307 S. Broadway Los Angeles, CA 90013 | map |
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Opened: February 1, 1918 by Sid Grauman as Grauman's Theatre (his first in Los Angeles) with a star-studded premiere of "The Silent Man" starring William S. Hart, who was there for the festivities. Other stars attending the opening included Lillian Gish, Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Wallace Reid, Edna Purviance and Constance Talmadge. Directors attending included Cecil B. DeMille, D.W. Griffith, Thomas Ince and Mack Sennett. Photo: Bill Counter, taken the day of the theatre's 100th birthday.
While the signage just said "Grauman's," it was referred to in early ads as Grauman's Million Dollar Theatre. It had evidently cost something more than that sum for the land, the office building, the theatre, and the furnishings. The name "Million Dollar Theatre" had even appeared on the construction fence. As well, the name may have been a bit of a joke. The lobby floor covering at downtown's poshest hotel, the Alexandria, was referred to as the "Million Dollar Rug" due to the caliber of the clientele hanging out there and the size of the deals transacted.
The Million Dollar was the first real movie palace on Broadway. And the
Million Dollar also gets the prize as the first real Los Angeles movie palace
built for that purpose. Although the Auditorium Theatre at 5th &
Olive, when running as Clune's Auditorium, was operated in luxurious movie palace fashion it was originally built as a
church. The Million Dollar was also noteworthy as the first
theatre built as part of a "height limit" building and also had the
first clear-span balcony in town in a major theatre - largely cast
concrete. The building was listed on the National Register in 1978 and in 2019 became a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.
The theatre is in need of a tenant. The theatre building and the adjoining Grand Central Market have been owned since late 2017 by Adam Daneshgar, president of Langdon Street Capital. He's been doing long-deferred improvements at the Market and is enthusiastic about the future of the theatre.
Phone: 213-617-3600 Filming and rental inquiries: www.grandcentralmarket.com/contact
Johnson working on one of the sculptures for in front of the organ grilles. Both were removed from the theatre at an early date and are now missing. Thanks to Steve Gerdes for locating the image on Wikimedia Commons. Steve notes that Johnson did all the sculpture for the Fine Arts Building on 7th St., both inside and out. See a photo of the house right organ grille with one of the sculptures in place that appeared in the May 1918 issue of Architect and Engineer.
Seating: Originally it was 2,345 with 1,400 on the main floor and 945 in the balcony. Currently it's 2,024 with 1,216 on the main floor and 808 in the balcony. A 1979 L.A. Times article about Metropolitan Theatres listed the capacity as 2,001.
Stage specifications: The proscenium is 39' 11" with a height at center of 47'. The stage depth is 32' 1" from the smoke pocket to face of backwall columns. See the stage page for more details.
Grauman and Chaplin playing around at the console. It's a photo taken by Stagg Photo Service in 1920. Thanks to Kurt Wahlner for sharing this from his collection. Pay a visit to his site about that other Grauman theatre, the Chinese: www.GraumansChinese.org
The drawing from A.C. Martin of the final design for the office building and Million Dollar Theatre. It's in the Huntington Digital Library collection. The initial tenant of the office building was the Edison Co. From 1931 until 1963 the Metropolitan Water District was the primary tenant of the office building, which has a frontage of 115' on Broadway and 65' on W. 3rd. In addition, a wing of offices extends along the auditorium on the 3rd St. side at the 2nd floor level. While the office building was a conventional steel framed structure, the theatre portion was largely cast-in-place concrete.
A version of Martin's drawing appeared in the L.A. Times issue of March 18, 1917 under the heading "Upper Broadway's Magnificent New Picture Playhouse." They called it a "studio and theatre structure." Martin's drawing appeared in the Times again on January 1, 1918, a month before the opening. The caption that time was "Stability Building Company Completes Handsome Structure. To House Grauman's $1,000,000 Theater." They talked about the facade as being "Superbly predominant, with pinnacles rising high into the skyline..." The article noted that Sidney Grauman was general manager. The ten year lease on the building was not executed by Sid but rather by his father, David J. Grauman.
