Start your Los Angeles area historic theatre explorations by heading to one of these major sections:
| Downtown | Hollywood | Westside | Westwood/Brentwood | Santa Monica | [more] L.A. Movie Palaces |
To see what's recently been added to the mix visit the Theatres in Movies site and the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.

Downtown: theatre district overview

Downtown's Historic Movie Palaces and Legitimate Theatres

This page offers a survey of the surviving theatre buildings. For the 100+ that weren't so lucky and some newer ones see: Hill St. and farther west | Broadway theatres | Spring St. theatres | Main St. and farther east | downtown theatres by address | downtown theatres alphabetical list - with alternate names |

Downtown Los Angeles has one of the most amazing collection of historic movie and legitimate theatres in the country. These theatres constitute the largest theater district (and first to be so listed) on the National Register.


An early morning view of the Roxie, Cameo and Arcade theatres on the 500 block of South Broadway. Reuse of these three dormant theatres is essential to the health of Broadway as a theatre district. Photo: Bill Counter - 2007

It's a wonderfully diverse collection ranging from some of the finest Los Angeles movie palaces to cozy nickelodeons largely unchanged from 1910. The district is unique in both in terms of the number of surviving structures, their state of preservation, and the amazing variety of architectural styles.

As the money and business left downtown for Hollywood and other suburban areas in the 20s and 30s, there was little incentive to modernize the downtown theatres. Many of the auditoria are quite unchanged from when they opened.

Sure, we've got retail stores in the lobbies and auditoriums of several of the theatres but look beyond that and it's an architectural wonderland. I've wandered around and taken a few pictures and done a bit of research. I hope to point you in the direction of more investigations of Los Angeles theatres using the sources I've detailed in the listings. This page has a brief rundown of the surviving theatres in the Broadway corridor. The links with each theater's description will take you to more information.

Most of the links on this page will at the moment direct you to pages on the older "Historic L.A. Theatres - Downtown" website. Gradually all of that information is being moved here to this site. Have fun exploring!

-- Bill Counter


Arcade Theatre
534 S. Broadway | map |

This 1,400 seat house opened September 26, 1910 as the Pantages, a vaudeville house. The architects were Morgan & Walls. It closed as a film house in 1992. Photo by Hunter Kerhart.

The lobby is currently used for retail with the auditorium relatively intact. See the Arcade Theatre pages for lots more information and photos: Arcade main page | recent exterior views | auditorium | boxes | stage | theatre basementbooth | lobby | lobby basement | attic | roofoffice building | systems overview |


Belasco Theatre
1050 S. Hill St. | map |

This theatre, a design of Morgan, Walls & Clements, opened in 1926 as a home for legitimate drama. It was named for noted producer David Belasco. Seating capacity was originally 1,601.  It closed in 1952 and was later used as a church.

After decades of sporadic use, it got a multi-million dollar makeover in 2011. It's now alive again as a club and special events venue. For more information see the Belasco Theatre pages: main Belasco page | recent exterior views | lobby areas | dance studio | auditorium | stage | basement |


Cameo Theatre
528 S. Broadway | map |

What is now the Cameo opened in October 1910 as Clune's Broadway. It is a design by Alfred F. Rosenheim.  Originally with 900 seats, it ended up with about 600 in later years, all on a single level.

It closed as a film house in 1991. There's urrently retail in the lobby. The auditorium, now used for storage, has its original decor pretty much intact. For more information and photos see the page on the Cameo Theatre.


Globe Theatre
744 S. Broadway | map |

It opened in January 1913 as a the Morosco, a 1,300 seat legit house for producer Oliver Morosco.   Morgan, Walls & Morgan designed the Garland Bldg. that it's part of with Alfred Rosenheim doing the theatre itself. The theatre reopened in July 2015 after a major refurbishment by new operator Erik Chol. Work included reopening the Broadway entrance, used since 1987 for retail.

The Globe is now a multipurpose space for music, theatrical events and films. It had closed as a film theatre in 1986. The auditorium and stage areas had a later life as a nightclub (ending in 2011) using the alley as the entrance. For more information see our pages on the Globe: main Globe Theatre page | recent exterior views | recent interior views | earlier lobby area views | earlier auditorium views | attic | stage & stage basement | other basement areas | garland building |


Los Angeles Theatre
615 S. Broadway | map |

S. Charles Lee along with associate architect with S. Tilden Norton designed this French Baroque fantasia, considered by many to be the grandest movie palace on Broadway. The opening was January 30, 1931 with Charlie Chaplin and Albert Einstein in attendance for Chaplin's "City Lights." Current seating capacity is 1,937. Photo by Hunter Kerhart.

