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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. Lillian Gish, Charlie Chaplin and others attended the premiere. Stars attending the opening included Charlie Chaplin, William S. Hart, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Wallace Reid, Edna Purviance, Constance Talmadge and many more. Directors attending included Cecil B. DeMille, D.W. Griffith, Thomas Ince and Mack Sennett.
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. The building was listed on the National Register in 1978. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
The news: The Million Dollar turned 100 on February 1, 2018. It got a new tenant in late 2017 but they don't seem to be doing anything. It's supposed to be a lease for five years by CoBird, a new social networking platform. Their website once had the slogan "Connecting to the world through culture." It's now just a blank landing page. 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.
CoBird had installed new lobby carpeting in January and the theatre was open with shows all day during the January 2018 "Night on Broadway." The news about the lease was on the site CoStar in a November 6, 2017 story titled "Historic Downtown Theater Finding New Life." The Real Deal followed up with "The fate of a historic DTLA theater...," a November 8 story about the new tenant. Elan Shore had an August 2018 post about the possible end of the brief CoBird era on the Facebook page DTLA Development.
In separate news, the twelve story theatre building and the adjoining Grand Central Market were sold in late 2017 to Beverly Hills investor Adam Daneshgar, president of Langdon Street Capital. He says "We are not looking to go in and change or overhaul anything." The lease of the theatre was a deal orchestrated by the previous owner of the complex, the Yellin Co.
As far as the market is concerned, Daneshgar plans to spend several million on deferred maintenance such as painting and cleaning, along with possibly adding several more stalls. The market celebrated its 100th anniversary in October. The building dates from 1897 with the Hill St. portion added in 1905. The tenant until 1917 had been the Ville de Paris department store. The two buildings had been owned since the mid-80s by the Yellin Co. Roger Vincent had the story November 1 story in the L.A. Times: "Downtown's historic Grand Central Market is sold..."
Phone: 213-617-3600 Website: milliondollartheater.com. Also see an older pre-CoBird website: milliondollar.la | tech specs |
Architect: Albert C. Martin (1879-1960) designed the 60,000 square foot building with the exterior in an opulent Churrigueresque style. William Lee Woollett designed the theatre. Most of the exterior sculpture was by Joseph Mora but some work at the theatre entrance was by Woollett. The owner of the building was Homer Laughlin, Jr.'s Stability Building Co. Laughlin also owned the earlier Grand Central Market Building (originally known as the Homer Laughlin Building), just to the south. R.H. Arnold Co. was the contractor for the project.
Martin had earlier designed the Wonderland/Jade Theatre (c.1908) and Liberty Theatre (1910), both on on Main St. Other theatre designs included the Adams Theatre (1914), the Town Theatre on Hill St. (1920) and the Boulevard Theatre on Washington St. (1925). Martin's firm would be part of the team designing City Hall (1928) and also designed the Department of Water and Power Building (1965). The company is still in business as both architects and contractors with descendants of A.C. Martin running it. Their latest big project was the Wilshire Grand Center.
Woollett (1974-1955) was later the designer of Los Angeles' largest movie palace, the Metropolitan Theatre, also for Sid Grauman. In addition to lots of residential work he also did a remodel for Grauman of the Rialto Theatre, 812 S. Broadway. The 20s remodel of the Strand in Long Beach is also attributed to him.
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.
Pipe Organ: The 1918 installation was a 2 manual 7 rank Wurlitzer which ended up getting moved to the Rialto. The replacement was a 2 manual 16 rank Wurlitzer. It's no longer in the building.
A preliminary sketch for the building appearing in the L.A. Times issue of September 26, 1916. It's a find of Noirish Los Angeles contributor Gaylord Wilshire for his Noirish post #27774 which contains many interesting items about the building's early history.
