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Alex Theatre: history + exterior views

216 N. Brand Blvd. Glendale, CA 91203 | map |

Also see:  Alex Theatre - interior views  


Opened: September 4, 1925 as the Alexander Theatre. The theatre was built and operated by C.L. Langley. His theatre holdings later became part of West Coast Theatres, a firm that in 1929 became Fox West Coast. They frequently listed it as the Fox Alexander Theatre. Fox and its successor companies National General and Mann Theatres operated the theatre for decades. Photo: Bill Counter - 2007

Another of Langley's projects was the Rialto Theatre in South Pasadena. His full name, which he didn't like, was Claude Leroy. He later changed the Leroy part to Leon. The theatre was named for his son Claude Alexander. C.L. died in 1943. Claude Alexander died in 1963.

Phone: 818- 243-ALEX  Website: www.alextheatre.org | the Alex on Facebook |

Alex Film Society: www.alexfilmsociety.org

Architects: Arthur G. Lindley and Charles R. Selkirk designed the Alexander in a Greek revival style with a large forecourt inspired by the Egyptian in Hollywood. Lindley later did the Glendale Masonic Temple and its Temple Theatre.

It got a remodel in 1940 by S. Charles Lee, who added the entrance spire and other touches. The theatre was renamed the Alex. The theatre got a bit of the Skouras treatment in the 1948 with new light fixtures and elaborate draperies.

Seating: 2,030 seats in 1925, 1,460 later. The current capacity is 1,413 including 8 wheelchair spaces.

Stage specifications: 
- Proscenium: 46' wide, 27' high
- Stage depth: 28' 9"   Apron depth: 5' 6"
- Centerline to stage right lockrail: 31'
- Centerline to stage left clear: 36'  To wall: 47'
- House curtain: Operates stage right -- either flies or travels
- Asbestos: Original still in place, motorized
- Grid height: 57' 6"
- Pinrails, flyfloors or loading bridges: none
- Counterweight sets: 42 sets on 8" centers with 5 lift lines and 52' long pipes
- Lockrail: Stage right at stage level. Sets up to #6 are double purchase.
- Arbor capacity: 1,000 lbs.
- Pit: 20 musician capacity, 8' below stage level. The front section is adjustable up to stage level.
- Road power: 1 400 amp 3 phase, 1 200 amp 3 phase
- House dimmers: 324 2.4Kw with an ETC ION console
- House mix position: Front section of balcony, house right
- Sound console: 48 channel Yamaha PM5D-RH
- Speakers: L'Acoustics KUDO line array, stereo - no center cluster
- Loading; On Maryland Ave. Dock stage left is 12' above stage level -- there's a scissor lift.
- Dressing rooms: Everything's in the basement.

Film capability:
- Screen size: 21'6" x 46'  Projection throw: 110'
- Projectors: 2 Simplex XL with Xenon lamphouses, 4K lamps
- Soundheads: Simplex with Kelmar analog and Dolby Digital readers
- Processor: Dolby 650
- Stage Channels: 3 JBL 4648 LF speakers, 3 JBL 2446 HF horns, 2 JBL 4642 dual subs
- Surrounds: 14 JBL 83340A speakers
- For more details see the theatre's Tech pdf.

The Alex was purchased by the Glendale Redevelopment Authority in 1992. The theatre was renovated in 1993 under the direction of architect Richard McCann and since then has been running as a performing arts venue with occasional film events. See the Alex photo gallery on McCann's website for several photos and a discussion of the project. His projects page has links to photos of other theatre projects by the firm.

With the dissolution of community redevelopment agencies in 2012, the City of Glendale explored options for keeping the theatre afloat. It has transferred ownership from its redevelopment agency to the city itself. A March 2012 story in the L.A. Times outlined the problems. The venue was receiving a subsidy of $415,000 per year from the redevelopment authority. The city itself then took on the subsidy, which expired in 2015. The idea was to move the theatre operation toward self-sufficiency.

A major expansion of dressing room facilities and improvements to the loading area was undertaken in 2013. The Crescenta Valley Weekly had an April 2013 story. The L.A. Times ran a June 2013 story on the project of the theatre's "overhaul." Total cost was about $6 million and occasioned a 5 month closure of the theatre.

Visit Sandi Hemmerlein's July 2014 Avoiding Regret photo essay "Open House at the Restored Alex Theatre, Magic Hour" for a tour of the theatre following the backstage renovation. The L.A. Times had a February 2015 "uplifting" story about brighter prospects for the survival of the theatre after the backstage expansion.