"Move to Check Southwest Migration in Los Angeles," an article in the November 22, 1916 issue of the publication Women's Wear, is another item located by Noirish Los Angeles contributor Gaylord Wilshire. The curious headline about migration makes you think it was about problems at the border -- but in fact the concern was about the movement of L.A.'s shopping district south and west. The Million Dollar / Edison Building (originally referred to as the Stability Building) was one attempt to halt that. The article:
"Coincident with the beginning of the construction of the Stability Building at Broadway and Third street, work has started on the new home of the Blackstone Dry Goods Co, at Broadway and Ninth street. This concern for many years has been one of the prominent upper Broadway stores, which have refused to join the migration southward."
A first floor plan of the building that appeared (along with several photos) in the August 1918 issue of the San Francisco based magazine The Architect. It's on Internet Archive. Note the layout of the original orchestra pit and the columns onstage for the set framing the screen. The bays south of the theatre's entrance that ended up as an open-air ticket lobby are seen on the plans as a retail space.
The support system for the theatre's balcony was poured-in-place concrete trusses, not steel girders. An article in the August 26, 1917 issue of the Los Angeles Times noted that as far as supporting the balcony was concerned, it was left to the architect to either use the untried technology of concrete trusses or use posts underneath for support:
"Sectional view of gallery [the balcony] and supporting arch." An illustration detailing one of the concrete trusses that would support the balcony from the August 26, 1917 issue of the Times. The area below the bottom member of the truss that we see is the main floor seating area back under the balcony. The article with the illustration, "Writes New Chapter in Architectural History," noted:
"The arch and suspended truss system as seen from behind gallery." It's another drawing from the August 26, 1917 Times. The little upper arch (above the main arch at the bottom of the illustration) is on the theatre's centerline and, below it, would be built the center vomitory out to the balcony's lower crossaisle. Our view is as if we were standing toward the house left side of the balcony lobby. The caption with the drawing:
"How A.C. Martin, architect and engineer of the $1,000,000 Edison building at Third and Broadway, solved the problem created by the fact that it would take a year and a half to get the steel trusses ordinarily used for this purpose. He has substituted for them the 100 foot concrete arch shown in the drawings and photographs. These, made during the past week, give a somewhat inadequate idea of the tremendous mass and character of the load and the enormous structural responsibility imposed upon the arch which carries it. The ultimate load is estimated at 3,000,000 pounds."
Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Gaylord Wilshire for posting the Times article (and many other items) on his Noirish post #27774.
An article in the September 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics, "Mammoth Concrete Arch in Costly Theater," described the wonders of the Million Dollar and included some construction photos. Thanks to theatre historian Ed Kelsey for sharing the items from his collection. The article commented:
Formwork for the balcony as seen in a photo from the Popular Mechanics article. The caption reads:
"This Picture Shows One of the Concrete Chutes Used to fill a Mammoth Arch Form in Constructing a Los Angeles Theater Building." The roof is not in place yet. That would happen after the balcony was poured. We're looking down from the office building onto the curve that will be the front of the balcony. The photo is from the September 1919 Popular Mechanics article.
Truss construction for the auditorium roof. It's a photo from the Popular Mechanics issue of September 1919. The caption reads:
A construction photo taken on the main floor looking up at the concrete trusses for the balcony and the slab for the balcony risers above. It's on Internet Archive from the August 1918 issue of The Architect.
A view across the unfinished main floor from The Architect. At the left is part of the wall separating the back of the lobby from the retail spaces. It appears that the workers have hung up their overalls on it. For a sense of the scale, note the cluster of workers at the bottom of the photo right of center.
Three photos of the theatre were included in the Architectural Digest 1922 survey issue of noteworthy southern California buildings. It's on Google Books from the Stanford Library. The page also listed some of the suppliers for the building: Metal lathing construction - Benjamin Schonfeld Co., Plastering - Fred E. Potts, Heating system - Illinois Engineering Co., Plumbing fixtures - Crane Co., Reinforced composition roofing - Pioneer Paper Co., Metal doors - California Fire-Proof Door Co., Brick - L.A. Brick Co., Venetian screens - Western Blind and Screen Co., Floor coverings and office furniture - Barker Bros., Grauman's Theatre - complete furnishings by Barker Bros., Face brick & hollow tile - L.A. Pressed Brick Co.