The caption for the illustration read: "Preliminary sketch for theater and studio block to be erected by Stability Building Co. The drawing is one of a number of 'studies' prepared by Albert C. Martin, the architect, for submission to the projectors, and shows the big structure in the form of a limit-height studio and office building fronting on Broadway, with the theater portion at the rear, extending along Third street. This is only one of the schemes being considered."
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. Later the Metropolitan Water District occupied 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:
"The foundations have been laid for the 12-story office building to be erected on the southwest corner of Broadway and Third street by the Stability Co., organized in an effort to anchor the retail business district of Los Angeles north of Fifth street. This is part of a movement to check the southward and westward removal of old established business houses and stores which have, for years, been located on Broadway between First and Fifth streets.
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. "...or to advise his clients to wait in patience for the eventual delivery of a steel truss. There was no other way out of it, for the projectors were determined that there should not be a post of any kind in the entire vast interior of the theatre to sustain the gallery [balcony]. It was a case of either a single span or no theater as far as they were concerned."
"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:
"Hitherto-untried Engineering Embodied in Downtown Skyscraper. Necessity, the mother of invention, to adopt an old expression, has outdone herself in the designing of the $1,000,000 theater and office building being erected by the Stability Building Company at Third and Broadway. As a result, this great downtown structure will be completed at least a year sooner than the most optimistic projections...."
"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:
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:
"Notable not only as one of the most beautiful and expensive structures of its kind in the country, but as one in which for the first time a concrete arch, such as is used in bridge construction, supports the balcony of a theater, a 12-story office and theater building recently constructed in Los Angeles, Calif., at a cost of $1,000,000. There are no posts in the theater because of the arch, for which concrete was used when it was found impossible to obtain steel. The weight of the span is 9,000,000 lb. It is 12 ft. wide and 110 ft. long, and contains 180 steel rods. In pouring concrete into the forms for the arch, chutes made of steel concrete floor forms, overlapping in clapboard fashion, were used. This form of chute is said to be original with the Los Angeles builders.
"Extremely elaborate are the decorations of the theater, both interior and exterior. Carved wood is conspicuous in the interior decoration scheme. Another feature is the projection room, in which are placed the moving-picture machines and spotlights. This is built of concrete, and placed so as not to obstruct the view of any person sitting back of it. Steel and asbestos doors to this room lessen the fire danger. Steel was used in the construction of the office building. One of the features of the theater is a great jeweled dome, so placed in the ceiling as to appear to be suspended in the air. Hidden lights, playing on the dome, produce a gorgeous effect. Due to the careful planning of the architects, the acoustics are nearly perfect."
Formwork for the balcony as seen in a photo from the Popular Mechanics article. The caption reads: "Form into Which 1,620,000 Pounds of Concrete was Poured to Make the Self-Supporting Balcony of the Los Angeles Theater: An Idea of the Amount of Steel Used for Reinforcing the Great Arch can be Obtained by Studying the Interior of the Form. Completed, the Balcony Weighed 9,000,000 Pounds. So Far As is Known, This Is The First Use of a Reinforced-Concrete Arch of Such Size in Building Construction."
The chute for channeling the concrete for the balcony. 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. 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."
Truss construction for the auditorium roof. It's a photo from the Popular Mechanics issue of September 1919. The caption reads: "How the Roof of the Million-Dollar Theater was Erected: The Lower Girder of This Steel Roof Member is 108 Feet long. Cut in Half, It was Laid on Three Half-inch Steel Cables, Strung between Concrete Pillars, and Then Joined into a Solid Piece. Afterwards the Upper Parts of the Support were Fastened on Top of the Girder, Making a Construction Strong Enough to Hold the Roof."
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.
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: "One of the Costliest Theater Entrances Ever Built, Photographed in Los Angeles a Few Days Before the New Playhouse was Opened to the Public: The Money Value Is in the Neighborhood of $10,000, and Dozens of Artists and Workmen Labored for Two Years to Produce This Result."
