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United Artists/Theatre at Ace Hotel: history

933 S. Broadway Los Angeles, CA 90015 | map |

More pages on the United Artists/Theatre at Ace Hotel: 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 areasattic | office building/hotel interiors | roof |

Opening: The United Artists opened December 26, 1927 with "My Best Girl," a silent film starring Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers. A prologue and several shorts preceded the feature including "Comrades," filmed in color. The UA closed as a film house in 1989. The reopening of the office building as a hotel was in January 2014 with the theatre, renamed the Theatre at Ace Hotel, following a month later.  Photo: Bill Counter - 2014

Phone: 213-623-3233  Website: | on Facebook | events calendar

Filming and other special use inquiries: Contact Rebecca Reynoso at Cap Equity Locations, 323-375-4192. Their Theatre at Ace Hotel page has 82 photos to browse.

The project was announced in a December 18, 1926 Exhibitors Herald article headed "United Artists to Build $3,000,000 Los Angeles House." They noted that it would be a project of "local capitalist" I. C. Freud with UA as the tenant. Joseph Schenck, head of UA, noted that the company intended to build 14 "palatial 'pre-release' photoplay houses" in major cities. Only three were constructed. The article is on Internet Archive. 

A rendering of the building in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. This was an early version -- there were some changes before construction. The drawing made an appearance with a December 25, 1926 Exhibitors Herald article that proclaimed "Construction Ready to Start on Coast Theatre for U.A."  They noted that ground would be broken immediately -- but it didn't happen for another ten weeks. The article promised an opulent structure with a $100,000 refrigeration plant, a fully equipped stage with a "great switchboard" and a main curtain of "special design."

The groundbreaking was done March 5, 1927 with a crowd estimated at 5,000 due to the appearance of Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and John Barrymore. In this photo from the Los Angeles Public Library collection Mary is leading the band as part of the proceedings. Fairbanks was quoted in the L.A. Times as saying he hoped the theatre "will always be a reminder of the fact that Los Angeles is the center of production of the film industry."

A March 12, 1927 Exhibitors Herald article titled "Mary Pickford Breaks Ground For United Artists Theatre" noted that director Fred Niblo was master of ceremonies, Pickford 'made her first appearance as a steam-shovel operator," and Sid Grauman brought along a chorus of lovelies from the Egyptian to celebrate the occasion. A November 5 Exhibitors Herald article was optimistically headed "United Artists Theatre Opens Thanksgiving Day on Coast" and noted "all that remains to be done is the interior finishing and decoration." They commented that Sid had been hired to stage the first prologue. The theatre didn't make that Thanksgiving date. The articles are on Internet Archive. 

The main girder that would support the balcony making its way to the theatre. Thanks to Sean Ault for finding the photo in the November 24, 1927 issue of Engineering News-Record. Their story: 

"Girder Weighing 103 Tons Moved Through Los Angeles Streets to Theater Site - In order to afford a clear unobstructed view from any point on the lower floor of the United Artists' Theater, Los Angeles, the balconies above are carried on steel spanning the entire width of the auditorium. The main theater balcony support consists of a double-web plate and angle girder, approximately 100 ft. long and carrying seven cantilever trusses and the mezzanine below. 
"The girder was fabricated in the shops of the Baker Iron Works and was moved to the building site by means of moving dollies, traveling on a total of 44 wheels. The move was accomplished between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. so that chances of tie-up in traffic would be obviated. The girder is 3 ft. wide and 7 ft. high, and weighs 103 tons. Fifty-five hundred rivets were used in its assembly."
Also see a photo of the beam on the construction site and a nice page from Western Costume Co. with photos of the beam being fabricated. Baker Iron Works was located at 912-986 N. Broadway. 

Some of the United Artists principals getting ready to go to the December 1927 opening. At the top from left to right: John Barrymore (evidently in costume for the '29 release "The Tempest"), Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks. At the lower right it's D.W. Griffith. At the lower left it's Joseph Schenck, president of both the United Artists Corporation and the separate United Artists Theatre Circuit. Schenck would later join Darryl Zanuck in forming 20th Century Fox. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the photo. It's also in Jose Huizar's Bringing Back Broadway album on Flickr.