The theatre entrance before the opening. It's a Los Angeles Public Library photo. Popular Mechanics commented on the entrance in their September 1919 article:
The ad that appeared in the L.A. Times on opening day, February 1.
"Magnificent" was the single word above the headline for the Times' lengthy February 2 review of the opening. They titled the story "Opening's Brilliant of Million-Dollar Theater." A portion of their text:
"Grauman's Makes Its Bow to a Huge and Distinguished Audience. A line of men and women four abreast, extending along Broadway from Third street to Fifth and beyond. A crowd of man, women and children, thousands upon thousands of them, curiously watching the long straight line from the east side of Broadway, jammed together like sardines in a box, and overflowing into the street and on the other sidewalk. This was the site, unusual even for Los Angeles, that continued from 5 o'clock to 8:30 last night. Grauman's new $1,000,000 theater slowly swallowed up the human line more than two blocks long, but capacious as its entrance is it was two hours and a half before the feat was accomplished.
"The handsomest motion-picture theater in the world, and also the most costly ever, was having its grand opening and was making its best big bow to a handful of the vast multitudes that will flock to it night after night through the coming months and years... Last night's audience itself, which included many famous picture stars, divided interest with the picture. The spectator who sat between Charlie Chaplin on the one hand and Charles Ray on the other would have felt entertained enough even though there hadn't been that remarkably fascinating program. For the most part the actors and actresses and directors who attended were in evening dress, which lent a brilliant metropolitan air to the assemblage.
"Among the stars and lesser picture lights who brightened the occasion were, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, William S. Hart, Mary Pickford, George Beban, Mr. and Mrs. Sessue Hayakawa, Roscoe Arbuckle, Edna Purviance, Wallace Reid, Dorothy Davenport, Earl Williams, Toto, Charles Ray, Dorothy Dalton, J. Warren Kerrigan, Bessie Barriscale, Winnifred Kingston, Anita King, Constance Talmadge, Mary Miles Minter, Mae Murray, Henry Walthall, Franklyn Farnum, Dorothy Phillips, William Farnum, Viola Dana, Edith Storey, Bryant Washburn, Dustin Farnum, Crane Wilbur, William Desmond, Maude George, Ruth Roland, Texas Guinan, Lois Wilson, Charlie Murray, Louise Fazenda, Hal Cooley, Frank Keenan, Lillian Gish, Dorothy Gish, Robert Barron, Florence Vicor, Gladys Brockwell, William Stowell, Harry Carey, Douglas Gerhard, Louise Glenn, Rhea Mitchell and scores of others.
The program for the week beginning September 9, 1918 at the "Beautiful Temple of the Cinema Art" with the feature film being the William S. Hart epic "Riddle Gawne." Thanks to Sharon Hofstra Haugen for finding the image.
In 1919 Adolph Zukor became one of the partners in the operation. With his partner Jesse Lasky already in for a share, this presumably left Sid and his father with 50 percent. This April 1919 telegram from Sid to Zukor cemented their partnership. As a result of these relationships the Million Dollar ran a lot of Famous Players-Lasky / Paramount product. Presumably the "immediate construction of new theatre" referred to the Metropolitan. The telegram was a find by Michelle Gerdes in the AMPAS Margaret Herrick Library collection.
In an October 1919 telegram in the AMPAS collection Grauman tries to set up a partnership with Famous Players in a San Diego house. Which didn't happen -- it sounds like it was promised to Sid but they decided to go with someone else. There's mention of the remodel of Quinn's Rialto, soon "to be the prettiest little house in America."
Also mentioned in the telegram is the possibility of acquiring a theatre they refer to as the Mercantile Place Theatre. This was undoubtedly the Pantages (now the Arcade Theatre), next door to the Mercantile Place shopping area, later the site of the Arcade Building. The theatre was up for grabs as Alexander Pantages was moving to his new theatre at 7th & Hill. This acquisition didn't happen.
Soon Grauman's became known for Sid's extravagant "prologues" prior to the feature films as well as lavish premieres. This 1920 ad was for the "Great Fashion Pageant" prologue and the Paramount feature "His House in Order" with Elsie Ferguson. If this is just the ad, imagine what splendors were presented in the show itself.
