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Tower Theatre: history

802 S. Broadway Los Angeles, CA 90014 | map |

More Tower Theatre pages: earlier exterior views | recent exterior views | lobby areas | lounges + basement support areas | earlier auditorium views | recent auditorium views | organ chambers | booth level | attic | roof | tower |

Opened: October 12, 1927 with "The Gingham Girl" (a silent) as the initial attraction. The feature was accompanied by Stephen Boisclair on the organ. Vitaphone shorts were also on the bill. An article in the October 22, 1927 issue of Exhibitors Herald noted that J. Nichelstepper was the initial manager and the "policy is straight pictures with no presentation acts."

It's now an Apple store. They opened on June 24, 2021 after giving the building a multi-million dollar renovation. See the lobby, lounge and auditorium pages for many post-renovation photos. Apple has a long-term lease. The building is owned by the Delijani family's Broadway Theatre Group. The firm also has the Los Angeles, Palace and State theatres. Thanks to Brady Hunsberger for his June 2021 photo, one that appeared on the DTLA Development Facebook page.

Apple websites:

Seating: 906. Or it was. The main floor seats were removed decades ago for a film shoot. The balcony seats were removed as part of the Apple conversion to retail.

Architect: S. Charles Lee designed the Tower Theatre for H.L. Gumbiner, who would four years later hire him to do the much more opulent Los Angeles Theatre. The stained glass above the entrance is dedicated to the art of movie making with, among other items, a roll of film unspooling. The theatre was a blend of French baroque, Moorish and Spanish design elements. Construction cost was reported as $500,000 in the Motion Picture News. Gumbiner was quoted in an October 9, 1927 L.A. Times article saying he spent about $750,000 on the building.

Lee's design sported many up-to-date features. The theatre opened with a Carrier air conditioning system, an electric seat indicator panel, neon cove lighting, and the organ console on a hydraulic lift. The October 9, 1927 L.A. Times reported that the theatre had "Kiddie cars and sand piles for the children in the 'playground room,' where the faces of Mother Goose, Bo-Peep and the Three Bears have been stenciled on the light-tinted walls." At the top of the balcony house left was a cry room, which they called a 'mother's room,' a new feature for L.A. theatres. The Times noted in an opening day article that in the plush basement lounge, the sound of the Wurlitzer could be heard by means of a "special radio broadcasting device." Up behind the booth was a private screening room for the management to preview films.

Lee announced the project with this article in the September 12, 1926 issue of the L.A. Times.  Construction didn't quite happen in January as Lee anticipated but he did get started in March. Thanks to Mike Hume for locating this. Visit the terrific page about the theatre on his Historic Theatre Photography site.

A photo of the young architect from a December 28, 1929 Motion Picture News article by S. Charles Lee that includes photos and a discussion of the Tower's design. The article on the Internet Archive: "Stretching The Building Fund and the Plot Area."

A drawing from the S. Charles Lee office of his vision of the palatial lobby. It's on Calisphere from the UCLA S. Charles Lee Papers Collection. Additional sketches and plans from the UCLA collection include: color exterior rendering | interior section - pencil drawing | interior section sketch - wall treatment | floor plans | additional  S. Charles Lee items on Calisphere |

The previous building on the site, the Garrick Theatre, had been acquired by Gumbiner in 1921. He had plans to put a 12 story office building on the site but that didn't happen. He operated the Garrick until 1926 when plans were hatched for the Tower. One of Lee's early sketches showed the new theatre with signage calling it the Garrick. Gumbiner was also involved in the operation of the Cameo. We see that house advertised on the Tower's construction fence. Prior to coming to Los Angeles, Gumbiner had operated a circuit of fourteen small theatres in Chicago. 


A main floor plan dated October 21, 1926 from the UCLA collection. 

A basement plan dated October 21, 1926 from the UCLA collection. Click on these for larger views.

Thanks to Kelsey Araghi and her group at UCLA for locating these plans. The research was for Anthony Caldwell's Spring 2023 Digital Reconstructions on Broadway class. The images appear courtesy of the UC Regents and Special Collections, UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library.

Construction began March 6, 1927. Lee was 27 and this was his first theatre design. The lot is only 50 feet wide so he made it eye catching with a terracotta clock tower as well as elaborate detailing on both the Broadway and 8th Street sides of the building. His compact floor plan got almost 1,000 seats plus retail store space onto a lot that had previously held the 650 seat Garrick. The Tower was designed just for movies -- the "stage" is only 7 feet deep and originally the screen was intended to be up against the back wall.

A section of the building from Lee's plans. Thanks to Mike Hume for locating it.

The balcony and main floor plans for the Tower from the March 3, 1928 issue of Motion Picture News. The theatre was lushly covered in the issue with a photo spread plus an article: "A Theatre Built on a Lot 50 x 150 Feet." 