That cutout of the theatre had an earlier life in a store window. This photo appeared in the January 21, 1928 Motion Picture News. Thanks to Escott O. Norton for finding it on Internet Archive. The caption: "An attractive window display which figured in the campaign featuring the new United Artists theatre in Los Angeles. The advance exploitation for this opening was as thorough as that which features some special picture productions. The Mary Pickford vehicle 'My Best Girl' was tied-in with the drive."

Chris Rini comments: "The grand piano is a Knabe Ampico, and the two advertising Ampico dealers in the 1927 City Directory are Southern California Music Co. on Broadway and Fitzgerald Music on Hill." Based on the style of the marquee reflected in the window it appears that the display was at Fitzgerald, 729 S. Hill. They were right next door to the Alhambra Theatre. The title we see reflected could be "The Love Mart," a December 1927 release with Billie Dove and Gilbert Roland. 

A pre-opening ad for the "Gorgeous Premiere." Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding it for the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. Carli Elinor of the Carthay Circle Theatre was the musical director. At least for opening night. His orchestra was augmented by an offstage choir for the opening. After the big premiere it was just films and music for about nine months. Then prologues were added in an attempt to boost business.

Reserved seats for the premiere went for $5. Mary was there to dedicate the theatre. John Barrymore served as master of ceremonies. Also participating in the festivities, relayed by loudspeakers along Broadway, were Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, Norma Talmadge, Gloria Swanson, D.W. Griffith, Ronald Colman and others. At the end of the program film clips were screened showing the audience arriving at the theatre earlier in the evening. Thanks to Scott Santoro for finding the December 26 ad.

The front cover of the program for the grand opening, from the collection of Ronald W. Mahan. He apologizes for the water stain in the lower left, done before he acquired it.

A photo of Mary Pickford from the program. The full program appears lower on this page. Thanks, Ron! 
A review of the opening appearing in the December 30, 1927 issue of the Times. 

Architect: C. Howard Crane designed the theatre, Walker and Eisen were the building architects. Walker and Eisen (along with Clifford Balch) did a number of other theatres for the circuit in an early 30s building program that included the United Artists theatres in Long Beach, Inglewood, Pasadena and East Los Angeles as well as the Four Star on Wilshire Blvd.

C. Howard Crane, who designed over 300 theatres, also did two other theatres for the United Artists Theatre Circuit with similar Spanish Gothic interiors. In Detroit (2,070 seats) it was much like the Los Angeles building, with a full stage and the theatre integrated into an office building. In Chicago (1,703 seats), the United Artists was a re-do of an earlier theatre and ended up being a smaller version and lacking a stage. Crane, based in Detroit, designed hundreds of theatres including the St. Louis Fox and most of the major theatres in Detroit including Orchestra Hall, the Capitol/Grand Circus Theatre (now the Detroit Opera House) and the Fox.

This ground floor plan appeared in the July 1928 issue of Architect and Engineer. The page, also with a lobby shot, can be seen on Internet Archive. The issue also has a facade view and a lobby ceiling detail. Plus there's "United Artists Theatre Los Angeles," an article that has outer lobby and auditorium photos.

The 14 story office building connected to the United Artists theatre has 74,000 square feet of space. Counting the theatre area, total building square footage is reckoned as 93,783 on a land area of 23,850 s.f. The cost was announced as $3.5 million. The initial tenant of the office building spaces was California Petroleum Corp. on a $3-million 30-year lease. The successor company, Texaco, stayed in the building until a 1979 move out to Wilshire Blvd. 

A cut-away drawing of the United Artists that had appeared in the L.A. Times. Thanks to Larry Harnisch for reproducing it on his great blog The Daily Mirror.

The UA principals, other actors, and board members of the company are depicted in the murals up in the balcony. The murals and the other decorative painting were done by Anthony Heinsbergen (1884 - 1981). The Gothic style was evidently chosen because of Mary Pickford's love of European castles. Chaplin, another of the UA principals, wasn't enthusiastic about United Artists operating theatres -- he thought they should stick to making movies.

The building was owned by the Ninth and Broadway Building Co. (Joseph M. Schenck & I. C. Freud, principals) and the theatre portion leased to the United Artists Theatre Circuit, a corporation separate from the main United Artists Corporation. The theatre was initially operated for UATC by West Coast Theatres. Among lots of other theatres, they also ran the State for Loew's / MGM and (for a short time anyway) the Million Dollar and the Metropolitan (later renamed the Paramount) for Paramount Publix.

