5604 N. Figueroa St. Los Angeles, CA 90042 | map |
The News: The theatre was sold in December 2022 to Cyrus Etemad, owner of other buildings nearby including the Highland Park Bowl. The tail end of the 99 year lease on the building expired in February but the operator continues to run the three-screen venue for the moment. Renovation plans have not been announced. The theatre's balcony and stage areas are currently unused. Since 1983 it's been a triplex using only the main floor.
Opened: March 5, 1925 with a personal appearance from Norma Shearer. The building was constructed for Clyde M. Church, a local banker. This stretch of Figueroa was originally called Pasadena Ave. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
Park was thriving with a vibrant theatrical scene that at one time or
another supported eight different theatres. The other nearby venues
included the Arroyo Theatre (1928-1957) at 3236 N. Figueroa, the Franklin Theatre (1936-1952) at 5502 N. Figueroa, the Highland Park Theatre (c.1913-1914) at 5630 N. Figueroa, the Sunbeam Theatre (1914-1925) at 5722 N. Figueroa, the Park Theatre (1936-1963) at 5825 N. Figueroa, the Dayton Theatre (c.1913-1929) at 509 W. Avenue 28, and the York Theatre (1923-present) at 4949 York Blvd.
Phone: 323-256-6383 Website: www.highlandtheatres.com
The operator of the theatre in 1925 was West Coast Theatres, the company
that became Fox West Coast in 1929. This opening night program is in
the collection of the family owning the building, who brought it to
display at the November 2015 Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation
tour. Thanks to Stephen Russo for the photo on the LAHTF Facebook page.
Architect: Lewis A. Smith, who also did the Rialto in South Pasadena, the Beverly in Beverly Hills, the Vista Theatre, as well as a number of other projects for West Coast Theatres. The Highland had a Moorish interior and much of the decor in the balcony area remains intact.
A ticket to a cartoon show in 1944. Buy a War Bond, get a ticket for
your kid. Thanks to John Conning for sharing this in a post on the
Theatre Architecture Facebook page.
The Highland was operated for years by Fox West Coast Theatres. After they gave it up it had a run as a porno theatre. Family films came back in 1975 under operator Arman Akarakian. In 1983 it was triplexed with 3 theatres on the main floor. The balcony is is walled off and unused, as is backstage. It was designated as a cultural historic monument by the City of Los Angeles in 1991.
The neighborhood went through some rough decades but it's now booming. The theatre has prospered as a triplex by running a friendly, efficient operation and offering bargain prices.
On the main floor:
A 2018 peek in one of the houses from Kari A. on Yelp.
A look toward the rear of one of the houses taken by Gina Christine during the 2012 NELA Art Short Film Series. Note some decorative plaster remaining on the balcony rail. The photo also appeared as part of "Northeast L.A. Filmmakers Take a Bow," a story on the blog The Eastsider.
Another busy night. Thanks to Sandi Hemmerlein for sharing this 2015 photo as well as the many others appearing here. Visit her Avoiding Regret photo essay "Highland Theatre's Hidden History" for many more shots plus tales of her adventures at the 2015 Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation "all-about" tour of the building.
Up to the balcony:
Pegasus in plaster, evidently with gold leaf underneath the paint we see. It's a Stephen Russo photo taken on the stairs up to the balcony that appeared on the LAHTF Facebook page.
A view toward the Armstrong - Power wire guide counterweight system. Thanks to Louis Villaescus for this and his other 2015 photos appearing here.
Several of the arbors. Photo: Louis Villaescus - 2015
More exterior views:
c.1952 - A Julius Shulman photo in the collection of the Getty Research Institute. Thanks to Bill Gabel for locating it for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
1962 - A photo from the Highland Park Independent Film Festival. It appeared with "Highland Theatre celebrates 90 years of movie-going in Highland Park," a 2015 article by Nathan Solis on the blog The Eastsider.