See interactive versions of blueprints for the Tower and Los Angeles theatres on a UCLA webpage produced by Yun-Pu Yang and Brandon Keith, students of Anthony Caldwell. Also see a page on the site discussing early versions of the plans
Organ: It was a 2 manual 10 rank Wurlitzer, style 216, opus 1620. The October 22, 1927 Exhibitors Herald reported that the cost was $60,000. The console's lift was located on the stage centerline. In 1930 the instrument was removed and reinstalled at the Los Angeles Theatre for that theatre's January 1931 opening. The site offers some information. See "The Rare Breed," a 1991 Theatre Organ article by Tom Delay about the 216s. It's in PDF format.
A view of a typical 216 console from the site's 216 page. They comment: "The Style 216 Mighty WurliTzer had ten ranks of pipes in two chambers, with traps and tuned percussions on the toy counter... [It] was considered to be the 'Hot Rod' of two-manual WurliTzers. It had nearly 70 stop tabs, two swell shoes, a crescendo pedal, and a host of thumb pistons and toe studs. It also had a versatile moving stop combination action with two piano pedals for Sfrazondo and Sostenuto." 

A Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. plan of the chambers dated December 29, 1926 and updated February 15, 1927. Thanks to Kelsey Araghi and her group at UCLA for locating this as well as Wurlitzer plans of the blower and elevator rooms (with the same dates) and a February 16, 1927 drawing of the console and elevator platform. The research was for Anthony Caldwell's Spring 2023 Digital Reconstructions on Broadway class. The images appear courtesy of the UC Regents and Special Collections, UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library.
The organ chambers are located up high behind the grillework on either side of the sounding board in front of the proscenium. That passage between them that we see on the plan has a door at the center that opens for a view down to the alley below. Perhaps the door was added as a plan to offer an access preferred by the architect to the one the company noted on the plan: "Organ to be installed thru shutter openings" -- meaning before the decorative proscenium was finished. 

The Tower's opening:

The installation of Vitaphone equipment for the theatre was announced in this October 4, 1927 story appearing in the L.A. Times. The installation mentioned at the Egyptian Theatre was for the 1926 features "Don Juan" and "The Better Ole."

A drawing by A. L. Ewing that appeared in the October 9, 1927 issue of the L.A. Times with these comments: 

"Tower Theatre Designed to Typify Cinema Ideals -- With its decorative motif carried out in the spirit of the French Renaissance, the new Tower Theater...will be one of the loveliest of the small picture houses, it is said. Although it lifts its spire in the heart of the business section, Eighth and Broadway, it has a seating capacity of less than 1000 and will cater to those who like their movies straight, minus all vaudevillian extras.."

A separate story in the same issue with the headline "New Broadway Theater is For Motion Pictures Only" commented: 

"Motion picture theaters should be motion picture theaters. Not vaudeville houses. Nor yet palatial palaces with great yawning orchestra pits and wide, spacious auditoriums containing hundreds upon hundreds of seats to be filled only by 'colossal' entertainment programs. They should be just what the name 'motion-picture theater' signifies, where movie fans can go to see their favorite pictures without being subjected to added flourishes in the way of vaudeville singing, dancing, or long concert programs..." 

The article went on to quote Gumbiner:

"For pictures and people who like pictures. I think there is room in Los Angeles for a small theater which shows good films and has no vaudeville. People don't go to the movies to see vaudeville."

The opening day ad in the October 12, 1927 edition of the Times. One of the headings on their opening day story was "New Theatre Unique and Beautiful." Another advised that this building was the most expensive theatre of its size in the country. 


A Vitaphone matchbook. Thanks to Cochise Miller for sharing this as well as another Vitaphone matchbook in a post on the Vitaphone Project Facebook page. 

The ad from the Carrier Company touting the "Manufactured Weather." It appeared, with many ads of congratulation, in the October 12 issue of the Times. Thanks to Mike Hume for locating some of the paper's coverage. See the terrific page about the Tower on his Historic Theatre Photography site.

The full page of congratulatory ads in the October 12 issue of the Times. Thanks to Don Goldberg for the image. 

"Side wall elevation of Tower Theatre showing some of the elaborate painted mural designs." It's an ad for Heinsbergen Decorating Studios. Thanks to Scott Collette for the nudge toward the January 1928 issue of Architectural Digest, where this ad appeared on page 90. Scott curates the Facebook page Forgotten Los Angeles

Sound at the Tower: There had been several small downtown theatres (Royal, Horn's Big Show) running synchronized sound films using the pneumatically amplified Gaumont Chronophone process in 1908 and 1909. But interest soon faded and there hadn't been any sound film in town after that until the Egyptian was wired for Vitaphone for the tail end of the run of "Don Juan" in 1926. It was also used for "The Better Ole," the theatre's next film. Both features were basically silents with added music and effects tracks but there were also Vitaphone shorts on both programs that synchronized the sound with people speaking and singing. Evidently the equipment wasn't used at the Egyptian after those two engagements.

The Tower was the first theatre downtown wired for Vitaphone and regularly ran short subjects in the process. And it also gets the prize as the first L.A. area theatre that opened running sound film on its initial bill. A Vitaphone short of Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians was included on the opening program. The original Vitaphone horn at the Tower was too deep for the space available behind the screen so a hole was poked into the back wall and the rear of the horn allowed to protrude into an enclosure out into the alley. With later shallower equipment, the hole was patched but the outline can still be seen today. That's the story anyway.