It's currently closed except for film shoots, tours and special events including occasional film screenings. For more information and hundreds of photos see the Los Angeles Theatre pages: main Los Angeles Theatre page | recent exterior views | entrance | grand lobby | inner lobby - main floor | lobby - 1st balcony level | basement - intermediate lounge | basement - main lounge | ladies room and nursery | men's room | auditorium | stage | boothretail and support areas |


Mayan Theatre
1038 S. Hill St. | map |

Morgan, Walls & Clements designed this 1927 vintage theatre, opened as a home for musical comedies. It dabbled with running movies occasionally as early as 1929. The seating capacity was originally 1,491.

It closed for movies in 1990 with its last years as a porno house. For over 25 years it has been thriving as a nightclub. For more information visit the Mayan Theatre pages: main Mayan page | recent exterior views | ticket lobby | main lobby | balcony lobby | auditorium | stage | basement |


Merced Theatre
420 N. Main St. | map |

The Merced opened January 30, 1871, the oldest surviving theatre building in Los Angeles. The building had shops on the ground floor, the theatre on the second and living space for the owners on the top floor. It was also known as the Teatro Merced and Mercedes Theatre. The 400 seat theatre was designed by Ezra F. Kysor.

It closed as a theatrical venue on New Year's Day 1877. The facade was restored in the 60s and interior work was done in the 80s. It sits just south of the Pico House, a historic hotel. Both are currently owned by the City of Los Angeles. After years of sitting vacant, the theatre is now the home for the city's public access television channel. For more information see the page on the Merced Theatre.


Million Dollar Theatre 
307 S. Broadway | map |

The theatre opened in 1918 as Grauman's Theatre, soon known as Grauman;s Million Dollar due to it's reported cost.  Albert C. Martin did the building with William Woollett as the theatre architect. The seating capacity is 2,345.

Currently it's closed except for occasional special events. It's awaiting a new operator to arrive on the scene.For more information see the pages on the Million Dollar Theatre: main Million Dollar page | recent exterior viewsboxoffice area | lobby areas | auditorium | booth | backstage | stage basement | orchestra pitauditorium & building basement |


Olympic Theatre
313 W. 8th St. | map |

It opened in 1927 as Bard's 8th St. Theatre. In the early 1930s it also had an additional entrance at 757 S. Broadway through the Merritt Bldg. The architect for the 600 seat house was Lewis A. Smith, doing a remodel of a 1917 building that was previously a restaurant. Charles O. Matcham did a remodel in 1942.

It closed as a theatre around 1997 and has been used storage and retail since then. In 2017 what was left of the theatre interior was gutted in a remodel for a store for the upscale clothing brand COS. For more information and photos see the Olympic Theatre pages: main Olympic page | recent exterior views | interior |


Orpheum Theatre
842 S. Broadway | map |

This Orpheum opened in 1926, a move down the street for the circuit from their previous home at what is now called the Palace Theatre. G. Albert Lansburgh  designed the 2,190 seat theatre.

It's alive and in great shape as the home of concerts, film shoots and occasional film screenings. For more information and many photos: main Orpheum page | recent exterior views | lobby | lounges | auditorium | booth | stage | basement | lofts |


Palace Theatre
630 S. Broadway | map |

It opened in 1911 as the Orpheum and became the Palace in 1926. The two balcony house is a design of G. Albert Lansburgh and Robert Brown Young. Originally with 1,956 seats, it currently  seats 1,068 on main floor and first balcony.

The theatre unveiled a $1 million restoration to celebrate its 100th birthday on June 26, 2011. The Palace is currently is being booked for theatrical productions, concerts, film shoots, and special events. For more information see the Palace Theatre pages: main Palace page | recent exterior views | ticket lobby | lobby areas | lounges | auditorium | booth | stage | stage basement | other basement areas | office building |


Regent Theatre
448 S. Main St. | map |

The current building is the second theatre on the site, opening as the National in February 1914. It replaced an earlier theatre, also called the National, that had opened in 1911. Both were operated by Bert Lustig. Later the current building was called Gore's National and by 1917 it was the Regent. Photo by Sean Ault.

The theatre reopened in November 2014 as a music venue and restaurant after a big remodel. It had closed in 2000 after decades as a grindhouse and (at the end) an adult venue. After that there was sporadic use as a concert venue. This is the last remaining historic movie theatre on Main St. For more information see the Regent Theatre page.


Rialto Theatre
812 S. Broadway | map |

It opened in 1917 and has also been known as Grauman's Rialto and Quinn's Rialto. Oliver P. Dennis designed the building, a rare early example of a stadium-style theatre layout. Originally it had 1,000 seats, down to 840 in later years. Photo by Hunter Kerhart.

It closed as a theatre in 1987 with the lobby then used for retail. The building reopened in December 2013 as an Urban Outfitters store with a wonderful restoration of the marquee. For more information and photos see the Rialto Theatre page.