Thanks to Ken McIntyre for posting the ad on the Facebook page Photos of Los Angeles. David Saffer commented: "'Models Representing Rarest Flowers of Girlhood'? Can't you get arrested for that now?" The ad plus another full page story about this particular production appears on pages 212 and 213 of Ben Hall's "The Best Remaining Seats" (Clarkson N. Potter, 1966).
The cover for a late December 1920 edition of Grauman's Weekly. At the Rialto that week they were running "Helioptrope." Thanks to Allegra Garcia for sharing this. It comes from the collection of her great aunt Beatrice Dominguez, a dancer and actress perhaps best known for her appearance in the tango scene in the Rudolph Valentino film "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (Metro, 1921).
The Million Dollar was noteworthy for its orchestra pit that extended half way upstage to showcase the players. On July 3, 1922 a pit fire occurred during a prologue (there were no injuries) and the pit was later rebuilt along more standard lines.
The cover for the "Grauman's Theater and Grauman's Rialto Magazine" for January 7, 1923 from the Woody Wise collection. It was an issue of thirty one pages promoting the films "Outcast," "To Have and to Hold" and "Robin Hood." Woody had the cover as a post on the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.
"Owner of Notable Downtown Houses to Sell Them and Build Others in Near-by Cities. Contracts have been signed and preliminary payments, in the form of option money, have been made by the Paramount Pictures Corporation for the entire Grauman motion-picture theater interests. The Metropolitan, Grauman's Million Dollar Theater at Third street and Broadway and the Rialto on South Broadway are the houses involved. The sale of the houses and new construction which is to follow immediately, involve a total of $4,845,000. The transactions contemplated are among the most important ever recorded in the United States relative to theater property.
"Grauman Confirms Deal. Confirmation of the deal involving his interests, 50 per cent of the total ownership, was given last night by Sid Grauman. A total of $1,045,000 is to be paid to Mr. Grauman by the Paramount interests. As part of the transaction Mr. Grauman is to remain in direct charge of the houses for the next six months. Coincident with the confirmation of the sale of his properties, which does not in any way involve his theater in Hollywood, Mr. Grauman announced the completion of tentative plans for the erection of another theater devoted entirely to the photodramatic art in Hollywood. This house is expected to cost $1,500,000, the plans calling for its completion and dedication in approximately seven months. At the same time Mr. Grauman will also have under construction in Hollywood a third theater, which is to combine legitimate productions and motion pictures, and which is to cost approximately $800,000.
"Plans Are Comprehensive. The new picture theatre for Hollywood is to be constructed on Hollywood Boulevard on a piece of ground 160 by 258 feet and is to incorporate, Mr. Grauman said, a score of massive features which will mark another tremendous advance in picture presentation. The site for the combination house also has been chosen but the transfer of the property has not yet been effected. Pending the conclusion of the entire transaction the Paramount interests are having plans prepared for the erection of several additional stories to the present Metropolitan Theater Building, the estimated cost of these latter improvements being $1,500,000. While nothing beyond the preliminary steps has been done, Mr. Grauman also announced that there has been initiated a general plan for the erection and operation of Grauman houses in Long Beach, Pasadena and San Diego...."
The article continued at length with a discussion of more detailed plans for the new Hollywood theatres, which didn't happen at that time. Nothing came along until the Chinese in 1927. The added upper stories mentioned for the Metropolitan didn't happen either. Nor did the Grauman houses planned for three other cities. Sid also talked about a project that was then under construction and would continue to completion, the Broadway entrance of the Metropolitan, located just north of 6th St.
The Million Dollar was initially on a ten year lease from owner Homer Laughlin. In 1925 A.C. Blumenthal purchased the building for approximately $1 million. In 1923 he had purchased the Metropolitan Theatre's building. A May 23, 1925 L.A. Times story headed "Edison Building Sold" commented:
"A.C. Blumenthal, Los Angeles real estate man, celebrated his recovery from a recent illness by purchasing yesterday the Edison Building, housing Grauman's Million Dollar Theater... Mr. Blumenthal would make no statement as to what he intends to do with the property further than to say that he bought it as an investment and that the present tenants will not be distrubed.. The design of the theater is still considered one of the best in the country from the point of view of beauty, comfort, accoustics, ventilation and lighting. The theater at present is leased by the Famous-Players Lasky Corporation..."
