Angeles Theatre Organ Society.
Proscenium: 39' wide x 27' 3" high
Stage depth: 31' 2" from the proscenium plasterline to the back wall. The orchestra pit (when covered) adds another 6' 1". It's 5' from the footlights to the house curtain and 30' from the curtain to the backwall.
Stage wall to wall: 85'. Wingspace stage left is 12', with some restrictions. Stage right it's 8'.
Counterweight system: The 34 linesets are wire guide, all operated at stage level stage right except for one set 23' 10' upstage that's run from upstage left. Batten length is 50.' Grid height is 60'. It was originally a hemp house with a flyfloor stage right. In 1949 it was listed as using both hemp and counterweight sets.It's unknown who manufactured the counterweight system equipment.
Lighting control: It's an ETC Expression 2 console with 167 2.4 Kw dimmers. In 1949 the house was listed as having both AC and DC power.
Followspots: 2 1.2 Kw Selecon units
Projection: There's a digital projector in the booth, no film equipment. Balcony rail to the screen is 50', booth to screen is 80'. The house's 12' x 16' screen is usually on batten #5, 4'10" upstage of the plasterline.
Loading: Upstage right via a 8' x 8' door.
Some of the stage data comes from the 1949 ATPAM Theatre, Arena & Auditorium Guide. Thanks to Bob Foreman for putting the publication on his Vintage Theatre Catalogs blog. At the time the rent was $135 a night.
Status: This club and theatre, located in the affluent Hancock Park area, has always been a popular venue. In the 1928 city directory the club was listed with a 4400 Wilshire address. In 1929 and 1930 it was listed as 743 S. Lucerne Blvd.
The club is thriving with the theatre as well as other ballrooms and
meeting spaces rented out for a variety of events. The organization does no presenting. It's exclusively a rental venue.
"Not a Movie." This ad for "Pierre of the Plains" also appeared in the December 27, 1928 issue of the Times. Thanks to Mike Hume for dating the ad, locating the story, and researching the other early events.
In the 1932 directory it's become the Wilshire Ebell Theatre, again
with the 8th St. address. That year W.T. Wyatt is listed as manager. One of his jobs much earlier had been as business manager of the Seaside Theatre in Ocean Park, a house that opened in 1905. He was the son of Henry Clay Wyatt (1849-1910) a legendary impresario who at various times had operated the Mason Opera House, the Grand Opera House and the Lyceum Theatre.
The Ebell in the Movies:
John Barrymore runs onstage in a panic in his New York theatre when he realizes the star he's created, played by Carole Lombard, has abandoned him to go to Hollywood in the Howard Hawks comedy "20th Century" (Columbia, 1934). Nearly the first twenty minutes of the film was shot at the Ebell plus a return at the conclusion. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in the Movies post for ten more shots from scenes at the Ebell.
The theatre is used for a political rally in "The Farmer's Daughter" (RKO, 1947). H.C. Potter directed this sweet tale of farm girl Loretta Young coming to wicked Capitol City, taking a job as a maid and somehow getting elected to Congress. The film also stars Joseph Cotten, Ethyl Barrymore and Charles Bickford. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for five more shots from the scene at the Ebell.
Joseph Cotten and Ethel Barrymore go to a concert at a New York theatre
in William Dieterle's "Portrait of Jennie" (Selznick, 1948). Cotten is
obsessed with a young girl played by Jennifer Jones who appears to him
at random intervals and each time she's a few years older. He says
"Everything reminds me of Jennie" and leans forward to stare intently at
Diana Ross takes a bow as Billie Holiday near the end of "Lady Sings the Blues" (Paramount, 1972). The Ebell is standing in for Carnegie Hall. Sidney
Furie directed the film which also features Billy Dee Williams, Richard
Pryor, James T. Callahan, Paul Hampton, Sid Melton, Virginia Capers,
Yvonne Fair and Scatman Crothers. The cinematography was
by John Alonzo. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for several more shots from the Ebell shoot as well as views of a number filmed at the Follies Theatre on Main St.
Gary Busey, Charlie Martin Smith and Don Stroud backstage at the Ebell as Buddy Holly and the Crickets in "The Buddy Holly Story" (Columbia, 1978). Steve Rash directed the film. The theatre is used as the Apollo in New York as well as for another theatre on the road. Two theatres in Atlanta were used for exterior shots. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots at the Ebell from the film.
When Ritchie Valens (Lou Diamond Phillips) goes to New York to play the Brooklyn Paramount in the Luis Valdez film "La Bamba" (Columbia, 1987), the Wilshire Ebell is used for the interiors. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more views of the Ebell from the film. For the exterior views the film uses some footage of the Wiltern that was shot for "American Hot Wax" in 1977.
