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Wiltern Theatre: auditorium

3790 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90005  | map |

Pages about the Wiltern: history + exterior views | lobby areas | auditorium | backstage | house basement areas | booth and attic |

A stunning c.1931 view of  the Wiltern Theatre's proscenium from the California State Library collection. The uncredited photo also appears in a somewhat larger version in the USC Digital Library collection.

A detail of the front of the sunburst from the photo above. The two semi-circular bands at the front, and their cove lighting, were removed when the building was scheduled for demolition -- leaving a huge hole in the ceiling to be repaired during the 1984-85 restoration. The missing elements were recreated in a simpler design.

Another detail from the photo as seen on the USC website.

A 1931 shot of the front of the auditorium from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.

A closer proscenium and sunburst detail. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.

A vintage look across toward the side wall. The photo is from the Los Angeles Public Library.

A 1931 view of the rear of the auditorium from the Los Angeles Public Library

The proscenium and organ console in 1965. Thanks to Bob Alder for his photo. It appears with many others on his web page which also has information on the 4/37 Kimball organ that used to be in the theatre.

The rear of the house in 1965. The big thing balcony rail center is an RCA video projector. It was still in the theatre when the 1984-85 renovation started. Photo: Bob Alder

A 1965 look at the ceiling. When demolition was imminent, the house was stripped of all fixtures as well as large chunks of ornamental ceiling plaster.  Photo: Bob Alder. Thanks, Bob!

The organ console. Thanks to Matt Spero for his photo taken at an AFI screening of the Lillian Gish film "The Wind" in 1979. Gaylord carter was the organist for the show. Ms. Gish made an appearance.

A 1979 Mike Mullen photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection taken on the occasion of the last use of the organ before its removal. Other photos taken by Mike at the time include a keyboard  closeup and a slightly wider console view.

The damaged ceiling in the early 80s. The owners at the time, Franklin Life, were preparing to demolish the building. All decorative light fixtures had been sold and removed. Here at the ceiling's sunburst, decorative plaster elements and striplights were being removed and whoever was doing that let the job get out of control.

Thanks to Dan Ondrasek for his photo. He and Greg King alerted developer Wayne Ratkovich concerning the condition of the building and thus prepared the way for its restoration.

A proscenium view after the restoration. Note the simpler sunburst design created during the 1984-85 restoration. Photo: Ray Shepardson - 1985

A wonderful 1992 Berger-Conser Architectural Photography view of the Wiltern Theatre ceiling from the book "The Last Remaining Seats: Palaces of Tinseltown" by Robert Berger and Anne Conser.

The seats had all been stripped out when the building was scheduled for demolition in the early 80s. This 1992 photo by Berger Conser Architectural Photography shows the look of the main floor with the original floor slope and the seats installed in 1985 by seating contractor Country Roads. That's the asbestos we're looking at within the arch.

Robert Berger's website has a portfolio of 16 photos from "The Last Remaining Seats," the book he did with Anne Conser. It includes these two Wiltern views. The book is, of course, available on Amazon.

This shot of the Wiltern interior shows the effect of the 2002 main floor remodel with fixed seats being replaced by 5 flat terraces. The balcony seats remained in place.The photo appeared on the website of DPR Construction, the contractor for the three month project. Note that the stairs up to the stage have been eliminated and the orchestra pit is gone. The height of the stage was also raised.

A 2002 proscenium detail from DPR Construction.

The rear of the auditorium after the remodel. It's a 2002 photo from DPR construction.

This interesting view of the Wiltern proscenium is linked on a JBL 2002 Wiltern Theatre page mostly to show off their VerTec Line Array speaker systems. But you can also get a view of the depth of the expanded stage. The JBL installation was done in 2001 and, after several upgrades, still is the theatre's sound system. Note here we still have an orchestra pit. It would be floored over the following year.

A lovely look at the auditorium by Randall Michelson. It's part of "The Wiltern Opened 80 Years Ago," an article by Lianna Fader celebrating the theatre's 80th birthday on October 7, 2011. The photo also appears (uncredited) on the Wiltern page of Untz, a site all about venues, artists, and tickets.


Peeking in at the rear of the auditorium. This terracing you see here dates from a 2002 renovation project. It's a 2014 Hunter Kerhart photo. Keep up with his many explorations on and on the Facebook page for Hunter Kerhart Architectural Photography. Thanks, Hunter!

On the terraced main floor. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

A look onto the empty stage from the rear of the main floor. Photo: Mike Hume - 2014. Head to the Historic Theatre Photography section of Mike's website for his full Wiltern Theatre set as well as hundreds of other theatre photos. The Wiltern set is also on Flickr. You can also pay him a visit on the Historic Theatre Photography Facebook page.

A balcony soffit fixture. All the fixtures were gone when the restoration process of 1984-85 began. Some original fixtures were re-purchased, some duplicated. Here at the rear of the main floor, fewer fixtures were installed than originally used, due to budget constraints. Photo: Mike Hume - 2014

One of the original balcony soffit fixtures. Thanks to Matt Spero for this photo he took in the late 70s.

The house right organ grille. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

The wide angle proscenium vista. Photo: Mike Hume - 2014

The 1931 asbestos curtain. Photo: Stephen Russo - Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation - 2014. The photo originally appeared on the LAHTF Facebook page. Thanks, Stephen!

The LAHTF is actively involved in the study and preservation of the many vintage theatres in the Los Angeles area. The group frequently supports events and offers tours of the buildings. | LAHTF on Facebook

The view up from the front of the main floor. Photo: Mike Hume - 2014

A closer look at the ceiling above the proscenium. Much of the sunburst was missing as a result of decorative plaster pieces being removed when the building was stripped. For the 1984-85 restoration the big hole was filled in by relocating some plaster elements and creating a new section (simpler than the original) at the front of the design. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

The straight-up view of the sunburst. The gear we see at the top of the image is on the balcony rail position. Photo: Mike Hume - 2014

The glorious Wiltern ceiling. The lights at the top are on the truss hanging within the proscenium arch. Photo: Mike Hume - 2014

The rear of the house. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

Looking back toward the booth. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

The size of the Wiltern (especially vertically) is most evident when looking up from the front of the main floor. Photo: Wendell Benedetti - Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation- 2014.

The event was the August 2014 LAHTF tour of the theatre. At the mic: Escott O. Norton and Bill Counter. The photo originally appeared on the LAHTF Facebook page. Thanks, Wendell! Also by Mr. Benedetti on Facebook: stage view - fire curtain up | balcony wide angle sepia view |

Looking into the balcony at the house left vomitory. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014

The empty stage view from the balcony. Photo: Mike Hume - 2014. Thanks, Mike!

It's a big balcony. Here's the view from the top. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

A look down with the asbestos up. The photo was a 2014 post on the Wiltern Instagram feed

A luscious balcony vista. The balcony seats date from the restoration of 1984-85. The 1931 seats were long gone when the project began. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

Balcony seating. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014

Another stunning balcony view.  Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014

The rear of the balcony. Photo: Hunter Kerhart - 2014. Thanks, Hunter!

Across the rear of the balcony. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014

The grille for the echo organ chamber at the rear of the balcony house left. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014

The house left balcony sidewall: Heinsbergen decoration painted on the rough surface acoustic plaster. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014

One of the sidewall deco uplight bowls. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014

A wider sidewall view. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014

A ceiling sunburst view from the top of the balcony. Photo: Bill Counter - 2014

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