1984 - A June post-triplexing shot from American Classic Images. Note that interesting open-air pavilion on the 3rd floor, later removed.
2008 - A sidewall view. Photo: Ken McIntyre - Photos of Los Angeles
2011 - The sign on May 18, the evening of its relighting. Each of the 502 bulbs on the sign was sponsored by an individual as a community project. Thanks to Escott O. Norton of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation for his photo. It's one of nineteen in the "Highland Theatre Sign Lighting Ceremony" album on his Old Sign Art Facebook page.
2015 - A shot appearing on Yelp.
2018 - The sign got an upgrade. The story "Highland Theatre rooftop sign Goes LED" has additional photos. It's on page six of the April 2018 issue of LA Art News, available on Issuu. The publication also has a Facebook page with news about Highland Park art events. In this January 2018 shot by Tomoko it's (left to right) Edward de la Fuente, Carl Haney and John Peacock. Thanks to Los Angeles Magazine's Chris Nichols for spotting the story and sending along the photo.
The article notes: "To get onto the theatre roof, you need access a secret door to go through a small, dark crawl space, walk across a curved roof, then climb up on the sign, which dates back to the 1920s. The rooftop sign was rewired and relit in 2011 as part of Relighting the Historic Signs of Figueroa Street project—a community-funded effort that restored both the theatre sign and the rooftop Manning’s Coffee Store sign on Las Cazuelas’s roof. Since 2014, local area man Carl Haney and his crew of guys not afraid of heights have been replacing bulbs on the theatre sign. Traditionally incandescent, it was determined that LED was acceptable for historic signage by city preservation officials. There was enough money in the original fund to purchase the 504 LEDs (plus a bunch extra for future use). The bulb swap-outs started in January and are now complete."
The Highland has never been much of a movie star but we see the marquee as John C. Reilly does a nighttime drive-by in "Cyrus" (Fox Searchlight, 2010). The film, directed by Jay and Mark Duplass, also features Marissa Tomei and Jonah Hill. Thanks to Films In Films for the screenshot.
A later shot down the west side of the street from "Lights Out." A reflection of the theatre's marquee is seen in the lower left. It turns into a story about a supernatural being that threatens a family
when (are you ready?) the lights go out. The film, directed by David F.
Sandberg, also features Gabriel Bateman, Maria Bello, Andi Osho and
Alicia Vela-Bailey. The cinematography was by Marc Spicer. Thanks to Jonathan
Raines for spotting this one.
We spend a lot of time in Highland Park with Amanda Seyfried and Shirley MacLaine in Mark Pellington's "The Last Word" (Bleeker Street Media, 2017). The neighborhood is standing in for a California town called Bristol. Amanda's an obituary writer at the local paper, the Bristol Gazette, and Shirley hires her to write her obit -- only she realizes that she needs to change her life to get the writeup she wants. See the Theatres in Movies post for several more shots.
More Information: See the Cinema Treasures page on the Highland for lots of historic data and tales by former and current moviegoers. Also see the site's list of other theatre projects by L.A. Smith. The Cinema Tour page has several nice 2001 exterior photos by Bob Meza.
Check out Edward Rivera's delightful 5 minute slide show "20 Theatres of Northeast Los Angeles," a 2011 post on the blog Arroyo Seco Journal. Of the twenty theatres he has photos of, the Highland is the only one still operating. Also on the blog see two additional 2011 posts: "Relighting the Highland" and "Highland Theatre Sign Relighting."
Check out Sandi Hemmerlein's Avoiding Regret photo essay "Highland Theatre's Hidden History" for many photos and tales of her adventures at the 2015 LAHTF "all-about" tour of the building. She did a 2023 update to the article.
See the 2011 Highland Park Lights story about the project to "Help Re-Light the Historic Signs of Figueroa Street." Highland Park Patch also had a story about the relighting. Matt Lambros has a 1 minute + 2017 video tour of the balcony on his After the Final Curtain Facebook page.
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