In addition to the theatre, other areas of the building are also seen in many films and TV shows. Tom Hanks briefly plays ping pong on an upstairs terrace in "Forrest Gump" (Paramount, 1994). We spend a lot of time with Richard Dreyfuss and Jenna Elfman in the main ballroom and other areas at the end of "Krippendorf's Tribe" (Touchstone, 1998). The ballroom is used for a party at Harvard near the end of the stoner film "How High" (Universal, 2001). Jesse Eisenberg is at an a cappella performance in the ballroom in "The Social Network" (Columbia, 2010).
A proscenium view from the rear of house right. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017
A main floor view from the Ebell Club website.
A closer look at the proscenium. Photo: Marianne Lozano Photography / Biz Bash
Another look to the rear. Photo: Marianne Lozano Photography / Biz Bash
Under the balcony. Photo: Marianne Lozano Photography / Biz Bash
The view across the Ebell auditorium at balcony level. Photo: Wendell Benedetti - Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation - 2015. Thanks, Wendell! The photo originally appeared on the LAHTF Facebook page.
A look down from in front of the booth. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017
The stage from house right. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019
Up in the booth:
Looking across from house right. Current equipment includes a digital projector and two followspots. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019
Theatre explorer Ron Mahan offstage right checking out the lockrail. The event was a visit to the theatre during the 2017 Theatre Historical Society Conclave. Photo: Mike Hume
More exterior views:
A 1927 photo from the Herald Examiner collection of the Los Angeles Public Library. We're looking south from Wilshire with the main building in front, the theatre in back.
The east side of the building as we look north toward Wilshire. It's a c.1927 Mott Studios photo in the California State Library collection.
Another shot from the Mott Studios in the California State Library collection, this time looking southwest from Wilshire.
The Library's collection includes these c.1927 Mott Studios photos of the building: 1 courtyard photo - # 001385922 | 2 courtyard photos - # 001386168 | 4 lounge photos - # 001386234 | 7 photos: lounge, exterior views - # 001416450 | 1 corner exterior photo - # 001424635 | 3 photos: courtyard and exterior - # 001535358 | 16 photos: 1 of theatre + other areas - # 001535367 | Also: Wilshire facade - William Reagh - 1989
Another 1929 view from the Herlick Studio that's in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The theatre entrance is over on the left.
A 1937 view by Dick Whittington when the theatre was known as the Windsor Square Theatre. It's in the Herald Examiner collection at the Los Angeles Public Library. The USC Digital Library also has a copy, where they date it as 1939.
A 1939 photo of a house moving project with the Ebell in the background. It's in the Herald Examiner collection of the Los Angeles Public Library.
Thanks to Richard Wojcik for this 1954 view of the Ebell from his collection. It was a post on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.
Another view of the Wilshire end of the building. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017
Looking along the Lucerne side of the building. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010
The sign after a paint job. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017
Around back at the theatre entrance. It's a photo by Martin that appeared on his now-vanished site You-Are-Here.com.
Another entrance view. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017. Thanks for all the great photos, Mike! For more of his work see the Ebell Theatre page on his Historic Theatre Photography site.
A roof sign shot from Corey Miller's great Wilshire Center / Hancock Park / Miracle Mile photo set on Flickr.
The site Public Art in Los Angeles has this Don Howe photo along with a daytime view on their Wilshire Ebell page. See their Neon Signs Along Wilshire Boulevard page for an index to many photos on the site.
A look toward the theatre in 2022. Thanks to Suzanne Wilton for sharing her photo on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
More Information: See the Wilshire Ebell page on Mike Hume's Historic Theatre Photography site for his fine photos of the theatre as well as lots of historical data..
Jennifer Steinhauer's August 2010 New York Times Article "A Sanctuary for Women, Even Today" has a a nice history of the club and its activities. Danni Bayles Yeager's Performing Arts Archive has a program for a 1940 production of "Our Town" at the Wilshire Ebell.
There's a nice post (#3500) on Noirish Los Angeles with photos and discussion of the Ebell. And check in with post #3508 and post #3509 for photos of other Ebell clubs in the Los Angeles Area.
There was an earlier Ebell Club at 1719 S. Figueroa St. downtown. And one even before that on Broadway. Prior to the Broadway clubhouse, the ladies evidently had a rental adjacent to a church. There was also an Ebell Club in Long Beach. The theatre at that club got rented out to become a commercial movie theatre, the Metro.
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