Opening: The Regent opened February 1914 as the National Theatre, the second building on the site with that name. After a hard life as a reputable film house, a grindhouse, and an all-night porno venue it closed in 2000. The theatre was rescued by music entrepreneur Mitchell Frank and reopened in November 2014 as a concert venue, bar and pizzeria. This is the last remaining historic movie theatre on Main Street. Thanks to Sean Ault for his 2017 photo.
Website: regentdtla.com | on Facebook |
Seating: The first National Theatre sat 350. The replacement building now on the site had a capacity of 600 in its later years. After the 2014 remodel the capacity of the building is 1,100. The sloped floor remains but there is now no fixed seating. Two small balconies were added during the renovation.
The earlier National: The first National Theatre opened in 1910 (or perhaps a bit earlier) but soon proved to be too small for the business it generated. The theatre got an item in the June 17, 1911 issue of Moving Picture World:
The use of "years" in the article may be an exaggeration. The National, or any theatre at this address, doesn't seem to be listed in the 1908 or 1909 city directories. The "Association" in the article refers to the combine of producers from the east coast that had pooled their patents in a trust in an attempt to stifle competition. Thanks to Brooklyn-based theatre historian Cezar Del Valle for finding the article.
A photo of the first National Theatre from the February 24, 1912 issue of Moving Picture News. Thanks again to Cezar Del Valle. The photo and the article with it appeared as a post on his blog Bijou Dream. The article:
"Four reels of pictures are shown, the programme changing twice a week. Mr. Lustig has recently opened the 'Rex' Theatre on Main street, between Third and Fourth streets, and the house like the National is proving to be a winner."
The original National Theatre was still running as late as August 1913. Thanks to Brian Lee Solar for finding this ad that ran in the August 24 L.A. Times.
They're trying to unload the seats from the old theatre in this February 1, 1914 L.A. Times ad located by Brian Lee Solar. The assumption is that the "five-ply veneer chairs" had been stored nearby in another building and that's the one the ad mentions as "building being torn down."
The present building: The second National opened in February 1914. At the time of its opening it was the largest Main Street theatre running films -- of about 20 at the time. The original brick facade featured a large entrance arch that was covered up long ago. The November 21, 1914 issue of Moving Picture News discussed the theatre:
"The National, which was opened last February, has always been a five-cent house, showing regular Universal and Mutual program. With the change in policy to features, Mr. Lustig will follow the trail of managers of all the larger theatres of this city and increase the price to ten cents. The contract sets a new record for progressiveness on the part of the film renter with regard to advertising, and, in fact, instances where the exchange spent anything for advertising films -- unless they were placed in the theatre on a per cent. -- have been very rare.
"The advertising through the newspapers will be very beneficial to the exchange with reference to the smaller cities of this state and Arizona. It is held that better prices can be obtained from the small town exhibitors if the pictures are advertised and the public generally becomes acquainted with them. The first two weekly programs will consist of 'The House of Bondage' and 'Strangled in Paris,' to be followed by 'The Key to Yesterday,' and all other releases of the Alliance program."
Thanks again to Cezar Del Valle for the research. Visit his Theatre Talks blog for news of his latest explorations.
A great map from the 50s showing lots of downtown theatre locations. It was reproduced on a page about the area around the Subway Terminal Building on a lovely site by Tom Wetzel that has now vanished. You'll find the Regent (and its neighbor the Banner) on the east side of Main St. just above 5th.
The theatre ran for decades as an open-all-night grindhouse and, at the end, became an adult venue. In 1993 the situation was so bad that the City ordered a cleanup of the building citing, among other things, 31 lewd conduct arrests in an 18 month period. The L.A. Times had the story.
Closing: The theatre closed as a film house in 2000. The lease was acquired by developer Tom Gilmore in 2006 and the space was occasionally used as an art and performance venue by a variety of promoters. In early 2008, the top of the Regent Theatre facade got a mural by Ed Fuentes celebrating the recovery of Main Street. In 2009 it was a pop-up record store and concert venue for Third Man Records. Various promoters used the venue and then vanished. For 2010 it got a new drab brown paint job.