Roxie Theatre
518 S. Broadway | map |

The Roxie opened on November 25, 1931. It was the last of the Broadway theaters to open -- and is the only one in the art deco style. The theatre is a design by John M. Cooper. Seating estimates vary from 1,335 to 1,637. 

It's been closed since 1989. Retail is currently in the lobby and the adjoining storefronts. For more information see the Roxie pages: main Roxie page | recent exterior views | interior views |


State Theatre 
703 S. Broadway | map |

It opened in November 1921 as Loew's State and for decades was a major showcase for MGM product. Until 1936 it also used a second entrance at 306 W. 7th St. It's a design by two San Francisco-based firms, Weeks & Day and Reid Brothers.  With 2,404 seats, it has the largest capacity on Broadway.  Photo by Hunter Kerhart.

It closed as a film house in 1997 and was then leased to a church group. That lease is up in October 2017. It's owned by the Delijani family's Broadway Theatre Group. No future plans for the theatre have yet been announced. For more information and many photos see the State Theatre pages: history | vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | ticket lobby | lobbies and lounges | vintage auditorium views | recent auditorium views | projection booth | backstage | basement cafeteria |


Tower Theatre
802 S. Broadway | map |

It opened in 1927, S. Charles Lee's first theatre design. It seats 906 on a lot only 50' wide. The interior is intact except for no seats on the main floor. They were removed for a film shoot decades ago and never replaced.

The theatre has been used in recent decades for many film shoots as well as occasional concerts and special events. See the Tower Theatre pages for lots of photos and details: main Tower page | recent exterior views | lobby  lounges and basement | auditorium | booth level | attic | organ chambers | roof | tower |


Trinity Auditorium 
855 S. Grand Ave. | map |

The building opened in 1914 and has been used as a hotel, office building and church. The 1,600 seat auditorium, while being used much for of its life as a church, has also been a theatre space. It's also been known as the Embassy Auditorium. The architects were Thornton Fitzhugh, Frank Krucker and Harry Deckbar.

The building was going to reopen in 2016 as a boutique hotel but owner the Chetrit Group had a falling out with several potential operators. Stay tuned. The hope is that the auditorium will be revived as a performance space. For more information see the page on the Trinity Auditorium.


United Artists /
Theatre at Ace  Hotel

933 S. Broadway | map |

It opened in 1927 as the only west coast design of noted Detroit-based theatre architect C. Howard Crane. The local firm of Walker & Eisen designed the office building portion of the project.  Originally with 2,214 seats, it's now minus a 300 seat mezzanine as a result of a 1955 TODD-AO remodel.

After closing as a film house the theatre was used as a church for decades. It was rescued and the renovated theatre reopened in early 2014 accompanied by an Ace Hotel in the former office spaces of the building. For more information and hundreds of photos see the United Artists Theatre pages: main United Artists page | recent exterior views | outer lobby | inner lobby | lounges | upper lobby areas | auditorium main floor | mezzanine | balcony | projection booths | stage and stage basement | other basement areasattic | office building/Ace Hotel | roof |


Variety Arts Theatre
940 S. Figueroa St. | map |

The theatre opened in 1924 as the Playhouse in the Friday Morning Club, a social and political group for women. The main theatre seats 1,100 and a smaller theatre seats 250. The building, designed by the firm of Allison and Allison, also has a ballroom, lounges and many other public spaces.

It became the Variety Arts in 1977 and later went through a succession of owners trying to figure out what to do with it. It was sold in 2012 to Robhana Management, Inc. In late 2015 a church group signed a long term lease on the building. They will move into the building in 2017, after some renovations. For more information see the Variety Arts Theatre pages: history + exterior views | interior views |


Warner Downtown Theatre
401 W. 7th St. | map |

The theatre opened in 1920 as the Pantages. It was a move by the vaudeville circuit from their earlier home on Broadway at a theatre now known as the Arcade. Seattle-based B. Marcus Priteca was the designer. The original capacity was listed as 2,200. Later it was down to 1,757.

It became the Warner in 1929. Later under Metropolitan Theatres management it was known as the Warrens. They closed  it in 1975. The main floor is in use as the Jewelry Mart. Most of the decor is intact. For more information see the Warner Downtown pages: | history | vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | interior views |  



The Metropolitan/Paramount Theatre, 6th and Hill
The most interesting of those that have vanished: Biltmore Theatre 520 W. 5th St. | Broadway Theatre 428 S. Broadway | Burbank Theatre 548 S. Main St. | California Theatre 810 S. Main St. | Criterion / Kinema Theatre 642 S. Grand Ave. | Follies / Belasco Theatre 337 S. Main St. | Grand Opera House 110 S. Main St. | Lyceum Theatre 227 S. Spring St. | Majestic Theatre 845 S. Broadway | Mason Theatre 127 S. Broadway | Metropolitan / Paramount Theatre 323 W. 6th St. | Philharmonic Auditorium 427 W. 5th St. | RKO Hillstreet Theatre 801 S. Hill St. | The postcard of the Metropolitan / Paramount comes from the Cear Del Valle Theatre Talks collection.