The Tower's initial Western Electric equipment package included turntables for Vitaphone sound-on-disc and within a couple weeks was upgraded for Movietone sound-on-film as well. An article located by Jack Tillmany that was on page 26 of the October 24, 1927 issue of the L.A. Times:

"Movietone Installed By Tower - Theater Arranges with Fox Officials for Early Presentations. The Fox-Case Movietone will shortly be seen at the Tower Theater. This creation will be presented at the Tower by William Fox November 2. The premiere of the Movietone for the first time west of New York has been made possible through a deal between H.L. Gumbiner, owner of the Tower Theater, and Charles Michelstetter, general manager of the showhouse, with Winfield Sheehan and Jack Sullivan of the William Fox Corporation.

"With the installation of the apparatus, it will be possible for theatregoers to hear and see such notables as President Coolidge, Col. Charles Lindbergh, Mussolini, and many others. The Movietone will be installed at the Roxy Theater in New York about the same time that it will be heard at the Tower Theater in Los Angeles. The premiere will take place with 'What Price Glory?' at the Tower."

"What Price Glory" was a 1926 release that had played its initial roadshow run at the Carthay Circle as a silent film. It was later available with a Movietone score and sound effects track on the film. The Tower's upcoming Movietone debut even made George Shaffer's October 26 "Hollywood News" column in the New York Daily News. Thanks to Mike Hume for locating the item:

As in the L.A. Times article, it was overlooked that Movietone had already been installed at the Roxy. The fact that it had actually had its New York debut there was noted in an article on page 53 of the May 8, 1927 L.A. Times. But that was just for newsreels, not a feature film. Although sync sound was used on the newsreels, as late as October 1927 they hadn't figured out how they would use the technology for a feature. An October 9 article in the L.A. Times noted that they didn't plan on having the actors speak. They envisioned the continued use of intertitles with an actor on the sountrack reading the titles.  
The Movietone soundheads at the Tower were Western Electric's D-spec. See the Warner Hollywood booth page for more about these soundheads as well as other information about early Western Electric installations. There are also shots of early sound equipment on the Carthay Circle projection page and the page about Inglewood's Granada Theatre

"Meet Me In The Tower Lounge." It's an ad for the November 2, 1927 opening day of "What Price Glory." Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating it for a Facebook post on Ken's Movie Page. An article appearing the same day in the Los Angeles Record noted: 

"Warner Brothers Vitaphone also will be featured with a new change of program each week at the Tower. It will be the only theater in the country that will present the Movietone and Vitaphone with each performance."

The Movietone debut at the Tower was discussed in a story datelined November 8 that appeared in the November 12, 1927 issue of Exhibitors Herald:

"Movietone Proves Hit on Coast - Fox Talking Film Device Makes Bow at Tower - Captures Los Angeles While Being Used at Third Showing of 'What Price Glory.' William Fox's Movietone has taken the West by storm. The new talking picture device was given its first Los Angeles presentation November 2, at the new Tower theatre and proved an instant hit. This, in spite of the fact that it is used in connection with 'What Price Glory,' which is being shown for the third time in downtown theatres.

"Gives Complete Orchestral Accompaniment. The Movietone is used for Fox newsreels and as a complete orchestral accompaniment to the big spectacle. The synchronization of sound and sight gives new life to the newsreel and helps immeasurably in putting over the spirit of the great war play. In the newsreel the speeches of Pershing and Marshal Foch are heard at the A. E. F. convention in Paris, as well as the cheers of the audience, music and applause.

"Glen Alvine is here from New York doing the special work on Movietone during its Los Angeles engagement and is working on a campaign for other Movietone equipped theatres. Winfield Sheehan states that within the next two years 30,000 theatres throughout the world will be equipped with Movietone. Fox News is assembling a library of Movietone subjects. So successful has it proved at the Tower theatre, of which H. L. Gumbiner is owner, that the theatre has raised admission prices from 25 and 35 cents to 35 and 50 cents for all performances." 

Thanks to Mike Hume for finding the article on Internet Archive. The L.A. Times critic Edwin Schallert noted in "Talking Picture Developments," a November 13 article, that business at the Tower was booming for "What Price Glory" and that the Movietone shorts also on the bill were getting favorable audience response. 

A Mott Studios photo with "What Price Glory" on the marquee was featured in this ad in the January 1928 issue of Architectural Digest for N. Clark & Sons, the company that produced the terracotta for the project. Thanks to Scott Collette for locating the issue.

On the Vitaphone front, a November 10 L.A. Times article announced that West Coast Theatres and Warners had executed a contract for the equipment to be installed in the Criterion Theatre on Grand as well as in two suburban houses, the Uptown and the Figueroa. Edwin Schallert commented in his November 13 piece that a fourth theatre, the Warner Hollywood, "will, when completed, also use the innovation to provide supplementary entertainment."