The Mitchell Frank remodel: The venue was taken over in 2011 by
longtime music promoter Mitchell Frank and his associated companies
Artist and Recreation LLC, and Knitting Factory Entertainment Inc. Frank
got a 15 year lease and planned a mix of live music events, movies,
food and drinks. It was a long process to get the theatre reopened.
After many delays, the theatre reopened in November 2014. August Brown had a story the day of the opening for the LA Times: "Downtown L.A.'s Regent Theater finally opens tonight." Eddie Kim had a story about the "Regent's Rocking Return" for L.A. Downtown News. The News did a followup story later in November: "Regent's Return Is Good For Downtown." LAist also had a story about "The Guy Behind the Echo..." Curbed LA joined the party in November with an article by Bianca Barragan. Ms. Barragan discussed the theatre again in her December 2014 Curbed story "Inside the Total Transformation of Downtown's Regent Theatre." The photos once with that article have gone missing.
Live Nation steps in: Frank's company, Spaceland Presents, was acquired by Live Nation in 2019. He stayed on for a while as president of what became a fairly autonomous subsidiary. At the time, Spaceland had 170 employees at the Regent, the Echo and the Echoplex. They also do concerts at other venues in the area. Like other theatres in the area, the Regent went dark in March 2020 due to Covid restrictions.
Status: Spaceland/Live Nation began doing shows again after the pandemic restrictions eased in 2022. They weren't paying rent during the shutdown, something that resulted in legal action and lease renegotiation. The 15-year triple net lease expires September 30, 2026 but they have two five year options, each with a 10% rent increase.
The owner of the building put it on the market in 2022. They were asking
$4.9 million for the 10,800 s.f. theatre. Thanks to Escott O. Norton
for spotting the news. It had an active listing on Loopnet in 2022 but was no longer advertised in 2023. Jay Martinez at Kidder Mathews, 310-658-3375, had the listing.
The firm also had a listing up at the time for the Canadian Building just north of the theatre at 420-424 S. Main.
More exterior views:
c.1912 - A postcard view of the block before the current Regent building was constructed. The large beige building right of center is the Canadian, a 1909 structure by Parkinson & Bergstrom. Just this side of it is the first National Theatre, in a building that would be replaced in 1914 with the present theatre. The card appeared on eBay with this copy having a 1915 postmark.
c.1944 - A less-cropped version of the previous shot. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating this one for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.
1940s - Looking north from 5th with the Regent on the right. Thanks to Lou Rugani for posting the photo on the Cinema Treasures page about the Regent.
1949 - Thanks to Richard Wojcik for this superb photo from his collection. Note the renovated facade.
1973 - The east side of the 400 block with the Regent's facade visible just beyond beyond the "Arcade" sign. It's a photo by Victor R. Plukas in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. The Banner Theatre is also there (with no noticeable sign) just this side of the "Cafe Funland" sign.
c.1978 - A lovely look south on the 400 block c.1978. We have the Main Theatre at 438 doing a "Grand Opening" and the Regent beyond, here on a $2.00 porno policy. Thanks to Sean Ault for the photo, taken by his grandfather William E. Ault.
1981 - An Anne Knudsen photo taken for the Herald Examiner gives a look north toward the Regent. Thanks to Sean Ault for finding it in the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
1983 - The Regent and its neighbor to the north, the Main Theatre, are captured in this photo from the now-vanished American Classic Images website.
1983 - Another view, thanks to American Classic Images.
1980s - A John Rice photo of the theatre as a skid row porno house. It's a contribution of John's to the Regent Cinema Treasures page.
1980s - The Regent during its dark days. It's a photo by filmmaker and cinematographer Gary Graver who photographed many historic theatres. More of his theatre shots can be seen on You Tube in "Second Run - part 1"and "Second Run - part 2." Thanks to Sean Graver for the use of the photos.
c.1990 - Another sad view. Photo: Gary Graver
2007 - The Regent Theatre during its yellow period. Photo: Bill Counter
2008 - "Main Street Recovery," a mural by Ed Fuentes as seen from an apartment at the Rowan Lofts, 460 S. Spring St. The photo by the artist appears with "View From A Studio," a March post on Mr. Fuentes' blog [view]fromaloft.
