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York / Bob Baker Marionette Theater

4949 York Blvd. Highland Park (Los Angeles), CA 90042 | map |


Opened: 1923 as the York Theatre with John Sugar Amusement Co. as the initial operator. It's on the north side of York Blvd. just west of Avenue 50. The balloons are for the theatre's day-long grand opening celebration November 29, 2019. Photo: Bill Counter

Architect: Richard R.F. Lehman. The building has 7,480 s.f. on the main floor and 2,000 s.f. on the booth level. The renovations for the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre are being designed by the firm of Escher GuneWardena.

Seating: 700 after a reseating in the 40s. Now about 125.

Website: www.bobbakermarionettetheater.com  | on Facebook

Tickets: https://tickets.vendini.com

A permit to add a marquee to the new theatre building was issued in August 1923. The theatre was mentioned in a November 1923 issue of the Eagle Rock Sentinel as hosting a meeting of the North Highland Park Women’s Club. The roof sign was added in 1925. It's listed at 4951 York Blvd. in the 1925 and 1929 city directories.

The interior got a moderne re-do sometime in the 30s that obliterated nearly all of the original decor. It's unknown when it closed as a a full time film house. In 1955 one booking was for free religious films.

The L.A. Times reports that the building was later used as a barber shop as well as an organ building and repair shop. In 1985 it became the Pyong Kang Korean church. The church was out in 2017 and the building was placed on the market in 2018. The Eastsider had an August 28, 2018 article by Barry Lank about the building. Thanks to Alex Rojas for spotting the story. The building sold in November 2018 for $2.5 million. The Loopnet listing for the property now notes that it's off market.

Status: In February 2019 it was announced that the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre signed a 10 year lease on the building. They had been in Echo Park for 55 years but were forced to leave in late 2018 due to redevelopment of the site, which had been sold by Bob Baker prior to his death. The group began holding their first public shows on June 8 with a preview performance of "Sketchbook Revue." A grand opening celebration is planned for November 2019.



The theatre got a digital theatre organ with a console that's a replica of one by Wurlitzer. It's a project of the Los Angeles Theatre Organ Society that was announced in a May 2019 post on the Bob Baker Facebook page. Photo: Winona Bechtle


Lobby areas: 


The lobby and former boxoffice area before renovations. Photo: Loopnet - 2018



Terrazzo revealed upon removal of the carpet. Photo: Bill Counter - March 2019



A peek out to the street. The poster case swings out to reveal electrical panels and a safe. The original entrance doors were in the openings below the exit signs. Photo: Loopnet - 2018



Marlo Meekins and Ceylon Baginski paint lobby doors. It's a photo by Winona Bechtle, the theatre's director of development, that appears with "Bob Baker Marionette Theatre is Already Hosting Shows...," a June 2019 Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols.



New tile in the lobby. Photo: Winona Bechtle - May 2019


 
The outer lobby after renovations. Photo: Bill Counter - November 2019



The inner lobby. Photo: Bill Counter - November 2019


The auditorium:


A look to the front when the building was still churched. Photo: Loopnet - 2018



A view after a bit of demolition work had been done. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019
 


A 20s end standard with a "YT" design. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019  



A closer look at the old screen. Photo: Bill Counter - March 2019



The rear of the auditorium before work began. Note the cry rooms on either side. The added room in the center was used as a choir rehearsal room. The window we see upstairs is in an added room out in front of the projection booth. Photo: Loopnet - 2018



Another view to the rear. Photo: Bill Counter - March 2019



Ceylon Baginski and Natalie Hadland repainting the corridor at the head of the house left aisle. There's a control booth on the left and a cry room on the right. It's a photo by Winona Bechtle that appears with "Bob Baker Marionette Theatre is Already Hosting Shows...," the June 2019 Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols.



Looking into the auditorium with the house ready for a preview performance. Thanks to Michelle Gerdes for her June 2019 photo. It's one in a set of 14 she posted on Facebook.



A closer view of the new false proscenium. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - June 2019



Performers on stage. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2019



A look across the house at the new side wall murals. Photo: Michelle Gerdes - 2019



The rear of the house during a preview performance. It's a photo by Peter Sattler that appears with Chris Nichols' June 2019 Los Angeles Magazine article.