The Tower allegedly hosted a sneak preview of Warner's "The Jazz Singer" prior to its first run engagement at the Criterion, opening there December 28. No documentation of a preview at the Tower has yet surfaced. A November 8, 1927 Times story about the Westlake Theatre asserted that they had also recently previewed the film, but that presumably was a silent version. Or an error in the article. The film had debuted in New York on October 6.
And what was at the Tower while "The Jazz Singer" was in its first week at the Criterion? Well, they weren't telling. Why put your film titles in the ad? It's much more interesting to let your potential customers guess. This was the Tower's ad in the Times for December 29, 1927. It was a similar ad on the 28th. By the 30th the were offering more clues: "Vitaphone Acts - In a Blacksmith Shop - Aunt Jemima - Ian Kremer - Tuning In - Serpentine Dance - Fox Weekly - Movietone and other novelties." Their booking ending on the 27th was the silent film "Pajamas" along with Movietone shorts. They were biding their time until a January 4 booking of John Gilbert in "St. Elmo."

The Tower got "The Jazz Singer" as a second run engagement beginning April 30, 1928. This was the  Monday, April 30 Times ad. In the Sunday ad it said "Wednesday." That was also noted in an editorial mention. Evidently they couldn't wait so moved it up a couple of days.  

An ad for a Vitaphone feature "The Lion And The Mouse" at the Tower in July 1928. They're advertising it as the first Vitaphone talking feature, meaning not just isolated scenes as in "The Jazz Singer." Thanks to Ken McIntyre for posting the ad on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

Initially the Tower was operated by Gumbiner as an independent. By 1935, Metropolitan Theatres was involved in the operation as Gumbiner was having a tough go at it. Earlier, he had lost control of the Los Angeles Theatre to Fox. In 1946 Metropolitan subleased the building and it was renamed the Music Hall. It was frequently booked as a group with the Music Hall in Beverly Hills, the Music Hall in Hollywood (later known as the Holly Theatre), and the Hawaii Theatre on Hollywood Blvd., then called the Hawaii Music Hall.

In 1950 it was renamed the Newsreel Theatre after that policy was dropped at the Globe. As the Newsreel, the theatre sported a TV lounge in the basement and a news tickertape on the upper level of the lobby. At some point the theatre got a larger screen out in front of the proscenium, adding draperies to make the arch at the front of the sounding board the new proscenium. Front exits under the side boxes were abandoned and new ones added deeper into the auditorium.

The Tower name was restored to the building after a remodeling in 1965 followed a renewed interest in the business by a daughter, Villis Gumbiner Randall -- as well as the lapsing of the long term lease held by Metropolitan Theatres.
Mrs. Randall also operated another property the family had owned since the 20s, the Cameo Theatre. She died in 2003. The obituary the L.A. Times ran on March 17 is reproduced on the site Legacy.

The Tower remodel included a refurbished marquee and vertical sign, removal of auditorium murals, new seats, paint, carpets and sound system. The original center boxoffice was removed at this time and replaced with one at the south side of the new entrance doors.

The October 13, 1965 re-opening ad. Thanks to Woody Wise for posting it on the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page. And thanks to Mike Hume for researching the date. Check out Woody's Facebook page: Brotherhood of the Popcorn. 

After a period of lackluster business the venue was turned over to Pacific Theatres to operate, then later (again) by Metropolitan Theatres after Pacific got rid of their downtown holdings.

The top of the tower was damaged in the February 9, 1971 Sylmar earthquake. Mike Hume spotted a February 10 L.A. Times article noting "Older Buildings Scatter Debris on Sidewalks." He also found a building permit dated May 6, 1971 to "Remove cast stone on tower roof and reroof with compo (composition roofing)." Thanks, Mike.  A new cap on the tower, based on the original design, was installed as part of the Apple renovation in August 2020.

Closing as a film house and later use: The Tower closed as a film theatre in 1988 and saw only very sporadic use after that. The seats on the main floor were removed and a terraced floor was installed for the filming of "Mambo Kings" in 1991. The original stage was still hiding under the extension added on top and in front of it for the film. It had a fling as a church in 2002 and 2003. After the church left there was talk of the building being used for a swap meet type of operation but that plan never materialized. The only use until late 2017 was for film shoots and the occasional concert or special event.  

The Tower has been owned by the Delijani family since 2007 when Michael Delijani acquired the building and the land under it. The building is part of the family's operating entity Broadway Theatre Group with Shahram Delijani now heading the firm. In 2007 the exterior received a cleaning (as did the Palace) and additional painting and storefront improvements at the time also enhanced the look of the building. Periodically the Delijanis had announced plans to revitalize all four of their theatres. In late 2009 they applied for a liquor license. In 2010 plans were before the city zoning administrators for reopening the Tower with a 7,429 sf basement bar/lounge, a 6,000 sf restaurant on the main floor and an 827 sf outdoor patio but the plans did not proceed at that time.  

