Start your Los Angeles area historic theatre explorations by heading to one of these major sections: Downtown | North of Downtown + East L.A. | San Fernando Valley | Glendale | Pasadena | San Gabriel Valley, Pomona and Whittier | South, South Central and Southeast | Hollywood | Westside | Westwood and Brentwood | Along the Coast | Long Beach | [more] L.A. Movie Palaces |
To see what's recently been added to the mix visit the Theatres in Movies site and the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.

Roxie Theatre: history + vintage exterior views

518 S. Broadway Los Angeles, CA 90013 | map |

More Roxie Theatre pages: recent exterior views | interior views


Opened: November 25, 1931. The Roxie was the last of the Broadway theatres to open. It was built on the site of Quinn's Superba Theatre. Thanks to John Rice for the 1977 photo.

Architect: John Montgomery Cooper designed this deco extravaganza - the only art deco style theatre on Broadway. Cooper also designed the NuWilshire Theatre in Santa Monica. Although the Roxie was built with a stagehouse, it was intended primarily for film presentation. Very little rigging or other stage equipment was actually installed.
 

 The project was announced in the June 21, 1931 issue of the L.A. Times.

The building's owner was unknown but the Roxie's lessees were Gus A. Metzger and Harry Srere. These two, along with a third partner, were the operators of the Fairfax Theatre, opening in March 1930. Srere had also operated the Rialto in the late 20s and, with Metzger and others, took over the Palace beginning in October 1928. Soon that one ended up in the Fox West Coast circuit. The duo also had a minority interest in the Forum Theatre.

Seating: At opening it was 1,637. Later it was down to 1,335.
 
 

A November 7, 1931 story. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating this for a post about the theatre on the private Facebook group Photos of Los Angeles.  
 
 

"Modern to the last minute..." It's a November 24 story that Ken located.

"New Roxie Theater Opens Today At Noon." On opening day the news of the Roxie that Ken McIntyre found in the Los Angeles Record got a big headline but it was just one small item in a column of news about the attractions at various theatres: 

"Today at high noon, the new Roxie theater opens its doors on Broadway and Fifth. Tonight there will be festivities and an 'illumination pageant' from 6:30 to 9. 'Honor of the Family' brings Bebe Daniels to the screen in the theater's first offering, with Warren Williams cast as the hero. 'East of Borneo,' with Rose Hobart and Charles Bickford, has been booked to open December 3." 

The grand opening ad that appeared in the Los Angeles Record on November 25, 1931. Even a stage show: Eda Edson and her International Entertainers. Thanks to Mike Rivest for locating the ad. Visit his site: Movie-Theatre.org


A sad end for one of the Metzger family members in August 1943. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the Times article. 

Matt Lambros relates more of the theatre's noirish history on an After the Final Curtain post about the building: 

"On Christmas Eve 1954, a woman killed herself in her seat during a double feature showing of 'Crossed Swords' and 'Track of the Cat.' The Roxie was an all-night theater at the time, so her body wasn’t discovered until the lights went on at 3:30AM. The only clues to her identity were a Canadian dollar bill and a telephone number written on a cafe receipt in her pockets. She’s never been identified. 

"Richard Studeny, an usher, tied up the manager and robbed the theater in June of 1958. He turned himself in to the police in Florida the following December."

 

A one cent Roxie token.  
 
 
 
The rear of the token. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for spotting the images when this was for sale online. He shared it in a post on the Ken's Movie Page Facebook group.


The theatre went to a Spanish language policy under Metropolitan Theatres management beginning January 29, 1978. Thanks to Mike Rivest for locating that day's ad.

Closing: The Roxie closed in 1989. Metropolitan was the last circuit to operate the theatre.

Status: The lobby is currently divided in half for two retail tenants. The auditorium is unused except for an occasional film shoot. The building was purchased, along with the Cameo and Arcade theatres, in the early 90s by Joseph Hellen. Ryan Vaillancourt had a nice 2010 story in LA Downtown News about Mr. Hellen: "The Survivor." Joe Hellen died in November 2019. The company, Downtown Management (also known as Mideb), is now run by Hellen's son Michael along with Greg Martin as VP.

There have been a number of plans proposed for the three theatres including multiplex cinemas and use of the Roxie as a restaurant space in conjunction with the Arcade Theatre restored as a live performance venue. The right combination of vision and money hasn't appeared. The firm also has other properties in the area including the Arcade Building, the Chester Williams Building and the Jewelry Trades Building. For leasing and filming inquiries call them at 213-688-1100 or see their website DowntownFilming.com.