An August 2015 L.A. Times story "Historic Alex Theater flashes a glimmer of restored tower lighting" detailed the completion of the restoration of S. Charles Lee's iconic spire. At the time of the story they were just giving a small preview. The original design was neon plus incandescent chaser lights. Those incandescents have now been replaced with programmable LEDs.

Status: Alive and well as a performing arts venue with events about 200 days a year. The facility is operated by the non-profit organization Glendale Arts.

The Alex in the Movies:


We see the side of the Alex with the roof sign on the stagehouse ("Alex - The Place To Go") in Andre de Toth's "Crime Wave" (Warner Bros., 1954). The film stars Sterling Hayden and Gene Nelson. We also get shots of the Glendale, Temple and Hide Away theatres in Glendale and, at the end, go downtown to look at the Roosevelt Theatre on Main St. See the Theatres In Movies post for those shots.



The theatre got a part in "Lovelace" (Radius-TWC, 2013), a biopic about porn star Linda Lovelace. In the film we go to the Alex for an invitational screening of "Deep Throat." See the Theatres in Movies post for four more shots of the Alex from the film.


Street views from the 20s to the present:


An early look into the forecourt from the site Card Cow.  It's one that appears on their Glendale Postcards page.



1920s - A look at the south side of the theatre from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



1930 - A view of the theatre's added marquee. It's a photo appearing on the Alex Theatre website's History page.



1939 - A Herman Schultheis photo looking north toward the Alexander. They're running "Naughty But Nice" with Dick Powell and Ann Sheridan. The photo is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



1940 - The entrance prior to the S. Charles Lee remodel with the Alex is running "The Shop Around The Corner," a January release with James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. The photo appears on page 88 of the Yale University Press book "The Show Starts on the Sidewalk" by Maggie Valentine. She offers a nice history of the movie palace with lots of references to various historic Los Angeles theatres, especially the work of S. Charles Lee. The page with the photo appears in the book's preview on Google Books.



1940 - Another "Shop Around the Corner" photo. This one is on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection.



1942 - The theatre post-remodel. It's a photo on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection.



1948 - A look from above on the occasion of the Alex's grand re-opening after a spruce up to give it a bit of the Skouras look. It was also the theatre's 23rd Anniversary. The photo once appeared on the Alex Theatre Facebook page. It also appears in the 2006 Arcadia Publishing book "Glendale: 1940 - 2000" by Juliet M. Arroyo. It's available on Amazon. The page with the photo appears in the book's preview on Google Books.



1950 - The crowd is lined up for "Summer Stock." It's a photo appearing on the Alex Theatre website's History page.



1948 - The night of the reopening. Thanks to Bill Gabel for posting the photo on the Facebook page Vintage Neon Heaven. It has also been seen on the Vintage Los Angeles page from Brian Michael McCray.



1950s - A great 50s postcard view looking north on Brand Blvd. with the Alex on the right. It was a post of Viewliner on Photobucket but seems to have vanished from that platform. It also appears on Noirish Los Angeles contributor Beaudry's Noirish post #19327 and on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.



1955 - A look north on Brand. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for posting the photo on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.



1955 - A shot featuring two Pacific Electric Red Cars. Thanks to Richard Wojcik for sharing the photo from his collection on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles. He credits the image to Interurban Films.



1958 - Thanks to Jason Rosenthal for finding this Christmas view for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.


 
c.1961 - The Alex during the run of "Ben Hur." The 70mm roadshow engagement had been at the Egyptian. Thanks to Ginny Ulrich for posting the photo on the page for the non-public Facebook group Mid Century Modern Los Angeles.



c.1963 - A smoggy look north on Brand from Broadway. The Alex spire is down there on the right. Thanks to Alex Rojas for posting the photo on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.



late 1960s - Thanks to Richard Wojcik for this view up Brand toward the Alex. It was a post on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.



1969/70 - "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" at the Alex. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.


 
1973 - A look at the Alex running "Jeremiah Johnson." The photo is part of Beaudry's Noirish Los Angeles post #19325.



1979 - The opening day of "Star Trek." It's a photo from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.  It's also been seen on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.



1979 - A wider look taken during the "Star Trek" run. The photo by an unknown photographer is in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. Also see another take.



1980 - A "Blue Lagoon" shot taken by Meredith Jacobson Marciano. It was included in a post on the Facebook page Vintage Los Angeles.