"Host of Elaborate Construction Features Seen" was a heading with this lobby rendering (and one of the auditorium) on page 13 of the Better Theatres section of the December 24, 1927 Exhibitors Herald. An article in the same issue titled "Spanish Motif in United Artists Theatre" noted that it "will be a magnificent structure which will incorporate all of the best features of the most recently built theatres plus some additional ones..."  Thanks to Mike Hume for finding the Herald articles on Internet Archive. Visit the page about the theatre on his Historic Theatre Photography site for many fine photos as well as tech information.

The new theatre was also profiled (with much the same text) in an article in the January 7, 1928 issue of Motion Picture News. It's on Internet Archive. The article declared that it was "the final word in theatre construction" and offered many details:

 " ... The general interior arrangement differs radically from other Los Angeles houses in that a great deal of attention has been given to both entrance lobby and foyer, to be called the 'foyer promenoir' and which can accommodate more than 1500 persons, without crowding. Lobby and foyer are approximately 40 feet high. The lobby is done in black, gold, red and buff marble, with large gold mirrors set in frames of antique design of antique gold. The balcony is panoramic, and in its rear is a promenade, with a passageway leading into the foyer. Here are little offset balconies, from which one may look into the general foyer. The mezzanine is back and under the balcony, like a receding under jaw. Here are 200 seats. There are two promenades -- one for each level.

"The stage is large -- about 30 feet deep and 50 feet across the proscenium front. The scenery is supported from a steel gridiron, high up under the stage roof, and is operated by a counter-weighted system of ropes. The proscenium girder is 66 inches deep and 50 feet long and weighs 60 tons. There are four aisles. The theatre proper is 100 feet wide and 150 feet deep. An electric lift raises the orchestra pit to the stage level and there is a separate organ console lift, which raises to the same level.

An auditorium drawing from the Motion Picture News article. It had also appeared in the December 24, 1927 Exhibitors Herald. The News article continues:

"The main support of the balcony is a double web-plate girder which spans the entire auditorium, approximately 100 feet, and which carries seven cantilevers and the mezzanine below. The girder is said to be the largest individual structural member ever fabricated and erected in one piece in the west. It is three feet wide, seven feet high, 100 feet long and weighs 103 tons. Every seat in the big auditorium is alike. The chairs have been especially designed for this theatre and have deep cushions and air inflated backs, a new feature in theatre construction.

"A refrigeration plant has been installed at a cost of $100,000 of the latest washed-air type, with dehumidifiers automatically controlled to maintain a proper temperature. The theatre was built not only for the present theatre-going needs, but has taken into account the expected growth of Los Angeles and the certain development of the theatre. Its general style and equipment are expected to be a standard for many years to come.

"Accommodations have been made underneath the great foyer for women patrons. There is a large combination lounge and smoking room, washroom and a cosmetic room. This room has been fitted with elaborate dressing tables. The color scheme of the room is one of greens and taupes. For men there are rooms underneath the main foyer, also. The run [carpet] in the foyer was manufactured in Europe especially for the new theatre. The colors were determined here before the order was given that these colors might harmonize with the color scheme of the entire theatre. The run is in the center of the foyer and is about 25 by 50 feet.

"...An elaborate lighting system has been installed. It is in five colors: red, blue, amber, white and green. Thus with a ten preset switchboard, practically any combination may be obtained. By means of a recently devised indirect lighting system, the entire color effect upon the ceiling will be visible during the projection of the picture. The dome, in the center of the ceiling, is covered with silver-backed, rough faced mirrored discs -- about 3,000 of them -- and, in addition about 2,000 glass pendants. From the mosaic dome, an enormous sunburst spreads in all directions. In the auditorium proper there are no lamps or chandeliers. The walls are in travertine, with three large perforated fans on each side..."

Seating: Originally 2,214 including a mezzanine. The mezzanine was hacked off during the 1955 TODD-AO conversion. Motion Picture News noted that the mezzanine sat 200. A 1979 L.A. Times article about Metropolitan Theatres listed the capacity as 1,704. Current capacity is 1,647 with 762  fixed seats on the main floor plus space for 63 loose chairs. The balcony seats 822.

Stage: 26' 9" deep with a 46' proscenium.