In 1927 West Coast Theatres took over the actual operation of the Publix theatres in Los Angeles and the ads for the Million Dollar and Metropolitan appeared as part of the
regular West Coast ads. At some point prior to 1927 the Rialto had
drifted off and became an independent operation. In August 1927 West Coast pulled a permit for a new boxoffice at the Million Dollar.
The Million Dollar News for August 26, 1927 with Vilma Banky on the cover, appearing in "The Magic Flame." Note the Publix logo on the program. Thanks to Noirish Los Angeles contributor Ethereal Reality who found the magazine on eBay and included it in his Noirish post #17525. He has an inside page and several short articles as well. Also see a photo with "The Magic Flame" on the marquee.
In West Coast's ads in the L.A. Times early in 1928 we were told, in small print "In association with Publix." By April 1928 they were saying "In association with Publix-Loew." It's unknown what the Loew's ownership stake was. Or maybe that was just a reference to Loew's State, which West Coast also operated. In May 1928 West Coast pulled a permit for a new marquee on the Million Dollar.
It's now filled in but there was a tunnel connecting the Edison Building basement with the Bradbury across the street. Although the basement is about 20' deep, the tunnel went down deeper. All that remains is a roughly filled-in hole in the floor slab near the line of the Broadway facade above and about 30' south of 3rd St. The basement continues under the sidewalk but the hole isn't that far east. The word is that it was a shallow tunnel -- you went down a few steps from basement level and you had to sort of hunch down to clear your head as you went through. Thanks to David Ortega, the building's long-time maintenance man and explorer, for the research.
A 1933 ticket for a giveaway of a refrigerator in a promotion with the May Co. Thanks to Sean Ault for the photo of the ticket.
The ticket's reverse reveals that the film at the theatre that week was "Jennie Gerhardt," a film of Theodore Dreiser's novel with Sylvia Sydney. It was a bad day at the print shop. They got both the title and author's first name spelled wrong.
"Harlem's a Poppin" on the great stage plus that big hit "Gang Smashers" on the screen -- and the stars of the film at every show! It's a 1938 ad appearing in the Eastside Journal. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating this for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page. In another Journal ad they announced "Free $500 Cash - Keno every Mon. Thurs. Fri." And there was a Jitterbug Contest every Wednesday night. And, as if that wasn't enough, there was free parking after 4 pm.
In May 1939 Popkin was issued a permit to alter the marquee by rounding the corners of the frame as well as installing new readerboards and neon. In June 1939 Popkin & Ringer got a permit to install a new boxoffice.
This listing in the 1947 Film Daily Yearbook showed the extent of Harry Popkin's theatre holdings. All the theatres listed, other than the Million Dollar and the Hollywood houses, were located on Main St. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for spotting the listing. In the 1940s, the Million Dollar was a home to many jazz and big band shows. Performers included Lionel Hampton, Billie Holiday and Artie Shaw.
Redevelopment in the 90s: The theatre building had been sold for $6.5 million in 1989 to Ira Yellin of the Yellin Co. who announced plans to turn the building into (again) an upscale office complex. A February 10 Times article noted that Metropolitan Theatres had the theatre on a 25 year lease that would expire in 2009. The project eventually morphed into the Grand Central Square Apartments, a 1994 project creating apartments in the former office spaces above the theatre as well as in the adjacent Grand Central Market building. One of the penthouses includes the former office of William Mulholland,
of Department of Water and Power fame. A parking garage was added on the southeast corner of 3rd and Hill, replacing the Fay Building that had been on the site. Brenda Levin was the project architect.
Former nightclub operator Robert Voskanian leased the theatre in 2005 and gave it a million dollar cleanup and repair. It re-opened in February 2008 for concerts, events and occasional films. There had been gossip about the proscenium being in need of a seismic retrofit but evidently all was stable enough for occupancy. Much seismic retrofitting had been done when the office portion of the building was converted into apartments. There's bracing visible up in the stagehouse, for example, and shear walls evident in the basement. The blog Franklin Avenue had a 2008 story "The Million-Dollar Million Dollar Theatre Gamble."