Behind the theatres: The parking lot behind the three theatres is also owned by Mr. Hellen. He's proposed a number of different plans for building a parking garage and housing complex on the site but all the variations have run into problems with the City. One concern has been that the various options that have been proposed could limit the future usefulness of the three theatres by restricting access to the rear of the buildings.

The word as of February 2016 was that there will be no tower built behind the theatres. At least for now. New designs for a 40 story tower had been unveiled in March 2015 but there were disagreements with the City over the lack of a historic feel to the proposed building.

More exterior views:


early 1930s - Looking south on Broadway with the Roxie, Cameo and Arcade theatres on the left. Note that the Arcade Theatre (renamed  in 1928) still has a Dalton's sign on the side of the building. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo.



1934 - A great view of the Roxie and Cameo Theatres with hot rods on parade. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for posting the shot on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. Here we're still using the original milk glass letters on the Roxie marquee. Kay Francis is billed on the bottom line on the south end of the marquee. Scott Santoro suggests that the top line might read L (for Leslie) Howard and that the film might be "British Agent."

The photo also appears on the Bringing Back Broadway Facebook page from Stephen Russo where he notes that it was taken in February 1934. The parade was to promote a race at L.A. Municipal Airport Speedway. 17 years later it made the cover photo for the March 1951 issue of Hot Rod magazine. That cover using the image is on Photos of Los Angeles.
 

1935 - A look south toward the Roxie and Cameo during the visit of Franklin D. and Eleanor Roosevelt. It's an October 1 photo on Calisphere from the UCLA Los Angeles Daily News Negatives collection. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating it for a post on Photos of Los Angeles.


1939 - A wonderful Dick Whittington Studio view of the Cameo and Roxie from the USC Digital Library collection. On the marquee at the Cameo is "Algiers," which was released in 1938.



1939 - A detail of the Roxie from the Dick Whittington photo. They're running "The Little Princess" with Shirley Temple along with "St. Louis Blues" starring Dorothy Lamour and Lloyd Nolan.



1939 - A closer look at the entrance from the Dick Whittington photo.


 
1943 - We get a peek down onto the new angled version of the Roxie marquee in this view of a parade for Madame Chiang Kai-shek. It's a May Los Angeles Times photo on Calisphere from the UCLA Library collection.
 

1945 - A photo taken during the August 14 V-J Day celebrations. The Roxie was running the March release "Salty O'Rourke" with Alan Ladd, Gail Russell and William Demarest. The co-feature was the June release "Pillow To Post" with Ida Lupino and Sydney Greenstreet. That's a slice of the marquee of the Arcade Theatre on the far right. Thanks to Sean Ault for locating the shot when it was offered for sale online. Also see the original much wider image
 
 
 
1955 - A view looking north on Broadway at the Cameo and the Roxie from the Metro Transportation Library and Archive on Flickr. It's in their Downtown Los Angeles set. It looks like the Cameo is getting some marquee work done. The Roxie is running Jane Russell's "Underwater."
 

1957 - At the Roxie it was the December 1956 release "Written on the Wind" with Rock Hudson and Lauren Bacall along with the January 1957 western "Gun For a Coward" starring Fred MacMurray and Jeffrey Hunter. The Cameo had "The Egyptian" from 1954 along with "Timetable," a 1956 release with Mark Stevens and Kin Calder. Thanks to Jason Horton for locating the photo for a post on the Lost Angeles Facebook group and to Bruce Kimmel for determining that the photo dates from the end of March.
 
 

1958 - A great shot looking look north on Broadway featuring the Roxie, Cameo and Arcade Theatres. Thanks to Richard Wojcik for sharing the photo from his collection.  



1958 - Thanks to Sean Ault for sharing this lovely photo from his collection.


 
1958 - A detail from Sean's photo. At the Cameo it's a reissue of "The Bad and the Beautiful," a 1952 release with Kirk and Lana, along with "Comanche" from 1958. The Roxie has "Best of the Year": "God's Little Acre" and "High School Confidential!"
 

1963 - "Young Guns of Texas" with James Mitchum, Alana Ladd, Jody McCrea and Chill Wills was at the Roxie along with "The Day Mars Invaded Earth" and some film with "Suspense" in the title. Thanks to Sean Ault for locating the photo.