New theatres downtown running movies: Downtown Independent | Regal Cinemas @ L.A. Live | Alamo Drafthouse - it'll be in the Bloc at 7th & Flower, opening in early 2018.

Tours, events, and movies in historic theatres:  The Theatre Tours and Events listings here on this site will keep you posted about screenings and other events. The LA Historic Theatre Foundation, Cinespia and the L.A. Conservancy sometimes offer special screenings. The Grand Central Market occasionally co-sponsors films at their adjacent Million Dollar Theatre. The Conservancy's "Last Remaining Seats" series of films in historic theatres runs every June.

The Globe Theatre, 740 S. Broadway
Downtown theatres open for concerts and special events: Los Angeles Theatre | Million Dollar Theatre | Orpheum Theatre | Palace Theatre | United Artists / Theatre at Ace |

Historic theatres as music clubs: Belasco Theatre | Globe Theatre | Mayan Theatre | Regent Theatre | The photo of the Globe in action is by Wendell Benedetti.

Newer theatres for music and legit: L.A. Music Center - Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Disney Hall, Mark Taper Forum, Ahmanson Theatre, Redcat | L.A. Theatre Center - Several performance spaces in an old bank building on Spring St.

First film exhibition: Grand Opera House - 1896 | Tally's Phonograph & Vitascope Parlor - 1896 | Tally's Electric Theatre - 1902 - Considered to be the first purpose-built theatre for film exhibition in Los Angeles |

The Grand Opera House, 110 S. Main St.
Pre-1900 theatres: Teatro Alarcon (1848) - address not known | Union Theatre (1852) - address not known | Stearns's Hall (1858) 300 block N. Main St. | Temple Theatre (1859) 156 N. Spring St. | Merced Theatre (1871) 420 N. Main St. | Turnverein Hall (1872) 1345 S. Figueroa St. | Woods Opera House (1876) 410 N. Main St. | Child's / Grand Opera House (1884) 110 S. Main St. | Vienna Theatre (1886) 144 S. Spring St. | Mott's Hall (1886) 131 S. Main St. | Hazard's Pavilion (1887) W. 5th and Olive Sts. | Turnverein / Lyceum Hall (1887 ?) 229 S. Spring St. | Los Angeles / Orpheum / Lyceum Theatre (1888) 227 S. Spring St. | Simpson's Auditorium (1889) 730 S. Hope St. | Tivoli / Cineograph Theatre (1890) 114 Court St. | Burbank Theatre (1893) 548 S. Main St. | Chinese Theatre (1894) Marchessault St. near Alameda | Turn Halle / Regal Theatre (1894) 323 S. Main St. | Blanchard Music Hall (1899) 233 S. Broadway | The photo of the Grand Opera House on Main St. comes from the California State Library.

The historic survivors, indexed from north to south:
  Merced Theatre 420 N. Main St. | Million Dollar Theatre 307 S. Broadway | Regent Theatre 448 S. Main St. | Roxie Theatre 518 S. Broadway | Cameo Theatre 528 S. Broadway |  Arcade Theatre 534 S. Broadway | Los Angeles Theatre 615 S. Broadway | Palace Theatre 630 S. Broadway |  Warner Bros/Pantages 401 W. 7th St. @ Hill |  State Theatre 703 S. Broadway | Globe Theatre 744 S. Broadway | Olympic Theatre 313 W. 8th St. | Tower Theatre 802 S. Broadway | Rialto Theatre 812 S. Broadway | Orpheum Theatre 842 S. Broadway | Trinity Auditorium 855 S. Grand Ave. | United Artists Theatre / Ace Hotel 933 S. Broadway |  Variety Arts Theatre 940 S.Figueroa St. | Mayan Theatre 1038 S. Hill St. | Belasco Theatre 1050 S. Hill St. |


The DTLA survey pages: back to top - theatre district overview | Hill St. and farther west | Broadway theatres | Spring St. theatres | Main St and farther east | downtown theatres by address | downtown theatres alphabetical list - with alternate names

| Westside theatres | Hollywood | Westwood and Brentwood | Santa Monica and Venice | [more] Los Angeles Movie Palaces | Los Angeles theatres - the main alphabetical list | theatre history resources | film and theatre tech resourceswelcome and site navigation guide |

No comments:

Post a Comment