Pipe Organ: A 3/27 Wurlitzer. It was removed in 1955. Life had an article about the organ on August 24, 1962.

Early history: Although the operation started out with West Coast Theatres managing, the ads for the United Artists were usually separate from the main West Coast ad. For a while many said "direction West Coast Theatres" and then in the Spring of 1928 that stopped. By March UA had brought in Dr. Hugo Riesenfeld to oversee the presentations. A small item in the Variety issue of March 21, 1928 noted that Reisenfeld "has assumed his new position as director general of United Artists theatres..."

One ad mentioned a "Symphonic Musical Program" under his supervision. Others said "Programs supervised by Hugo Riesenfeld." Soon the typeface got bigger and the ads were saying "Direction Hugo Riesenfeld" and "Entire Program Under Personal Direction Hugo Riesenfeld." It's unknown if West Coast Theatres was still involved in the day-to-day operations during this period.

Riesenfeld was the man who was music director at the Rialto in New York when Roxy was manager -- and succeeded him when Roxy left, getting the management job at the Rivoli and Criterion as well. At this time United Artists had put him in charge of their presentations at their Detroit and Chicago Theatres as well. He was also doing film scoring for United Artists between 1928 and 1930. Riesenfeld was profiled in an April 15, 1928 L.A. Times article titled "Screen Vaudeville Needed." The UA ads still had him as director as late as May 1928.

Talkies arrive: The first sound film to play the theatre was "The Man Who Laughs" in August 1928. The Universal release, based on the Victor Hugo novel, starred Mary Philbin and Conrad Veidt. Basically a silent film, it had a Western Electric track of recorded music and sound effects.

"S.R.O." The fans are lined up at the United Artists for Norma Talmadge in "The Woman Disputed." The ad appears in the November 3, 1928 issue of Motion Picture News, available on Internet Archive. It was a United Artists release, available in versions with or without sound, a practice typical of that transitional era.

They were still running stage shows in late 1928. "Marriage By Contract." was a November release. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating the ad for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 

"Because... She has grown up!" - An ad for the Mary Pickford talkie "Coquette" that premiered at the end of March 1929. 

Publix takes over: With talkies, the stage presentations vanished. Riesenfeld's magic no longer was working and UA found a new operator for the theatre. Starting April 20, 1929 during the run of Mary Pickford's talkie "Coquette" ("Hear Her Golden Voice") the ads started saying "Direction Publix Theatres" and "A Publix Theatre." The Paramount-owned circuit also at the time had the Metropolitan. They had gotten out of the Million Dollar.

In an early widescreen experiment the UA ran "The Bat Whispers" in 1931. The UA is being advertised as "A Publix Theatre." Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the ad. This was a production in "Magnifilm" (filmed both in 35mm and 65mm versions) and the newspaper ad said "Twice the Size" but it's unknown if special projectors were installed for the run. Perhaps it was a 2 to 1 aspect ratio on a larger than normal screen. See the article "The Bat Whispers in 65mm" on the site for more about the film.

The terrible 30s: The theatre had a checkered history in the 30s with several closures and several different operators. Paramount Publix was still running it in early 1931 but by mid-year the Publix logo was no longer featured in the ads.

In December that year the ads advised that the theatre was under the "Direction of Harold B. Franklin." The UA was being advertised as having "The Most Important Pictures at Popular Prices." Franklin was a big guy with Fox West Coast who had quit to form (with Howard Hughes) the short-lived Hughes-Franklin circuit. Evidently this was his new job after the liquidation of that circuit. Franklin's name also appeared on the ads for the Paramount Theatre (the former Metropolitan), a house Fox West Coast had been previously been operating for Paramount Publix.

By January of 1932 Franklin's name was gone from the ads -- as were those words "Popular Prices." Now it was just "Home of Important Pictures." The last day of operation was March 20, 1932. The L.A. Times ad that day for the final film "The Greeks Had a Word For Them" (with Ina Claire) just said "Last Times Today."

A 1932 photo of the closed theatre with "Attend Loew's State" on the marquee. It's a detail from a Dick Whittington Studio photo in the USC Digital Library collection. An October 5, 1932 L.A. Times article "Reopening of Theater Announced" noted that it would be by Fox West Coast. The Times noted that "the policy of the house will establish it as one of the Southland's outstanding show places, it is said, with Fanchon and Marco stage productions and leading film features included in the forthcoming programs." They added that "The United Artists has been closed approximately six months."