2008 - The street looking south. It's a photo by VFaL that appeared with "Artwalk on the 'Street With No Name'" a July post by Ed Fuentes on his blog [view]fromaloft.
2009 - Ken McIntyre captured this scene of filming at the Regent in 2009. It's in an album of Ken's on Photobucket. He also has another filming shot in the album.
2009 - A fine view of the mural that was painted by Ed Fuentes in 2008. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for his photo on Photobucket.
2009 - Working on the sign. It's a Ken McIntyre photo.
2009 - More sign work. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for the photo.
2009 - The crowd for an August 27 show by Dead Weather. Third Man Records had the theatre as a pop-up record store and concert venue. Thanks to Billy Bennight II for posting his photo (and a story of his adventure) on the DTLA Photography Facebook page. And thanks to Escott O. Norton for spotting the post.
2010 - The exciting new color scheme for the facade. Photo: Bill Counter
2010 - The view south on Main. At 5th and Main are the Rosslyn Hotel and Rosslyn Annex. The Rosslyn building nearest us, at the NW corner of 5th & Main, was the site of Clune's Theatre. Just out of the frame to the right is the site of the Rosslyn Theatre, located in an earlier Rosslyn Hotel building. Photo: Bill Counter
April 2014 - The Regent all dressed up with its construction fence. Photo: Hunter Kerhart. Keep up with Hunter's recent explorations: hunterkerhart.com | Hunter on Facebook | on Flickr
April 2014 - North on Main toward 4th. Photo: Hunter Kerhart. Thanks, Hunter!
May 2014 - The Regent celebrated the installation of a a new storefront during the prolonged renovation process. The photo is one that once appeared on the Regent Facebook page.
November 2014 - A shot by Gary Leonard of proud owner Mitchell Frank. The photo appeared with "Regent's Rocking Return," Eddie Kim's L.A. Downtown News story about the theatre's reopening.
November 2014 - A facade view appearing with the LAist story "The Guy Behind The Echo Transforms..." about the Regent's reopening. It's a photo by Abel Bourbois appearing on Flickr.
2014 - A look south from atop the marquee. Thanks to Stephen Russo for the photo.
2017 - A look north from behind the Regent letters. Photo: Bill Counter
2017 - Thanks to Mike Hume for this look up the facade. See the Regent Theatre page on his Historic Theatre Photography site for more of his photos of the theatre.
2017 - The facade from across the street. Photo: Mike Hume - Historic Theatre Photography
2017 - Another busy night at the Regent. Thanks to Matthew Tucciarone for his photo, appearing on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles as a post of Ken McIntyre.
2018 - Looking north toward the Regent from 5th St. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
2020 - A view north by Ian Logan that appeared with "LA's Shuttered Movie Theaters and Venues Are Using Their Marquees to Speak to the City," an April Los Angeles Magazine story by Mr. Logan and Cindy Whitehead that included eleven additional photos. Thanks to Yasmin Elming for spotting it.
2023 - It was a week of free Christmas movies from December 18 to 22 with double features each night. Photo: Bill Counter - December 20
Around the back:
2010 - The rear of the theatre from across Indian Alley. Note the Rosslyn sign across Main St. The shot comes from a page on the blog Filming Locations of Chicago and Los Angeles about season two, episode six of "Southland." Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Ethereal Reality for spotting the shot and including it on his Noirish post #28189. He's got the story of how you get that view - there's a ramp up between 118 and 122 Winston St.
The Regent in the Movies: Main Street has been a popular film location
for decades for cop shows or other filmmakers seeking a seedy typical
The Regent is seen in this shot 7:36 into nearly 11 minutes of early 1950 footage intended for use as process shot backgrounds in film or TV shows. They were running "Strange Gamble" (1948), "Mary Ryan, Detective" (1949) and the short "Punchy Cowboys" from January 1950.