A 2012 Los Angeles Downtown News story by Richard Guzman profiled Shahram Delijani and his family's plans to revive the building. In 2013 they secured liquor licenses and use permits that, for operational purposes, designated the four buildings as a single complex. Nothing was pursued in terms of increased use for the buildings. The licenses were later surrendered as one of the conditions was that kitchens were to be constructed in each of the buildings, something that didn't transpire.

The final show: The last concert at the theatre was an October 20 and 21, 2017 booking of Cloak and Dagger.  

Status: The building is under a long term lease to Apple and was renovated in a multi-million dollar project that ran from 2018 to 2021. The reopening was June 24, 2021.

The Apple project:

A rendering from Apple that appeared with an August 2, 2018 L.A. Times article. They added a logo atop the vertical sign but kept its mid-60s lettering style. Other exterior work included terracotta restoration, rebuilding the marquee, restoring the clock, replacing the missing top of the tower and opening up the storefronts along 8th St. for direct entrance to the auditorium. 

Rumors that Apple was interested in the building had been swirling around since 2015. L.A. Business Journal's May 2016 article "Apple Nabs Retail Space in Downtown Los Angeles" noted that the firm was "in the process of securing a lease." Thanks to Torr Leonard for spotting the story. Curbed L.A.'s Bianca Barragan followed with "Apple Store Opening in Downtown L.A.'s Historic Tower Theatre."

Brigham Yen reported in a September 2017 post "OMG: Apple Store 'Done Deal'..." that a lease had been signed. The post was shared on the Facebook page DTLA Development with many, many comments resulting. One idea later floated on the DTLA page was that it was all a hoax to help jack up rents in the area. A byproduct of the uncertainty was that leasing activity in the immediate area had plummeted as landlords knew they would be able to jack up rates if Apple came downtown. 

Brigham's June 2018 story "Apple Begins Takeover of Tower Theater...," noted that the retail tenants in the building had been given notice to vacate. "Apple Opening a store in Downtown's old Tower Theatre, city permits confirm," Bianca Barragan's July 18, 2018 story for Curbed L.A., discussed the plans that had been filed.   

The project was first discussed publicly at the August 2, 2018 meeting of the Cultural Heritage Commission. There had earlier been private meetings with the architects and the Commission as well as with the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation and the L.A. Conservancy to gain approval. The preliminary presentation by James McGrath of the San Francisco office of Foster + Partners, the project architect, stressed that the focus would be on restoration of some historic elements while adapting for the new use. 

The work paused in late 2018, waiting for additional permits. Matt Construction was replaced in 2019 by Shawmut Woodworking and Supply, Inc. Final permits for the project were issued in June 2019.


A rendering from Apple. The interior work included replacing the auditorium murals with new designs, restoring decorative plasterwork and repainting in a lighter color scheme of off-white with gold and bronze accents. The entire balcony was removed for seismic retrofit work and then replaced with one having a different terracing configuration. Several rows of new seats were installed at the front and their "Genius Bar" went in at the top of the balcony.

For a nice rundown of the history of the project, as well as many photos, see "Downtown L.A.’s First Talkie Theater Becomes a Spectacular Apple Store, and Preservationists Are Talking It Up," Chris Willman's June 26, 2021 article for Variety. 

Gruen Associates was the local associate architect with Deborah Gerod leading the project. Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger were the structural engineers. Other firms on the team included EverGreene Architectural Arts (which has a nice page about their work), Historic Resources Group and TheatreDNA. Matt Construction was the initial general contractor. The reopening was June 24, 2021.

The Tower in the Movies:

Harold Lloyd stars in "Feet First" (Paramount, 1930). Here, part of an elaborate sequence that started on Broadway, we're looking west on 8th St. with the Tower up the street at Broadway and 8th. Note the frames for signage (here seen empty) along the top of the 8th St. facade.

His high altitude building-climbing sequence in "Feet First" starts on Broadway at the Triangle Building just south of Olympic and we get views of the United Artists. Somehow we jump a block north and then, supposedly on the same building, we can see the Majestic and the 800 block instead. In these two views, still part of the same sequence, we've magically shifted a few blocks to 8th & Spring.

Another "Feet First" shot looking west on 8th from down a bit lower. The Tower Theatre is out the window with the Hamburger / May Co. Building beyond. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots from the film.

The best part of "Down To Earth" (Columbia, 1947) is not the film itself but the 11 minutes of background footage Columbia shot in 1946 for process shots. Some of it is seen out the back window of a taxi Rita Hayworth rides in. This shot gives us a look at the Tower (then known as the Music Hall) and, farther down Broadway, the Rialto.

The footage on Internet Archive, labeled "Downtown Los Angeles Streets - 1946," is a great tour giving us glimpses of lots of theatres and vanished stores. We get night vistas of 7th and 8th streets, including looks at the RKO Hillstreet and Olympic, as well as a view of all the theatres on the east side of Broadway. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post about the film for a few more theatre shots from the footage.

Rudolph Maté's "D.O.A." (Cardinal Pictures/United Artists, 1950) starts in San Francisco but about an hour in we come to L.A. and get a ride down Broadway with views of the Tower, Orpheum and Million Dollar. Edmond O'Brien is trying to track down the guy who gave him a lethal dose of radium. The entire film can be seen on Internet Archive.