An October 11 story mentioned that the re-opening film would be MGM's "Red Dust" with Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, scheduled for an October 20 date. The Pantages in Hollywood (run by Fox West Coast) had also been closed and would reopen with the same feature. In addition there would be the Fanchon & Marco "Mystery" Idea at the UA and a Fanchon & Marco produced tab version of the Ziegfeld hit "Whoopee" at the Pantages.

As the news dribbled out, an October 15 story revealed that both houses would be "under the personal direction of Sid Grauman," then also working for Fox at the Chinese. An October 17 story said there would be an "augmented orchestra" and listed several acts for the program. All this was interesting as the Fanchon & Marco stage shows, long a mainstay of the Fox West Coast operated Loew's State, had ended there on October 6, 1932 when the State went to a films-only policy.

The opening ads, a combined spread for both the UA and the Pantages, said "Direction Sid Grauman" in large lettering at the top -- and made no mention of Fox West Coast being involved. Another early 30s Grauman adventure downtown (during one of his many absences from the Chinese) had been in 1931 when he had the Mayan, which he called (of course) Grauman's Mayan. But there he was doing a season of legit shows, not movies. There was another brief closure of the United Artists in 1933 and then another reopening with the Walter Winchell film "Broadway Through a Keyhole," a November 1933 release.

In 1934 ads the United Artists was being called Grauman's United Artists. There was no longer any mention of stage shows with the features. The Hollywood Reporter had this UA ad for "Roman Scandals" and "I'm No Angel" in their January 5, 1934 issue. It's on Internet Archive.

Another 1934 ad for the theatre as Grauman's. They're offering free parking. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding this one. The Grauman name was soon dropped but Fox West Coast continued to run the theatre into the late 40s.

50s Consent Decree issues: As a result of the government anti-trust suit forcing the studios to divest themselves of their theatre holdings, UATC took over the operation of this theatre themselves in the 50s (along with the nearby Loew's State). Fox West Coast (newly separated from 20th Century Fox) had to part with the State because part of the deal was a requirement for them to sell off certain theatres in an attempt to provide a bit of competition.

During the 50s the United Artists frequently played day and date with other United Artists houses such as the Four Star and the Egyptian. Fox had run both prior to the consent decree, as well as a string of other UA houses built in the early 30s when Fox West Coast and United Artists were having a fight over a perceived lack of good dates for United Artists releases in Fox West Coast controlled theatres.

A 1954 or 1955 look toward the theatre. It's an Alan Weeks photo spotted by Monica Seitz Vega in the Metro Library and Archive on Flickr. Good bookings were scarce during this period as the business shifted to the westside. They're running "She Wolf," an Italian film.

A 1955 booking. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the Times ad for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. 

70mm arrives: TODD-AO came to the UA in 1955. This theatre was the second 70mm equipped theatre in Los Angeles. "Oklahoma!" (which continued its run at the Egyptian, the first theatre so equipped) began a 52 week run at the United Artists on December 24, 1955.

The remodeling for the process included knocking out some proscenium plaster for installation of a huge, deeply curved screen. Other work entailed removal of the mezzanine and construction of a new projection booth at the rear of the main floor.

"All freeways lead to Oklahoma!" The LA Times ad for "Oklahoma" that's shown here is reproduced on Michael Coate and William Kallay's 70mm in Los Angeles section of their great website From Script To DVD. It's on their United Artists page.

After the "Oklahoma" run, United Artists Theatre Circuit closed the theatre.

Later operation: In October 1961 UATC renamed it the Alameda Theatre and reopened it. That experiment with Mexican films only lasted until June 1962 when they closed it again and turned the theatre back to the building owner owner Joseph Schenck Productions.

At the end of the United Artists' movie days it was operated by Metropolitan Theatres under a master lease then held by the Needleman family, owners of the Western Costume Co. building to the south of the theatre as well as the nearby Orpheum Theatre, also then operated by Metropolitan. The United Artists finally closed as a film theatre in 1989.

From 1990 until 2010, the United Artists was used as church, the Los Angeles University Cathedral. The church purchased the building some years after a long period as a renter. During the years as a church, the formerly grubby theatre was cleaned and much of the former opulence was restored to the interior. The screening room in the basement used by Mary Pickford was used as the repository of the church's bible collection.