In early 2010 Hillsman Wright of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation reported that the City's Bringing Back Broadway committee was working with the building owner and the then-operator Voskanian to help address some of the building's current problems including poor loading access, insufficient restrooms, and lack of a decent HVAC plant. Those items are still problems. Voskanian had hoped to install a cafe in the lobby and planned to continue renovation work in the theatre as funds came in. Business was spotty and bookings were scarce.
Much good work was done but the operation turned out to be not financially viable. Voskanian terminated his lease with Yellin in July 2012. After Voskanian left, the Million Dollar was open occasionally for special events such as film screenings sponsored by the Grand Central Market, Cinespia and the L.A. Conservancy. There were other rentals for filming use. In March 2014 the Million Dollar received a facade lighting improvement grant from the City of Los Angeles for $138,587 to illuminate the decorative arch above the marquee, spotlight the third floor statues, and light tile panels on 3rd Street. The grant was part of a $750,000 package awarded to thirteen Broadway properties. The new lighting debuted in October 2017.
The Million Dollar got a new tenant in late 2017, a five year $6.5 million lease negotiated by the Yellin Co. with CoBird, a new social networking platform. Their now-vanished website, Cobird.com, once had the slogan "Connecting to the world through culture." The word when they took over was that the company would be using the theatre as a performance venue with some of their own shows plus whatever other rentals come along. The lease also included the basement and the storefronts. The Real Deal had a November 8 story titled "The fate of a historic DTLA theater..." discussing the new tenant.
The theatre building, the Grand Central Market, and the garage were all sold in late 2017 to Beverly Hills investor
Adam Daneshgar, president of Langdon Street Capital. He said at the time "We are not
looking to go in and change or overhaul anything." As far as the Market is concerned,
Daneshgar announced plans to spend several million on deferred maintenance such as
painting and cleaning, along with possibly adding several more stalls. Roger
Vincent had the story November 1 story in the L.A. Times: "Downtown's historic Grand Central Market is sold..."
In the theatre, nothing materialized with CoBird. They installed new lobby carpeting in January 2018 and the theatre was open with shows all day during that month's "Night on Broadway." Later there were several other rentals but no serious attempt at bookings or other improvements. Elan Shore had an August 2018 post about the possible end of the brief CoBird era on the Facebook page DTLA Development. Their tenancy lingered but they were officially out at the end of May 2019 due to non-payment of rent.
Bookings, minimal before the CoBird deal, have also been very sparse since then. After being dark for nearly a year, Street Food Cinema had a film screening on March 29, 2019. The L.A. Times month-long Food Bowl event had their kickoff in the theatre at the end of April. The L.A. Conservancy's 2019 Last Remaining Seats film series had two shows at the theatre on June 8. In December 2019 the fashion firm Entireworld used a storefront for a pop-up up shop in conjunction with several week's worth of film screenings of "Groundhog Day," "Less Than Zero," and other titles. And there hasn't been much else.
The success of the Million Dollar is crucial to the Broadway revitalization efforts. Currently the only other theatres regularly open on Broadway are the Orpheum, Globe and United Artists. The Palace got a million dollar restoration in 2011 but bookings remain infrequent. The Los Angeles gets an occasional concert or special event. Perhaps the State Theatre will eventually come back to life now that its church tenant of 20 years is gone.
The main lobby in the Million Dollar had been stripped of its decor over the years but there is hope of restoring a ceiling dome hiding above a dropped ceiling. The murals in the balcony lobby could be recreated from photos and drawings that exist. The auditorium decor is quite intact but in need of cleaning and repair. In July 2019 the city council voted unanimously to make the theatre a Historic-Cultural Landmark, a designation supported by the building's owner.
The Million Dollar in the Movies:
We get a glimpse of the top of the Million Dollar in "Safety Last!" with Harold Lloyd and Mildred Davis (Hal Roach Studios, 1923). The finale sequence was partially filmed atop the Washington Bldg. at 3rd & Spring. The most famous shot from the film is of Harold hanging from the hands of a clock with the Majestic Theatre and Tally's Broadway in the background. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for that shot as well as a number of links to articles about how the stunts were done.