A moment later in "D.O.A." we get this slightly better view of the theatre's original center boxoffice. The Tower, at this point known as the Music Hall, is running "Black Magic" with Orson Welles. Gregory Ratoff directed with, evidently, lots of assistance by the uncredited Welles.

Note the "Welcome Orpheum Vaudeville" on the marquee. It was a plug for the return of vaudeville in 1949 to the Orpheum Theatre down the block. This "D.O.A." footage also appears as part of the title sequence in Thom Andersen's "Los Angeles Plays Itself." See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for the shots of the Orpheum and Million Dollar we get in the film.

About an hour into "High School Hellcats" (American International, 1958) we get a process shot for a drive north on Broadway with Joyce (Yvonne Lime) and her boyfriend Mike (Brett Halsey). In the distance of this frame we get a glimpse of the Tower as the Music Hall.

On the far left we get the Globe with the United Artists way down on the right -- we started our drive down near Olympic. In "Hellcats" we're headed for the Carmel/Paris Theatre on Santa Monica Blvd. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post about the film for more shots.

In Boris Sagal's "The Omega Man" (Warner Bros., 1971) we see Charlton Heston cruising west on 8th St. past the Tower Theatre in a traffic-free Los Angeles.  

A great look down on the Tower in "The Omega Man" -- before the top of the clock tower was removed. We also spend some time at the Olympic Theatre -- running "Woodstock" of all things. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for those shots.

The Tower, Rialto and Orpheum appear briefly in Sidney Poitier's "Let's Do It Again" (Warner Bros./First Artists, 1975) although we're supposedly cruising around New Orleans.


We're supposed to be in Midtown Manhattan but the bus to take ladies back to suburbia after a Broadway matinee is parked along the 8th St. side of the theatre in "Hustling" (Lillian Gallo/Filmways, 1975). The driver has just been hit by a hooker. It's the story of journalist Lee Remick trying to figure out who benefits financially from prostitution. Also starring are Jill Clayburgh, Alex Rocco, Burt Young and Paul Benedict. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots from the scene at the Tower as well as views of the Los Angeles, State and Palace theaters. 

A bit of the facade and marquee is all we get of the Tower in this shot from the Peter Hyams film "Peeper" (Fox, 1976) as Natalie Wood and a kidnapper head north on Broadway to go inside the Globe Theatre. The film also stars Michael Caine.

A "Peeper" shot at the Globe with the Tower's vertical in the distance. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for many shots of the Globe's interior.

A fine view north on Broadway to the Rialto, Tower and Globe from "The Choirboys" (Universal, 1977), Robert Aldrich's drama about after-hours police debauchery. The film is based on the novel by Joseph Wambaugh and stars Charles Durning, Lou Gossett Jr., Perry King, Clyde Kusatsu, Tim McIntire, Randy Quaid and James Woods. Joseph Biroc did the cinematography. Thanks to Tommy Bernard for spotting all the theatres in the film and getting screenshots. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for six more shots including views of the State, Los Angeles Theatre and the Cinema on Western Ave.

The Tower is featured prominently in Arne Glimcher's "The Mambo Kings" (Warner Bros., 1992) as the Empire Ballroom in New York City. The film features Antonio Banderas and Armand Assante. Here we get a look at the lobby. 

Here we're looking toward the stage from the back of the main floor in "The Mambo Kings."

Antonio Banderas and Armand Assante at the back of the terraced main floor in "The Mambo Kings." See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for several more Tower shots as well as a view of the Rialto.

Vampire Rutger Hauer descending from the heavens with nice lighting through the Tower's organ grilles. The theatre is the live/work space for Rutger and his colleague Paul Reubens in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (20th Century Fox, 1992). The film, written by Joss Whedon and directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui, also features Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Swank, Luke Perry and David Arquette. James Hayman did the cinematography. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for five more shots of the action at the Tower plus six shots outside the Hollywood Galaxy 6. 

Ann-Margret and Christian Bale are at the Tower for the "High Times, Hard Times" number in Kenny Ortega's "Newsies" (Disney, 1992). The film is set during an 1899 New York newsboy strike and also features Bill Pullman, Robert Duvall, Trey Parker, Robert Moscow, Ele Keats, Luke Edwards, Kevin Tighe and Deborrah Lee-Furness. The cinematography was by Andrew Laszlo. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for sixteen additional shots from the scene at the Tower.  

We're supposedly in New York City in this sequence from John McTiernan's "Last Action Hero" (Columbia, 1993). Yet Arnold and his young friend are in a rainy traffic jam chasing bad guy Charles Dance on Broadway with the "For Lease" Tower on the right. The cinematography was by Dean Semler. Eugenio Zanetti was the production designer. Lots of scenes were shot in the Orpheum. We get more Broadway views that include the Globe, 8th St. action including looks at the Olympic and the side of the Tower. And there's also Long Beach's Terrace Theatre. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for forty views of the theatres seen in the film.