In Limbo: In 2010 the church moved their operations to another building in Glendale and placed the building on the market. Blogdowntown and Curbed L.A. both ran stories about the proposed sale. Hillsman Wright, of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, announced a plan to bring the theatre back to life.

The LAHTF plan got a nice boost with an August 2010 story in the Wall Street Journal by Dennis Nishi: "Can L.A.'s Historic Theater District Be Revived?" The article included, without credit, this auditorium view by Wendell Benedetti.

The mission was discussed in more detail in an interview with Eric Richardson in an August 2010 post on Blogdowntown: "The Historic Theatre Dream on Broadway." More on the LAHTF and the theatre appeared in Los Angeles Downtown News: "To Protect and Restore. "One of the big signs that the church had placed atop the building in 1989 came down in 2011 for a journey to Glendale. Eric Richardson of BlogDowntown had the story: "Jesus Saves Neon No More at United Artists?" One sign still remains on the building.

The Ace Hotel takes over: The property is now an Ace Hotel with a refurbished theatre. The hotel opened January 6, 2014 with the theatre, now called The Theatre at Ace Hotel, following on February 14. Jason Dibler is the hotel manager.

A June 2014 Curbed L.A. story "How the Ace Hotel Empire Engineered Broadway's Speedy Yuppification" discusses the strategy that has brought an influx of trendy new businesses into the area around the hotel. The theatre got a fine story and photo spread in a February 2014 Curbed L.A. story "Inside the New Ace Hotel's Dazzling Old United Artists Theatre."

The building had been sold in October 2011 to Greenfield Partners, a Norwalk, Connecticut based hotel developer and real estate concern. Designing the 2013-2014 renovation were Killefer Flammang Architects with Wade Killefer as the design principal and John Arnold as project manager. Overseeing the construction was another partner in the venture, Jon Blanchard of BLVD Hospitality and Voyager Hotel Group. Commune Design and the in-house Atelier Ace made the interior design decisions for the project.

A lobby view by Elizabeth Daniels appearing with "Here's Your First Look...," a January 8, 2014 Curbed L.A. article about the hotel's opening. Other stories and photo spreads about the hotel opening in include those by Brigham Yen, on Eater L.A., L.A. Downtown News (+ an additional Gary Leonard photo spread), on the blogs Opening Ceremony and Hypebeast as well as on the Bringing Back Broadway Facebook page.

GQ got into the mix with a photo taken from the top of the Ace to lead its story "America's Next Great City is Inside L.A." Alex Calderwood, the founder of the Ace chain, passed away November 14, 2013 at age 47. The N.Y. Times had a story. Brad Wilson is currently president of Ace Hotel Group.

Brigham Yen on DTLA Rising had run a November 2013 story about the rebirth of the building and the anticipated opening of the hotel. Curbed L.A. and Eater also had stories tracking the project. Kevin Roderick had an October 2011 story about the project on LA Observed. Also see the Curbed L.A. December 2011 story. The building had been on the market since 2009 with an initial asking price of $15 million. With no takers, the price gradually slid downward. The sale price was $11 million.

The building sells (twice again): Less than a year after the opening, there were indications that Greenfield Partners wanted to cash out. While their renovation costs are unknown, they suggested at the time that $100 million might be a reasonable price tag for their renovated property. Bethany Firnhaber had the December 2014 story "Ace in the Hole?..." for the Los Angeles Business Journal. The article suggested that the property could be upgraded further and Ace could be replaced by another operator by paying an exit penalty on their contract.

Greenfield did succeed in selling the building in 2015 for $103 million to a Maryland real estate investment trust, Chesapeake Lodging Trust. Roger Vincent had the May 1 story in the L.A. Times: "Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles sold...." The Times got a quote from Chesapeake: "'The theater booking pace is up considerably from its first year and will host over 100 events in 2015,' said James L. Francis, Chesapeake’s chief executive. 'We estimate that the theater alone will generate revenues in excess of $4.4 million and net operating profit of over $2 million.'"

See Sandi Hemmerlein's 2015 story for Discover Los Angeles "Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles: The Story of an L.A. Icon" for a fine overview of the hotel, restaurant (L.A. Chapter) and Theatre at Ace. The restaurant changed hands in late 2017 with Michael Cimarusti becoming chef. The new name, "Best Girl Bistro," is a nod to the Mary Pickford film that opened the theatre, "My Best Girl." The L.A. Times had the story.

