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Wilshire Ebell Theatre

4400 Wilshire Blvd. and 4401 W. 8th St. Los Angeles, CA 90005 | map |



Opened: December 29, 1927 with a production of Sigmund Romberg's "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

Architects: Sumner P. Hunt and Silas R. Burns designed the building for the Ebell of Los Angeles Women's Club. In addition to the theatre, the complex includes many club rooms, offices and a ballroom. The main entrance is on Wilshire Blvd.



A plan of the theatre. The rest of the building is off to the right with Wilshire Blvd. beyond. Thanks to Mike Hume for getting a photo of the plan. See the Wilshire Ebell page on his Historic Theatre Photography site for about 35 of his fine photos of the theatre.

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.



The console of the Barton. Thanks to Kevin R. Cartwright for the photo. 

Stage Specifications: 

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: 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.

History: This club and theatre, located in the affluent Hancock Park area, has always been a popular venue for a variety of events.

Judy Garland (then Francis Gumm) supposedly had her first audition at the Wilshire Ebell and was later "discovered" while performing here. In 1937 Amelia Earhart made her last public appearance at the Ebell before embarking on her last flight.

The theatre was known in the late 20s and early 30s as the Windsor Square Theatre, 4401 W. 8th St. and the address has also appeared as 743 S. Lucerne Blvd.



An ad for the Ebell as the Windsor Square Theatre. It was a find of Ken McIntyre for the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. The show was "Pierre of the Plains" with the note: "Not a Movie."

The Ebell in the Movies: The theatre is seen in "Break of Hearts" (RKO, 1935) with Katherine Hepburn and Charles Boyer. It's in "The Farmer's Daughter" (RKO, 1947) with Loretta Young and Joseph Cotten. It's used as the Apollo in "The Buddy Holly Story" with Gary Busey (Columbia, 1978).
 


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. For the exterior views the film uses some footage of the Wiltern that was shot for "American Hot Wax" in 1977. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more views of the Ebell from the film.

The Ebell stands in for the Vatican in "The Seventh Sign" (TriStar, 1988) starring Demi Moore and Michael Biehn. The building is seen in the Robert Zemekis film "Forrest Gump" (Paramount, 1994) starring Tom Hanks and Robin Wright. The Ebell is seen in Todd Holland's "Krippendorf's Tribe" (Buena Vista, 1998) with Richard Dreyfuss and Jenna Elfman.

The building also makes an appearance in "How High" (Universal, 2001). The theatre is seen in an a cappella scene in David Fincher's "The Social Network" starring Jesse Eisenberg and Rooney Mara (Columbia, 2010). The theatre was used in "Love and Mercy," Bill Pohlad's film about Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson that starred Paul Dano and John Cusak (Roadside Attractions, 2015).

The Ebell on Television: This club, with its great variety of spaces, is a favorite shooting location and has appeared in "CSI: Miami," "Mad Men," and dozens of other shows.


The lobby: 


The Wilshire Ebell lobby. The doors on the right are the theatre's main entrance on the south end of the building. Photo: Dave PD - Photos of Los Angeles - Facebook - 2003  


On the main floor: 


A peek in from the rear of the main floor. Photo: Dave PD - Photos of Los Angeles -  2003



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 main floor view. Photo: Davd PD - Photos of Los Angeles - 2003   



The rear of the auditorium. Photo: Dave PD - Photos of Los Angeles - 2003. Thanks, Dave!



Another look to the rear. Photo: Marianne Lozano Photography / Biz Bash



Under the balcony. Photo: Marianne Lozano Photography / Biz Bash


Up in the balcony: 


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 balcony view from house left. Photo: Marianne Lozano Photography / Biz Bash



A look down from in front of the booth. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



The stage from house right. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019



A c.1927 Mott Studios photo looking across the theatre's balcony from the California State Library collection. The ports have been opened up a bit.


Up in the booth: 


Looking out the door on the house right end of the booth. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019



Looking across from house right. Current equipment includes a digital projector and two followspots. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019



Looking out the port where the projector is. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019



The 1927 vintage switchboard on the back wall. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019



A room on the house left end of the booth with an old motor-generator set and some sort of exhaust fan gear. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019



Looking back across from the house left end of the booth. Photo: Mike Hume - 2019


Backstage: 


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



The upstage end of the lockrail. Photo: Bill Counter - 2017 



A lockrail detail. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



A look at the curious ratcheting tension blocks. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



Looking onstage from behind the wire-guide sets. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



A view into the house. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



Looking to the grid from stage left. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017



One of the dressing rooms. Photo: Mike Hume - 2017


More exterior views:


A 1927 Herald Examiner photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. 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



A 1929 photo from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



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 Los Angeles Public Library collection. The USC Digital Library also has a copy, where they date it as 1939.



A 1939 Herald Examiner photo of a house moving project with the Ebell in the background. It's in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



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.



The Wilshire side of the Wilshire Ebell building. Photo: Bill Counter - 2010



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 corner at Wilshire and Lucerne Blvd. 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 on his great site You-Are-Here. Also see his view of the Lucerne St. side of the building. See the site's Wilshire Boulevard index page for links to many more explorations Martin has done along Wilshire. There's also a theatre index page for the many theatre photos he's taken.



A 2003 entrance shot from Dave PD that appeared on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.



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.
 
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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