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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 the Roxie Theatre Facebook page 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.

The Roxie was built for Gus A. Metzger and Harry Srere. These two, along with a third partner, had built the Fairfax Theatre, opening in 1930. Although the Roxie was built with a stagehouse, it was intended primarily for film presentation. It's unknown how much rigging or other stage equipment was actually installed. Srere had operated the Rialto in the late 20s and was also in the Palace beginning October 1928. Soon that one ended up in the Fox West Coast circuit. Srere also had a minority interest in the Forum Theatre.

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



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."

Closing: The Roxie closed in 1989. Metropolitan Theatres 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 (along with the Cameo Theatre, the Arcade Theatre and the adjacent Arcade Building) has been owned since the early 90s by Joseph Hellen. Ryan Vaillancourt had a nice 2010 story in LA Downtown News about Mr. Hellen: "The Survivor."

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. 

Mr. Hellen's company, Downtown Management (also known as Mideb) also has other properties in the area including 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.

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.



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 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 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.



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.



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."



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.  



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 from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



1970s? - A shot looking north toward the Roxie. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Ethereal Reality for sharing it on his Noirish post #40127



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.



1980 - A detail from a photo in the American Classic Images collection. The site also has two other daytime views of the three theatres: 1980 looking north and 1983 looking north.



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



1983 - A peek into the lobby from the American Classic Images collection. Also see a 1983 night view looking south showing the three theatres.



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.



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.

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 |

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