A lovely colorized and remastered version of the footage is on YouTube
from NASS as "1950s - Views of Los Angeles in color..." The original footage is on Internet Archive as Pet 1067 R 4.
On Main St. we also get views of the Muse, Burbank, Optic, Gayety,
Follies, Hip and Liberty theatres. 7th St. footage includes the Warner
and Loew's State.
A shot of the Regent during a car chase in "Uptown Saturday Night" (Warner Bros. / First Artists, 1974). The "open soon" on the marquee may have been be overly optimistic. Peerhaps this was when it was converting to a porno operation. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for another Regent shot a few moments after this one as well as views of the Follies Theatre and the Burbank Theatre from the film.
About 50 minutes into "Black Belt Jones" (Warner Bros., 1974) we go for a drive north on Main St. and get some fuzzy views of the Regent out the back window. Here it's just to the right of the mirror. Jim Kelly and Gloria Hendry star in this Blaxploitation saga directed by Robert Clouse. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a shot of the Follies and Linda Lea theatres.
We get a lot of action on and around Main St. in Billy Wilder's "The Front Page" (Universal, 1974). The seedier streets of L.A. in 1974 are doubling for Chicago in the 20s. Here we're driving by the Regent on our chase for Austin Pendleton, who's actually hiding in a desk at the city jail. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for one more shot showing the Regent as well as seven interior views of the Orpheum from the film.
get a look at the theatre in "Special
Delivery" (American International, 1976). Paul Wendkos directed the
story about a bank robbery in downtown L.A. The robber put the loot into
a mail box and, unknown to him, there were several witnesses. Cybill
Shepard and Bo Svenson starred. The
cinematography was by Harry Stradling, Jr. Thanks to Eric Schaefer for
spotting the theatre in the film and getting the screenshot.
We get a number of views of the Regent in Carl Franklin's film version of Walter Mosley's novel "Devil In a Blue Dress" (TriStar Pictures, 1995). The film, with Jennifer Beals and Tom Sizemore, features Denzel Washington as Easy Rawlins. S. Main is standing in for S. Central Ave. in the 40s. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots of the Regent from the film.
In "Cadillac Records" (Sony Pictures, 2008) we get about 10 seconds of film near the beginning labeled "Chicago" but it's actually Main St. with the Regent marquee plainly visible down the block. The building on the left is the Canadian Building. It's a bit of the footage originally shot for "Devil In a Blue Dress." Many of the urban portions of "Cadillac Records" were shot in New Jersey.
"Do you really like movies? When's the last time you went to see a movie in a theatre? ... A movie that really meant something to you?" asks Lindsay Lohan in Paul Schrader's "The Canyons" (IFC Films, 2013). This shot of the Regent pops up in the middle of the film, which opens and closes with desaturated views of abandoned movie theatres. The film, written by Bret Easton Ellis, is a thriller about some sad people on the fringes of the film business. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots of some of the other theatres seen in the film.
Ryan Gosling and John Legend are at the Regent for a photo shoot in Damien
Chazelle's "La La Land" (Lionsgate, 2016). The scene starts with Gosling nervously pacing outside in a driveway on
the west side of EastWest Studios, 6000 Sunset Blvd., a location whose
interior is used for several other scenes. But for this scene, when we
go inside we're in the Regent. Here our obnoxious photographer is getting another camera from his assistant. You know, one that works. That purplish glow to the right of the guitar player is part of the proscenium.
The Regent on TV:
LAPD Life On The Beat" episode noted that some guys were just living in there. It was the only snack bar they had seen that also sold canned food. Thanks to Sean Ault for spotting the 3 1/2 minute clip, a post from Michael on YouTube.
More Information: The Cinema Treasures page on the Regent has many stories and comments. See Jeff Bridges' 2007 post "The Street With No Name or the Theatre With No Name?" on the L.A. Conservancy's Los Angeles Historic Theatre Committee blog. Also see his Regent Theatre post for more about the theatre.
Don't miss Sandi Hemmerlein's December 2014 Avoiding Regret photo essay "The Restored Regent Theatre, For Those About To Rock" for many lovely photos.
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