Building owner Cheasapeake Lodging Trust was acquired in 2019 by Parks Hotels & Resorts, Inc. In November 2019 they sold their interest to an unnamed purchaser. DTLA News discussed the transaction in their December 2019 story "Ace Hotel Sells for $117 Million." Ace continues to manage the hotel and theatre.

The opening program, from the Ronald W. Mahan Collection: 

Pages 1 & 2

The message from Joe Schenck, head of United Artists Corp. and United Artists Theatre Circuit.

Pages 3 and 4.

Pages 5 and 6.

A page 5 detail.

A page 6 detail.

Pages 7 and 8.

A page 7 detail.

A page 8 detail.

Pages 9 and 10.

A page 9 detail.

A page 10 detail.

Pages 11 and 12.

A page 11 detail. 

Pages 13 and 14. Thanks, Ron!  
The United Artists in the Movies: 

In the Harold Lloyd feature "Feet First" (Paramount, 1930) we get a look up Broadway toward the United Artists. The trouble began at the Post Office in the now vanished Triangle Building just south of Olympic -- Harold arrived in town in a mailbag, you see.

Although all our high-rise stuff in "Feet First" is supposedly on the same building we also end up a bit farther north on Broadway (with views of the Majestic Theatre) and over, somehow, at 8th & Spring looking west at the Tower Theatre. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots from the film showing the three theatres.

John Huston's "The Asphalt Jungle" (MGM, 1950) is supposedly set in Cincinnati but here we are in L.A. looking across a parking lot toward the bright lights of the United Artists on Broadway.

Another "Asphalt Jungle" shot but with the marquee off. We're breaking into a building from the alley between Broadway and Main St. It doesn't go well. The film stars Sterling Hayden (as the hooligan), Jean Hagen and Sam Jaffe.

In Universal-International's "The Benny Goodman Story" from 1956 we get some shots inside the United Artists. Here's Steve Allen as Benny Goodman rising up on the United Artists pit lift with his band. 

Here the lift is fully up with more of the organ grille area visible. Trivia Question: How many other Los Angeles movie palaces had orchestra pit lifts? Check out the people sitting in the mezzanine, a structure removed in the TODD-AO renovations of late 1955.

Donna Reed runs down the aisle of the United Artists in the "The Benny Goodman Story." See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for two more United Artists shots from the film. 

The entrance, lobby and main floor of the auditorium have a nice cameo in "Sweet Smell of Success." Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison and others do a scene in front of the stage. The UA is pretending to be a theatre in New York. The film, directed by Alexander Mackendrick, was a 1957 United Artists release of a Hecht, Hill and Lancaster production. In this shot you can see the ad for "Oklahoma!" over the entrance that has been blacked out.

Here we're onstage in "Sweet Smell of Success" and in the upper right corner you can see a bit of the curved track for the TODD-AO main drape out beyond the proscenium. The filming was done after the run of "Oklahoma!" had ended as there's no Todd-AO screen. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots of the United Artists from the film.

About an hour into "High School Hellcats" (American International, 1958) we get some process work for a drive north on Broadway with young couple Joyce (Yvonne Lime) and her boyfriend Mike (Brett Halsey). That's the UA marquee flashing madly on the far right. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots from the film.

About 40 minutes into the Blaxploitation classic "Black Sampson" (Omni Pictures, 1974) we get a little chase up Broadway and a look at the United Artists in the distance of this shot. William Bail directed the tale of a barkeeper named Sampson with a pet lion. The bad guys are trying muscle into the neighborhood and he rises to the occasion. The film stars Rokne Tarkington and William Smith. 

A stripper played by Claudia Christian goes on a rampage and takes a wild drive down Broadway in “The Hidden” (New Line Cinema, 1987). Her body has, of course, been taken over by an alien creature. Here we're looking north from Olympic with the dark UA over on the left. Jack Sholder directed the film starring Kyle MacLachlan and Michael Nouri. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for views of other theatres seen in the film including the Westlake, Las Palmas, Pantages and the Palace.