In Nick Cassavetes' "She's So Lovely" (Miramax, 1997) the theatre is used as a ballroom called the Suenolindo. It's uncertain what city we're supposed to be in.

"Siberian Mist -- make it a double." Sean Penn and Robin Wright go dancing at the Tower in "She's So Lovely." See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a shot at the boxoffice, an overhead marquee view that also shows the Rialto down the block, and another Rialto shot.

A look up at the Tower's marquee and vertical in Antoine Fuqua's "The Replacement Killers" (Columbia, 1998). When we go inside for the cartoons, however, we're at the Orpheum.

A crowd is lined up outside the Tower waiting to see the Cartoon Festival in "The Replacement Killers." Note we get a bit of the Rialto marquee with Esther Williams in "La Sirena de Millon Dolares" ("Million Dollar Mermaid," 1952) displayed.

A Tower facade view near the end of "The Replacement Killers" with Michael Rooker relating the terrible time he had at the Cartoon Festival. In "Replacement Killers" we also see a lot of the Mayan and Orpheum interiors as well as views of the exterior of the Million Dollar. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more from the film.

Edward Norton walks up 8th St. near the end of David Fincher's "Fight Club" (20th Century Fox, 1999). In this shot we also get a bit of the Olympic Theatre on the left. On the right is the old Hamburger / May Co. department store building. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for two more views on 8th St. showing the Olympic Theatre as well as shots of a scene filmed in the booth at the Los Angeles.

The Tower makes an appearance as a New York City building in the Peter Hyams film "End Of Days" (Universal, 1999) with Arnold Schwarzenegger. There seems to be a subway tunnel and all sorts of deeper labyrinths underneath. At one point we go through the Belasco lobby to get in.

An entrance view of the Tower from "End of Days."

Arnold Schwarzenegger heads into a very murky Tower Theatre in "End Of Days." We also pay a visit to the Los Angeles Theatre, where the Pope lives.  

The gloomy vista toward the rear of the auditorium in "End Of Days." See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for ten more screenshots from the film.

The Tower is a New York City venue, the Bowery Ballroom, in David McNally's "Coyote Ugly" (Touchstone Pictures, 2000). Here Piper Perabo's coyote friends are at the rear of the main floor coming in to see her perform near the end of the film.

Piper Perabo performing on stage at the Tower in "Coyote Ugly." See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for another performance shot at the Tower.

Naomi Watts and Laura Herring are in the balcony of the Tower where it appears as a strange nightclub, Club Silencio, in David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive" (Universal, 2001). Tower Theatre General Manager Ed Baney notes that YouTube has a clip of the song "Crying" from this portion of the film. 

A look at the top of the proscenium in "Mulholland Drive." 
A view of one of the boxes flanking the stage in "Mulholland Drive." See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for several more shots at the Tower from the film.  
Demi Moore is driving fast trying to shake off Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore who are hanging on as well as pummeling her in McG's "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" (Columbia, 2003). The cinematography was by Russell Carpenter. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for 28 more theatre shots from the film including more views of the Tower and Rialto plus some of the Chinese, the El Capitan, the Hollywood, the Orpheum and a fake "Los Angeles Theatre" in Hollywood.  
Keanu Reeves is in the street with the Tower on the left in this shot from Francis Lawrence's film "Constantine" (Warner Bros., 2005). The film also stars Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Tilda Swinton and Djimon Hounsou. Rachel is a detective who needs the help of the "demonologist" played by Keanu to prove that the death of her sister wasn't a suicide. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for another Tower shot as well as several more views of the Olympic and Million Dollar theatres from the film. 

Bill Condon's film "Dreamgirls" (Dreamworks, 2006) used the Tower for the disco number "One Night Only" with Beyoncé, Anika Noni Rose and Sharon Leal. The film also stars Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy and Danny Glover. The cinematography was by Tobias A. Schliessler. It's based on the Broadway musical with book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Kreiger. See the Historic L.A.Theatres in Movies post for over 50 additional shots of theatres seen in the film including the Orpheum and the Palace.

In Christopher Nolan's "Prestige" (Touchstone/Warner Bros, 2006) we get an exterior view of the Tower that has been digitally altered to make it the Pantages in London. Inside, we're at the Palace. London never had a Pantages, but maybe it should have. "The Prestige" also spends lots of time inside the Belasco and Los Angeles theatres. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for more screenshots from the film.

The Tower appears in Steven Soderbergh's "The Good German" (Warner Bros., 2006) as a rundown old cinema in the French Quarter of Berlin. Here Cate Blanchett heads up to the booth for a rendezvous. "You can never really leave Berlin."

Looking up at Cate Blanchett and the Tower's appropriately peeling ceiling in "The Good German." See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for several more shots at the Tower including one in the booth.

In "Dark Streets" (Samuel Goldwyn, 2008) the Tower is a major player as a nightclub called, appropriately enough, The Tower. Bijou Phillips and others strut their stuff on a thrust stage at the Tower in many musical numbers.