Scenes using Fanchon & Marco dancers were shot inside the Million Dollar for "Take Me Home" (Paramount, 1928) starring Bebe Daniels. The theatre was dark at the time of the summer 1928 shooting. No prints of the film are known to exist.
We get a brief glimpse of the flashing marquee of the Million Dollar in "Footlight Parade" with Jimmy Cagney (Warner Bros., 1933) as we speed by on the bus to put on a Chester Kent prologue in a New York City theatre. Hillsman Wright of the LAHTF notes that had we been there we might have seen a similar scene with Grauman busing his prologue casts back and forth between the Million Dollar and the Rialto. "Footlight Parade" also gives us a quick look at the Central Theatre, 314 S. Broadway. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for that shot.
Rudolph Maté's "D.O.A." (United Artists, 1950) starts in San Francisco but about an hour into it we come to L.A. and get a ride down Broadway. Later we pay a visit to the Bradbury Building and get this shot of the Million Dollar. The theatre is running "The Big Wheel" starring Mickey Rooney as a race car driver. Our star Edmond O'Brien is trying to track down the guy who gave him a lethal dose of radium. "D.O.A." was produced by Harry Popkin's Cardinal Pictures. Popkin owned the Million Dollar building at the time. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots of the Tower and Orpheum as well as other information about the film.
We get this nice view north on the 300 block of Broadway in "Between Midnight and Dawn" (Columbia, 1950) starring Edmond O'Brien and Gale Storm. On the left it's the vertical sign for the Million Dollar with that for the Grand Central Market in front of it. On the right it's the Cozy and Central theatres. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a closer view of those two.
In Steve McQueen's last film "The Hunter" (Rastar/Paramount, 1980) we get a shot up 3rd St. along the side of the Million Dollar.
In Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner" (Ladd Company, Warner Bros., 1982) we have a number of shots of the marquee as lots of the action was filmed across the street in the Bradbury Building. The columns we see looking out from the Bradbury Building were added by the for the film by the production designer. The film stars Harrison Ford, Sean Young, Darryl Hannah and Rutger Hauer. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for two more shots showing the Million Dollar.
We get a look at the Million Dollar in a big cruise down Broadway during the opening credits of Dennis Hopper's "Colors" (Orion, 1988). For architecture buffs anyway, the rest of the film (with Sean Penn and Robert Duvall) is less than compelling. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots of the State and Palace Theatres from the credit sequence.
We get this fine view of Teresa Russell in front of the Bradbury with the Million Dollar in the background in Ken Russell's "Whore" (Trimark, 1991). This was supposedly his answer to the glamorous life portrayed in
"Pretty Woman." The film also stars Benjamin Mouton, Antonio
Fargas and Elizabeth Morehead. Amir Mokri was the cinematographer. Thanks to Eric Schaefer for the screenshot. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots of the Cameo, Arcade and Century Plaza theatres from the film.
We get this fine look at the theatre in Marc Rocco's film "Murder in the First" (Warner Bros., 1995). Christian Slater is crossing the street to go into the Bradbury Building where his brother, played by Brad Dourif, has offices. The film is set in San Francisco c.1941 and Slater plays a public defender on the case of Alcatraz inmate Kevin Bacon, accused of killing another prisoner.
Mira Sorvino has an office across from the Million Dollar on 3rd in Antoine Fuqua's "The Replacement Killers" (Columbia, 1998). All hell breaks loose when Chow Yun-Fat comes to see her about getting some forged papers. Here's some carnage about to happen on the fire escape. See the Theatres in Movies post for another shot showing the Million Dollar building as well as lots of action at the Mayan, Tower and Orpheum.
Catherine Keener lives in the apartments above the Million Dollar in "Being John Malkovich" (USA Films, 1999). She's heading to floor 7 1/2 of the New York office building where she and work buddy John Cusak have a line of customers waiting to go through a portal leading to John Malkovick's brain for a 15 minute adventure. The film was directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for another Million Dollar shot as well as three views of a scene at the Belasco.