A bit of the plasterwork surviving from the 1923 proscenium that's on display at the theatre. Thanks to Michelle Gerdes for her 2019 photo.



Looking in during the November 29, 2019 grand opening celebration. Photo: Bill Counter



The organ in use between shows. Photo: Bill Counter - November 2019


 
A view through to the original proscenium location. The woman in red is a marionette handler. Photo: Bill Counter - November 2019



A view off right. Photo: Bill Counter - November 2019


 
Part of the proscenium from the moderne re-do. Photo: Bill Counter - November 2019



The rear of the house. Photo: Bill Counter - November 2019


Upstairs: 


 A former office or apartment area at the front of the second floor. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019 



In the former projection booth. That doorway in the booth front wall was added by the church for access to an area they added out in front of the booth. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



Looking toward house left in the added area out in front of the projection booth. Note the booth ports on the left. The stairway we see in front of the booth was added by the church. The original access to the upstairs spaces was a door on the street just west of the theatre entrance. Photo: Loopnet - 2018 



A Corinthian column capitol from the 20s that survived the moderne remodel. Photo: Bill Counter - 2019



A view down from the area in front of the booth when the building was still churched. Photo: Loopnet - 2018



A view down during a preview performance. It's a photo by Peter Sattler that appears with "Bob Baker Marionette Theatre is Already Hosting Shows...," the June 2019 Los Angeles Magazine article by Chris Nichols.


More exterior views: 



In this 1950s view we're looking west on York and behind the streetcar we get a view of the theatre's roof sign. Thanks to Sean Ault for sharing the photo from his collection.



Presumably a 50s view, taken after the theatre's days as a regular film house were over. Thanks to Winona Bechtle of the Bob Baker organization for the photo. It's one they uncovered doing research on the building for their renovation project. Other than the obstructed view at the top of the page, this is the only vintage photo of the theatre to have surfaced.



Thanks to prolific photographer Waltarrr for this 2007 look at the York Theatre. That's Avenue 50 on the right. He notes that the corner building used to be the local roller rink.



A closer 2007 view by Waltarrr. Both of his photos used to be on Flickr but have vanished from that platform.



The facade painted church white in 2017. Photo: Google Maps



Cleaned up for sale in 2018. Photo: Loopnet



An early 2019 view. Photo: Bill Counter 



A rendering of the proposed 2019 facade upgrade from architects Frank Escher and Ravi GuneWardena.



The theatre after a facade repainting project. Photo: Winona Bechtle - Bob Baker Marionette Theater - May 2019



Signage installed and the new organ console on display out front. Photo: Winona Bechtle - Bob Baker Marionette Theater - May 2019 

More information: Don't miss "Bob Baker Marionette Theater Grand Opening...," Sandi Hemmerlein's December 2019 Avoiding Regret photo essay about the festivities. See the Cinema Treasures page on the York Theatre for a few comments about the building.

The Eastsider's February 2019 story "Puppets on York..." discussed the organization's move to the York Theatre. LAist also had a story about the new location: "Bob Baker Marionette Theater Moves to Highland Park."

Gwynned Stuart covered the story for Los Angeles Magazine with the February 2019 article "Bob Baker Marionette Theater is Moving into an Old Movie House in Highland Park." Chris Nichols June 2019 LA Magazine article "Bob Baker Marionette Theatre is Already Hosting Shows...," discussed the renovation project and features many photos.

Deborah Netburn's February 19, 2019 story for the L.A. Times, "L.A.'s historic Bob Baker Marionette Theater is moving to Highland Park" included photos from productions at the company's old location.

Thanks to Winona Bechtle, the company's Director of Development, for graciously allowing access to explore the theatre.

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3 comments:

  1. My father, Robert Eby of Artisan Organs, owned this theater for a time in the 1950s. It was a theater and classical electronic organ showroom. He also showed silent films from time to time with live organ accompaniment.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Cat, we're in the process of moving into the old Artisan Organ Hall and we've been looking for information on its time as the York Theater and Electric Organ Arts. Do you have any old photos or articles about the location?

    ReplyDelete