A look up toward the Tower lobby ceiling in "Dark Streets." Other nicely utilized downtown L.A. locations include the Alexandria Hotel and the lounge areas of the Los Angeles Theatre. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for several more shots from the scenes at the Tower.

A pigeon flies out from the center of the clock face in Alex Holdridge's "In Search of a Midnight Kiss" (IFC First Take, 2008). Scoot McNairy and Sara Simmonds meet via a Craigslist ad and are wandering the city on New Year's Eve. Also featured are Brian McGuire, Kathleen Luong, Robert Murphy, Twink Caplan, Bret Roberts and Stephanie Feury. The cinematography was by Robert Murphy. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for thirty-two more shots of the seventeen theatres appearing in the film.

One of the legs of this mutant creature damages the Tower's marquee in "Big Ass Spider!" (Epic Pictures Group, 2013). That's the Rialto on the right. The film, directed by Mike Mendez, is about an alien spider that escapes from a military lab and goes on a destructive binge in Los Angeles. Featured are Greg Grunberg, Clare Kramer, Lombardo Boyar, Patrick Bauchau and Ruben Pla. The cinematography was by Benji Bakshi. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for two more shots from the scene.

The Tower is Club Figaro in "The Gangster Squad" (Warner Bros, 2013) with Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn and Emma Stone. It's about the LAPD vs. east coast crime figures in the 40s. The photo, from Warner Bros., appeared in an L.A. Times article about the film's locations.

The Tower's proscenium appears behind Emma Stone in "Gangster Squad." The still from Warner Bros. is featured in a post "Taking Potshots at Fact..." about the movie. The draperies and chandeliers were added for the film. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for several shots at the Chinese that were deleted from the film.

Gangsters in a limo are chasing Mark Wahlberg in "The Gambler" (Paramount, 2014) when we get this quick shot of the alley end of the Tower. He's an English professor with problems. The film, directed by Rupert Wyatt, also stars Brie Larson, Jessica Lange, John Goodman, Anthony Kelley, George Kennedy, Alvin Ing and Michael Kenneth Williams. The cinematography was by Greig Fraser. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots in Mark's lecture hall at the L.A. Theatre Center, lots of stage and basement views at the Palace plus brief looks at the Los Angeles Theatre and Warner Downtown. 

The Tower is one of a half dozen theatres to get a marquee shot included in the title sequence of "Entourage" (Warner Bros., 2015). The film, directed by Doug Ellin, stars Kevin Dillon, Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier and Kevin Connolly plus many others doing cameos. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more screenshots.  

The Tower on TV:

Jack Sheldon, on the run from the mob, runs up 8th St. along the side of the theatre in the 1966-67 TV series "Run, Buddy, Run." Thanks to L.A. historian Chris Nichols for spotting the theatre in the footage. It's about 30 seconds into this version on YouTube

More Information: The Cinema Treasures page on the Tower has ooodles of historical data and lots of photos. The Cinema Tour page on the theatre has a number of photos, including interiors from 2006 by Mark Campbell.

Harrison Aster's Old Movie Palaces on Broadway set on Flickr includes interior views of the Tower taken in 2007 plus a few exterior views of other Broadway theatres. See Nick Bradshaw's Dead Cinemas, downtown set on Flickr for 50 great views of various movie palaces, including 2008 photos of the Tower interior.

The 2010 Facebook photo album by Ghost Hunters of Urban Los Angeles has many nice interior photos of the Tower, including many seldom seen nooks and crannies. The set also includes the Palace and the Los Angeles. See the 8 minutes of footage Sal Gomez shot during the 2012 LAHTF "all-about" tour of the building in his "Tower Theatre Tour" on YouTube. Sal also has 21 photos from the event in his Tower Theatre photo set on Facebook. 

Sandi Hemmerlein's many fine photos from 2012 are on her Avoiding Regret blog: Lobby, House & Balcony and Backstage, Booth and Basement. Sandi paid a return visit in 2022 with her lovely photos appearing in "Inside the Apple Takeover of the Tower Theatre..." Mike Hume has a terrific page about the Tower Theatre on his Historic Theatre Photography site. 

See Ed Kelsey's fine "History of the Tower Theatre" on the Theatre Historical Society website. Eric Lynxwiler has over 50 2009 photos of the Tower in his huge Los Angeles Theaters album on Flickr. Start with one of his auditorium views and you can page through about 45 more. The set includes the basement lounge, the lobby and the tower.

Don't miss Escott Norton's 75 item set Tower Theatre Tour on Facebook, taken at the 2012 LAHTF tour. A portfolio of eight 2021 exterior images was included with "Apple Store readies for its debut at DTLA's Tower Theatre," a June 8 story by Steven Sharp on the site Urbanize.

Other surviving theatre buildings on the 800 block: Rialto | Orpheum |  Vanished theatres on the block: Arrow | Garrick | Tally's Broadway | Majestic | Woodley/Mission Theatre |  

The Tower Theatre pages: back to top - history | earlier exterior views | recent exterior views | lobby areas | lounges + basement support areas | earlier auditorium views | recent auditorium views | organ chambers | booth level | attic | roof | tower |

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