Downtown L.A. has one of the most amazing collections of historic movie and legitimate theatres in the country. This page offers a survey of the 20 survivors. For the 100+ that weren't so lucky, and some newer ones, see these pages: 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 |
The downtown Los Angeles theatres constitute the largest theater district (and first to be so listed) on the National Register. Scroll down the page for the basic facts on the surviving buildings or use these links to go directly to the main page for each: Arcade Theatre 534 S. Broadway | Belasco Theatre 1050 S. Hill St. | Cameo Theatre 528 S. Broadway | Globe Theatre 744 S. Broadway | Los Angeles Theatre 615 S. Broadway | Mayan Theatre 1038 S. Hill St. | Merced Theatre 420 N. Main St. | Million Dollar Theatre 307 S. Broadway | Olympic Theatre 313 W. 8th St. | Orpheum Theatre 842 S. Broadway | Palace Theatre 630 S. Broadway | Regent Theatre 448 S. Main St. | Rialto Theatre 812 S. Broadway | Roxie Theatre 518 S. Broadway | State Theatre 703 S. Broadway | Tower Theatre 802 S. Broadway | Trinity Auditorium 855 S. Grand Ave. | United Artists/Theatre at Ace Hotel 933 S. Broadway | Variety Arts Theatre 940 S. Figueroa St. | Warner Bros/Pantages 7th and Hill |
A look south on Broadway with the Globe, Tower, Rialto and Orpheum Theatres in view. Thanks to Glenn Primm for his January 2015 photo, one originally appearing on the Bringing Back Broadway Facebook page.
Downtown offers a wonderfully diverse collection ranging from some of the finest Los Angeles movie palaces to smaller theatres largely unchanged from 1910. The district is unique 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 auditoria 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 historic 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. Have fun exploring!
-- Bill Counter
534 S. Broadway | map |
This 1,400 seat theatre 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: history | vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | lobby areas | auditorium | stage | basement | office building |
1050 S. Hill St. | map |
This theatre, a design of Morgan, Walls & Clements, opened in 1926 as a home for legitimate drama. Seating capacity was originally 1,061. It closed in 1950 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: history | early exterior views | recent exterior views | ticket lobby | lobbies - lounges - ballroom | early auditorium views | recent auditorium views | backstage | basement support areas |
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 currently retail in the lobby. The auditorium, now used for storage, has its original decor pretty much intact. For more information and photos see the pages on the Cameo Theatre: history | exterior views | interior views
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: history | vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | lobby areas | recent auditorium views | earlier auditorium views | attic | backstage | basement | 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 visit the Los Angeles Theatre pages: history | vintage exterior views | 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 | vintage auditorium views | recent auditorium views | stage | booth | retail and support areas |
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 1989 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: history | vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | ticket lobby | main lobby | balcony lobby | vintage auditorium views | recent auditorium views | booth and attic | stage | basement |
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, it's planned that the building will be the home for the city's public access television channel. For more information see the page on the Merced Theatre.
307 S. Broadway | map |
The theatre opened February 1, 1918 as Grauman's Million Dollar due to its reported cost. Albert C. Martin designed the building with William Lee Woollett as the theatre architect. The seating capacity initially was 2,345.
Currently it's closed except for occasional special events but with a new tenant, CoBird, the expectation is that there will be more on the schedule soon. For more information see the pages on the Million Dollar Theatre: history | vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | ticket lobbies | lobbies and lounges | vintage auditorium views | recent auditorium views | booth | backstage | orchestra pit | basement areas |
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: history + exterior views | interior views |
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 theatre, currently with 1,976 seats.
It's alive and in great shape as the home of concerts, film shoots and occasional film screenings. For more information and many photos: history | vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | lobbies and lounges | vintage auditorium views | recent auditorium views | booth | backstage | lofts |
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 with Robert Brown Young and Son as associate architects. 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. Palace bookings include concerts, film shoots, occasional film screenings and special events. For more information see the Palace Theatre pages: history | vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | ticket lobby | lobbies and lounges | vintage auditorium views | recent auditorium views | booth | backstage | basement support areas | office building |
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 pages: history + exterior views | interior views
812 S. Broadway | map |
It opened in 1917 as Quinn's Rialto. Oliver P. Dennis designed the building, a rare early example of a stadium-style theatre layout. In 1919 Sid Grauman got it and after a remodel it was called Grauman's Rialto. Originally it had 1,000 seats, down to 840 in later years.
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. The 2014 photo is by Hunter Kerhart. For more information and photos see the Rialto Theatre pages: history + exterior views | interior views
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 1,600 seat theatre is a design by John M. Cooper. It was built with a stage that never got any use.
It's been closed since 1989. Retail is currently in the lobby and the adjoining storefronts. For more information see the Roxie pages: history + vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | interior views
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 2,119 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 for 20 years. It's now in the process of getting de-churched and coming back to life as a theatre. It's owned by the Delijani family's Broadway Theatre Group. 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 |
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 years for many film shoots as well as occasional concerts and special events. See the Tower Theatre pages for lots of photos and details: history | vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | lobby areas | lounges + basement support areas | vintage auditorium views | recent auditorium views | organ chambers | booth level | attic | roof | tower |
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 has also been known as the Embassy Auditorium. The architects were Thornton Fitzhugh, Frank Krucker and Harry Deckbar.
The building was going to reopen a number of times as various hotel operators came and went. The owners, Chetrit Group, now have a deal for a late 2018 opening under the management of Journal Hotels. 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: history | vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | outer lobby | inner lobby | lounges | upper lobby areas | earlier auditorium views | recent auditorium views | projection | stage and stage basement | other basement areas | attic | office building/hotel interiors | 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|
New theatres downtown running movies: Downtown Independent | Regal Cinemas @ L.A. Live | Alamo Drafthouse - it'll be in the Bloc at 7th & Flower, opening sometime in early 2019. Maybe.
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 L.A. 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|
Historic theatres as music venues: 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.|
Early use of neon: The prize (tentatively) goes to the Belasco, opening in November 1926 with a neon vertical. The readerboard under the marquee used milk glass letters. The Mayan opened in August 1927 with a neon roof sign. The marquee used channel letters with exposed incandescent bulbs. A readerboard under the marquee used milk glass letters. The Pantages at 7th & Hill (later renamed the Warner) got new verticals in late 1926 or early 1927. It's unknown if those used neon. One photo sort of looks like it had bulbs, the only other was taken from too far away.
The Orpheum opened in February 1926 with an incandescent roof sign. The El Capitan opened May 1926 with an incandescent vertical. There was no neon on the Westlake roof sign when it opened in September 1926. The Music Box sign was all bulbs for its October 1926 opening. Loew's State didn't get around to redoing its verticals with neon until 1929 (1928?) and then was also using changeable neon letters on a readerboard above the marquee.
The National Register district: The National Park Service website has a short page on the Broadway Theater and Commercial District. It became part of the National Register in 1979. Their website has a 32 page pdf of the 1978 application giving a brief summary of each of the included buildings of the district's original boundaries from 3rd St. to 9th St. There's also a 42 page photo gallery.
The boundaries were expanded in 2002 to add the 200 and 900 blocks. There's a 24 page 2001 application and a 30 page photo gallery. Wikipedia also has an article about the district. The Los Angeles Public Library's collection includes a pdf of a 19 page L.A. Conservancy "Broadway Historic Theater District" pamphlet from 1992.
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 |
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