1985 - A photo by William Reagh from the collection of the California State Library.



2007 - Looking north on Brand Blvd. Photo: Bill Counter



c.2009 - The top of the spire. Photo: Roadside Architecture



2009 - The top of the spire at night. Thanks to Corey Miller for his photo, one appearing in his "Theatre Signs" album on Flickr. 



2009 - A wonderful night view from Mark Peacock. See his Vintage Theatres & Drive-Ins photo set on Flickr for lots more great work.



2009 - A detail of the neon. Photo: Corey Miller - "Theatre Signs" on Flickr



2009 - A closer look at the "A." Photo: Corey Miller - "Theatre Signs" on Flickr



2012 - Thanks to Alex Rojas for this great photo, a post of his on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.



2012 - A marquee shot from Ken McIntyre on the Photos of Los Angeles page.



2012 - A photo by Scott Pitzer appearing on Photos of Los Angeles.



2013 - A look up the spire. Thanks to Alex Rojas for his photo, a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.



2014 - Thanks to Franck Bohbot for this photo, one appearing in the Los Angeles Series on his website. Also check out his Cinema Series for lovely views of many other California theatres.



2014 - A neon detail by Ewasko that appeared on the "Alex 90 Illuminate" crowdfunding appeal for tower restoration funds on the site Rockethub.  



2014 - The south side and rear of the building after the backstage renovation project. Thanks to Scott Hutchinson for his photo on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.



2015 - A view from the southeast. Thanks to Scott Hutchinson for his photo, one in a set of eighteen Glendale photos in a post on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles.  



2015 - A shot from across Brand. Thanks to Scott Hutchinson for the photo. 



2017 - Thanks to John Hough for this photo, one of many terrific views on the page about the Alex on OrnateTheatres.com, the site John does with Mark Mulhall.



2017 - Thanks to Jonathan Raines for this signage detail. It was a post on the LAHTF Facebook page.


The boxoffice area:


The look of the entrance area is a result of the S. Charles Lee remodel of 1940. Photo: Bill Counter - 2007



A closer look at the boxoffice. Thanks to Debra Jane for her many photos of the Alex on the California Movie Theatres page 5 of her site Roadside Architecture.



The side of the boxoffice. Photo: Roadside Architecture  



The boxoffice at night. Thanks to Bud Care for his 2010 photo on Flickr.


 
Another view of the illuminated surround. Thanks to Brian T. Meacham for his 2007 photo on Flickr



A terrazzo detail. Photo: Roadside Architecture



The north display cases. Photo: Roadside Architecture



A view to the south. The photo by Stephanie Klavens appeared with "America's Vanishing Historic Movie Theatres," a July 2014 Behold/Slate article by David Rosenberg that profiles various theatres
across the country. The Palace and the Alex are those featured from the Los Angeles area.


The forecourt: 


A 1926 photo taken in the forecourt. It appears on the Alex Theatre website's History page.  



A 20s look at the forecourt's north wall. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.



A perhaps 50s view showing the forecourt with an added canopy to the front doors. It's a photo appearing on the Alex Theatre website's History page.



A look back at the spire. Photo: Bill Counter - 2007



Another view to the street. Photo: John Hough - OrnateTheatres.com - 2017



An evening look out. The 2014 photo by Ewasko appeared on the "Alex 90 Illuminate" crowdfunding appeal for tower restoration funds on the site Rockethub.  



The vista toward the entrance at dusk. Photo: John Hough - OrnateTheatres.com - 2017. Thanks, John!



The forecourt from above. The photo appeared with "Glendale's Alex Theatre Is Ready For Its Closeup," a June 2014 story in Variety that discussed the $6 million backstage upgrades.



The theatre's entrance. Photo: Bill Counter - 2007



The pediment above the entrance. Photo: Alex Rojas - Photos of Los Angeles - 2013



The north ticket windows at the entrance. Photo: Bill Counter - 2007



The south ticket windows. Photo: Alex Rojas - Photos of Los Angeles - 2013

More information: See the Alex Cinema Treasures page for lots of history. The Cinema Tour page on the Alex has some photos of the exterior by Scott Neff. Many Alex Theatre photos can be seen on Flickr.

The L.A. Times went on a Vintage Movie Palaces tour with members of the League of Historic American Theatres in 2006. The gallery of twenty four photos by Annie Wells includes the Alex. Also see the Wikipedia article on the Alex Theatre.

The Alex Theatre pages: back to top - history + exterior views | interior views

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