1963 - A look south across 5th St. toward a fine jungle of vertical signs on Broadway. The signage for the theatres is seriously outnumbered by that for department stores and other businesses. Thanks to Sean Ault for sharing the photo from his collection. We still have wires overhead but trolley service had been discontinued at the end of March 1963. The tracks got paved over.



1963 - A detail from Sean's photo. The Roxie is over on the left running Hitchcock's "The Birds," a March release starring Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren. The second feature is "Diamond Head," a December 1962 release with Charlton Heston and Yvette Mimieux. We get a bit of the Cameo's marquee peeking out beyond the Roxie and down in the next block the verticals for the Palace and Los Angeles. Thanks, Sean!



1960s - A great postcard view looking south on Broadway from 5th with the Roxie on the left. We don't get a title on the marquee but "James Stewart Charlton Heston Richard Boone" -- presumably in 3 different features. Thanks to Sean Ault for finding the card.  Steven Otto notes that the Thrifty Drug location on the southwest corner was once home to the Fifth Street Store, Milliron's and Ohrbach's.


 
1968 - A photo by William Reagh from the Los Angeles Public Library collection. 
 

1971 - A shot of the Roxie, Cameo and Arcade reflected in a store window from a minute of Broadway home movie footage 27:30 into Rick Prelinger's "Lost Landscapes of Los Angeles - 2019." We also see the Broadway, Globe and Tower theatres. Rick's hour and thirty minute program of wonderful clips from a variety sources was presented at the Los Angeles Public Library by the organization Photo Friends as part of the series L.A. in Focus. Also see an earlier compilation: "Lost Landscapes of Los Angeles - 2016." Both programs are on Vimeo.
 

1971 - Another shot from the Rick Prelinger compilation. 

 

1974 -Looking south from 6th. Thanks to Sean Ault for spotting this photo on eBay. This one as well as the two below were from a seller identifying himself as Banana Louie. 
 

1974 - "Enter the Dragon," "Chinese Connection" and "Fists of Fury." Thanks to Sean Ault for spotting this on eBay. 
 

1974 - A wider view from the same photographer as the previous photo. Thanks, Sean! 



c.1975 - Looking north toward the Roxie. And there's a guy up down there on a ladder changing the marquee at the Cameo.Thanks to Sean Ault for sharing this photo from his collection. Noirish Los Angeles contributor Ethereal Reality had a lower-res version on his Noirish post #40127.  
 
Sean comments: "This shot of #2245 would be right around 1974-75 when those buses came in from Atlanta and got slapped right into RTD service. With numbers and a farebox they were on the road until they could be painted. Thus these buses were given a 'Georgia Peach' nickname." 


 
1977 - "The Enforcer" and "Monkey Hustle" at the Roxie. Both films were December 1976 releases. Thanks to Granola for posting the photo on the Cinema Treasures page about the Roxie.
 
 

c.1977 - A rainy day view south with the Los Angeles Theatre across 6th. The Roxie, seen on the far left, had gone to Spanish language product. Just beyond the "Hartfields" vertical is the building at 553 S. Broadway that had once been an entrance to the Metropolitan/Paramount Theatre. Thanks to Sean Ault for sharing this photo from his collection. He notes that this was another of the "Georgia Peach" buses that had been in service in Atlanta. 
 
 

1980 - Thanks to the now-vanished American Classic Images website for this fine view looking south. "La máscara" was a 1977 release with Patrizia Adriani. "Mexico, Mexico, ra ra ra" was out in 1976.



1980 - A view looking north from the American Classic Images collection. At the Cameo it was "Arabian Adventure" (1979), William Freidkin's "Sorcerer" (1977), "The Man With the Glass Eye" (1969) and "The Incredible Melting Man" (1977). The Arcade was polaying "Enter the Panther" (1976), "Fists Like Lee" (aka "Along Came a Tiger," 1977), "Grizzly" (1976) and "The Choirboys" (1977).



1980 - A closer look at the marquee from American Classic Images.
 
 

1981 - A fine look south with the Roxie, on the left, running "Mamá solita," a November 1980 release with Pedrito Fernandez. The shot appeared on the Facebook page Kodachrome Forever. Thanks to Kirk A. Gaw for sharing it on the DTLA Town Square Facebook group. Ken McIntyre also shared it on the Ken's Movie Page Facebook group.  
 
 

c.1980 - A look down thanks to Tom Zimmerman. It's a photo he took that appears in his 2009 Angel City Press book "Downtown in Detail: Close-Up on the Historic Buildings of Los Angeles." It's available on Amazon.