Vincent Perez is back from the dead and climbing the facade of the theatre in "The Crow: City of Angels" (Dimension Films, 1996). The local gang leader who killed him and his young son has his headquarters in the tower. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots of the scenes at the UA plus a view of the north side of the Los Angeles as well as a visit to the Linda Lea on Main St.

The United Artists is one of seventeen theatres we see 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 theatres appearing in the film.

April Wright interviews Leonard Maltin in the balcony of the United Artists for her lovely documentary "Going Attractions: The Definitive Story of the Movie Palace" (Passion River, 2019). The UA is just one of many Los Angeles theatres appearing in the film. You can find more information on the Going Attractions website. 

A scene outside the UA from Carlos Lopez Estrada's film "Summertime" (Good Deed Entertainment, 2021). It's about 27 young Angelenos and how their lives intersect on a hot summer day. Much of the material for the "spoken word poetry musical" was written by the young stars of the film. The cinematography is by John Schmidt. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots at the UA plus views of the Chinese, Arcade, Los Angeles and Vista theatres. 

The United Artists is one of several theatres seen in Damien Chazelle's "Babylon" (Paramount, 2022). Here the lobby is being used for a party scene. It's a story set in Hollywood c.1926-1930 as the silent era would soon end and the studios began transitioning to sound features. Stars include Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Jean Smart and Diego Calva. The cinematography was by Linus Sandgren. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots at the UA as well as views of the Orpheum and the Los Angeles.

The United Artists on Video: There's lots of the United Artists on view in the Pussy Riot video "Straight Outta Vagina." It's on YouTube. Thanks to Sharon Sekhon for the tip on this one.

A lobby view from Don Solosan's 2010 video on the LAHTF Facebook page: "Insiders Peek #6 - United Artists" featuring Hillsman Wright. It's a great 3 minute tour of the interior with some stunning video and still shots. It's on YouTube.

A view of the basement screening room view from Mr. Solosan's sequel on YouTube, "Insiders Peek #9." It was made to promote a December 2010 LAHTF tour of the building that was cancelled at the last minute by the building's then owner. It's a fine tour with interesting commentary from Hillsman Wright. 

Don't miss Matt Spero's "United Artists Theatre Los Angeles," a 9 minute tour of the building from 2010 that's on YouTube. Also see "United Artists Theatre in the 80s," a 9 minute video on the LAHTF YouTube channel. The silent video spends most of its time indoors and includes close up details of the proscenium, the balcony murals, and the lobby. 

More information: Check out the many informative postings on the Cinema Treasures page devoted to the theatre. Cinema Tour has a few exterior photos that are worth a look.

A 2011 Curbed L.A. article discussed the Ace Hotel project, then in the planning stages. Pauline O'Connor did a Curbed L.A. piece in February 2014. Both articles once had many fine photos but those have vanished from the versions now online. 

Sandi Hemmerlein's fine 2014 Avoiding Regret photo essay on the United Artists lobby and lounge areas is part one of her project. Sandi's part two, "Inside..." is devoted to the auditorium. Visit Mike Hume's Theatre at Ace Hotel page on his Historic Theatre Photography site for many fine photos as well as tech information.

Don't miss Paul R. Spitzzeri's 2022 article "That’s a Wrap with a Press Photo from the United Artists Theatre, Los Angeles, April 1928" on the Homestead Museum blog. It includes a great collection of early UA press clippings.

A 2014 photo set worth investigating is that by Jim Kohat on Flickr. The 82 photo set real estate broker Pat Lile generated in 2009 is spread around the various pages here on this site and is also on a Bringing Back Broadway United Artists album on Facebook. Thanks, Pat! See the L.A. Conservancy page on the Ace project -- they gave it a 2014 preservation award.

The theatre, and its sister theatres in Detroit and Chicago, are discussed on page 47 of "The Theater Designs of C. Howard Crane," a 1992 University of Pennsylvania master's thesis by Lisa Maria DiChiera. It's on Internet archive. The site Visiting Media has panoramic photo tours of many different areas of the building.

Historic Detroit has some sad photos of their United Artists. Forgotten Detroit also has a photo gallery of our unfortunate UA relative. See the Cinema Treasures page on the United Artists Detroit (still decaying) and United Artists Chicago (demolished).

The pages on the United Artists/Theatre at Ace Hotel: back to top - 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 areasattic | office building/hotel interiors | roof |  

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