The interior of the Million Dollar is lovingly shown in glorious black and white in Alex Holdridge's "In Search of a Midnight Kiss" (2008). We see the exterior of the Orpheum but it's the Million Dollar when we go inside.
We get a quick look at the front of the theatre before a skit called "The Porno Review" in "InAPPropriate Comedy" (Freestyle Releasing, 2013). Direction was by Vince Offer with cinematography by Ken
Barrows. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a shot of Michelle Rodriguez, Rob Schneider and
Jonathan Spencer sitting in theatre seats reviewing porno films Siskel and Ebert style. Performers in other not-very-funny skits include Lindsay
Lohan and Adrien Brody.
The Million Dollar on TV:
Thanks to Escott O. Norton for this screenshot from "Them" (Amazon, 2021). He comments: "This was a surprise! I’m watching the first episode and about 10 minutes in there is a quick driveby
of an unnamed theatre. Looks like they took a shot of the Million
Dollar, flipped it, and added a CG marquee that looks nothing like any
of the historic marquees! A lot of work for a quick shot!"
The Million Dollar on Video: For some nice views of the theatre check out Haeyong Moon's "The Show Starts on Broadway" on YouTube.
Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation's Hillsman Wright with one of the murals hiding above the lobby's dropped ceiling. It's a shot from Haeyong Moon's lovely "Million Dollar Theater: The Hidden Layers." The three parts of the video take you on a fascinating tour up above the current ceiling. On YouTube: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
Also see the 3 minute 2010 clip with Hillsman Wright: "Ally Quest Los Angeles, 1940s Part II: Million Dollar Theatre" and Don Solosan's fine "Insiders Peek #10," about the wonders explored during the 2013 LAHTF "all-about" tour of the building.
More information: The Cinema Treasures page on the Million Dollar has a nice history by Ken Roe and Howard B. Haas plus lots of recollections about various performances at the theatre. The Cinema Tour page has some interesting comments regarding the inspiration for the ornamentation as well some exterior photos.
Doves2Day has a 2010 photo essay on the Million Dollar featuring many fine photos. There is a Facebook page for the Million Dollar but it's not associated with any current operations at the theatre. It's unknown who's running it. Stephen Friday has a fine fifteen photo set from 2008 on Flickr.
You won't want to miss the Flickr album of 340 photos of the Million Dollar taken by Michelle Gerdes. Sandi Hemmerlein's Avoiding Regret article details her adventures at the 2013 LAHTF "all-about" tour with many wonderful photos. Mike Hume has a terrific page about the Million Dollar on his Historic Theatre Photography site.
L.A. Observed had an article about a 2013 LAHTF tour. The Los Angeles Public Library website's 2017 article "How Spanish-Language Entertainment Revived the Broadway Theatres" by Christina Rice discusses the Million Dollar, Globe and United Artists. The 2008 reopening by Robert Voskanian had received lots of press including the April 12 L.A. Times story "A Million Dollar Dream." Wikipedia has an article on the Million Dollar.
The Million Dollar's application for City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument status is available on LA City Clerk Connect: https://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2019/19-0547_misc_1_05-23-2019.pdf.
More on Sid Grauman: The definitive book on the career of Sid Grauman has yet to be written. The best we have so far is Charles Beardsley's "Sid Grauman: Hollywood's Master Showman" (Cornwall Books, 1983). It's available on Amazon. Wikipedia also has a biographical article on Sid Grauman.
Sid had sold his interest in the Egyptian shortly after opening the Chinese in 1927. In 1929 he turned that operation over to Fox West Coast and planned to retire. At least for a couple of years. "Sid Grauman Retires Today" was a June 16 L.A. Times story detailing his plans. In 1931 he was back producing a season of legit shows at the Mayan, some of which traveled to San Francisco.
Soon he was back at the Chinese working for Fox West Coast and in October 1932 had their operations at the newly reopened United Artists and Pantages under his "personal direction." In the 40s he was a partner with Charles Toberman in the Hollywood Playhouse. His affiliation with the Chinese lasted until his death. The obituary in the Times titled "Sid Grauman, Theater Man, Dies at 70" ran on May 6, 1950. They noted that he had "originated many traditions."
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