1983 - A peek into the lobby from the American Classic Images collection.



1983 - Looking south at the "triplets." It's a photo that was once on the American Classic Images website.



1983 - A look north at the Arcade, Cameo and Roxie from the American Classic Images collection.  



1983 - Thanks to John Rice for his photo, a post on Cinema Treasures



1983 - A closer look at the facade. It's a John Rice photo on Cinema Treasures
 
 

1987 - Thanks to Paul Kakazu for sharing this photo on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. He says he took it March 11. 



1988 - A look at the Roxie, Cameo and Arcade theatres by filmmaker and cinematographer Gary Graver. More of his theatre photos can be seen on You Tube: "Second Run - part 1" and "Second Run - part 2." Thanks to Sean Graver for use of the photo.



1989 - The year of the theatre's closing. Thanks to Bill Gabel for this post-closing view. It was a post on Cinema Treasures



 
c.1995 - The theatre's lobby spaces repurposed for retail. It's a view appearing on the Grace Market Research Broadway Theater Tour page.
 

The Roxie in the Movies:


A view of the boxoffice from Kent MacKenzie's "The Exiles." The film was shot in 1958-59 and released in 1961. We actually go inside for a show -- "The Iron Sheriff" (1957) is the main feature. Note that we can smoke in the balcony. The entire film can be seen on YouTube



Another "Exiles" view as our lead, Mary Donahue, is coming out of the show at the Roxie. We do get an inside view, but it's just of a section of seats.



A grainy look south on Broadway from "The Exiles." In this shot the Roxie is running Douglas Sirk's "Imitation of Life" (1959) with Lana Turner. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for another shot at the Roxie as well as a view looking north on Broadway at the Arcade, Cameo and Roxie.
 
 

Richard Dreyfuss has a little accident in his Rolls when driving by the Roxie, Cameo and Arcade theatres in Paul Mazursky's "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" (Touchstone, 1986). Thanks to Sean Ault for spotting the theatres. The film also features Nick Nolte, Bette Midler, Little Richard, Tracy Nelson, Elizabeth Peña, Evan Richards, Donald F. Muhich, Valerie Curtin and Mike the Dog. The cinematography was by Donald McAlpine. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for five more shots from the scene. 

 

The Roxie 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.



The Roxie terrazzo gets a cameo in "The Muppets" (Disney, 2011) as we get a shot from overhead looking down on Jason Segel during a musical number. We see lots of the El Capitan in the film as well as a scene with Kermit on the grand staircase of the Los Angeles Theatre. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a couple more shots.

Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher" (Annapurna Pictures, 2014) did some filming inside the Roxie Theatre, 518 S. Broadway, but there's not really anything Roxie-ish that shows up in the finished movie.  See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for several photos.
 
 

The Roxie, Cameo and Arcade theatres got dressed up as Gotham City in the 1980s for a scene in "Joker: Folie à Deux" (Warner Bros., 2024). Todd Phillips directs a cast including Joaquin Phoenix, Lady Gaga, Zazie Beetz, Brendan Gleeson and Catherine Keener. The cinematography is by Lawrence Sher. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a dozen more shots. 

The Roxie in Music Videos: We get a couple of exterior Roxie shots on the David Bowie video "Day-in Day-out." It's on YouTube. Thanks to Sean Ault for spotting it.

More Information: The Cinema Treasures page on the Roxie has a nice history. The Roxie page on Cinema Tour offers some more exterior views of the theatre.

Matt Lambros has a fine After the Final Curtain post about the Roxie that features interior photos taken during a 2017 visit.

Visit the Roxie Theatre on Facebook. It's a page promoting restoration and active reuse of the building as a theatre.

The Roxie Theatre pages: back to top - history + vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | interior views |

| Downtown: 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

| Westside | Hollywood | Westwood and Brentwood | Along the Coast | [more] Los Angeles movie palaces | the main alphabetical list | theatre history resources | film and theatre tech resources | theatres in movies | LA Theatres on facebook | contact info | welcome and site navigation guide |  

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic facts! I decided to look up this theater after seeing it on a vintage postcard sent to me in 2023 (one of the postcards on this page!) - so sad to see it in its current condition. Wish I had been around back in its heyday to take in what must've been breathtaking beauty (much like the Loyola theater in Westchester). Thanks for taking the time to create this page!

    ReplyDelete