"The Most Beautiful and Elaborate Moving Picture Theatre in the World." It's an ad from the L.A. Pressed Brick Co. in the August 1918 issue of The Architect. Also included in the issue were proscenium and organ grille photos and a rear auditorium view. It's on Internet Archive.
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 office portions of the building are now (along with the upper floors of the Grand Central Market) known as the Grand Central Square Apartments. One of the penthouses includes the former office of William Mulholland, of Department of Water and Power fame.
Early operating history: 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.
Famous Players-Lasky (later to become Paramount) or Adolph Zukor and/or Jesse Lasky themselves probably helped the Graumans finance the operation. Sid and his father David had a close relationship with the firm after years of exhibiting their product in the Grauman Bay Area theatres. They also had a long relationship with Lasky personally.
Certainly the Graumans were helped in their move south by the cash infusion provided by Famous Players in taking over their Strand Theatre (later called the St. Francis) and Imperial Theatre, both on Market St. in San Francisco.
An ad appearing several days after the grand opening. Thanks to Cinema Treasures contributor Dallas Movie Theaters for posting it on that site's page about the Million Dollar.
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 Famous Players-Lasky formalized their relationship with Grauman and became a silent partner in the theatre operation and thus the theatre ran a lot of that firm's product. This April 1919 telegram from Sid Grauman to Adolf Zukor cemented their partnership. And they were already planning the next one together, 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).
A 1920 program for "Excuse My Dust" with Wallace Reid.
The reverse side of the "Excuse My Dust" program. Thanks to Bill Givens for posting this on Facebook. The film was a March release.
The theatre 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.
Sid leaves downtown:
This late 1923 L.A. Times article tells the story about Sid selling his downtown interests (half of the Million Dollar plus interests in the Rialto and Metropolitan) to Famous Players-Lasky (later to be renamed Paramount). Thanks to Ken McIntyre for finding the article. Sid was focusing on his future in Hollywood. The Egyptian had opened in 1922 and the Chinese was to come along in 1927. In 1925, the three downtown theatres started advertising themselves as Publix theatres, a name Famous Players-Lasky started using that year for their theatres after their acquisition of Chicago based exhibitor Balaban & Katz.
The Million Dollar was initially leased from owner Homer Lauglin. In 1925 A.C. Blumenthal purchased the building for approximately $1 million. In 1927, West Coast Theatres took over the actual operation of the Publix theatres in Los Angeles. 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.
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.
For reasons unknown, West Coast and Publix closed the theatre in June 1928. The last day of operation was June 6 with "The Street of Sin" with Emil Jannings as the final film. The L.A. Times that day had no story about the closing and the ad only said "Ends Today" and "Hurry, Hurry." The Motion Picture News issue of October 20, 1928 reported that the government wasn't happy with West Coast having the western Publix houses and forcefully suggested that they be divested from West Coast Theatres control. By this time the only theatre Publix had in Los Angeles was the Metropolitan. The fall 1928 listings in the L.A. Times noted that the theatre was "closed for alterations."
While closed, presumably for some refurbishing, the previously chandelier-less auditorium dome got the fixture formerly in the Broadway lobby of the Metropolitan Theatre. In February 1929 the theatre reopened after a lease deal was made with Simon Lazarus. His Lazarus Corp. tried second run bookings, some first run Universal product, and even some elaborate prologues before the features. It became advertised as the Lazarus Million Dollar.
The theatre in the 30s and 40s: By late 1932 the Million Dollar was listed in ads as a Fox West Coast operation.
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.
In 1935 the theatre came under the management of Harry Popkin's Circle Theatres, who had purchased the building. The policy was stage shows and second run films. 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. In 1945 Metropolitan Theatres leased the theatre from Harry Popkin Enterprises for a 15 year term.
Metropolitan had been running vaudeville at the Orpheum and decided to just do first run films there and have their stage shows at the Million Dollar. In 1946 they renovated the lobby, which involved installing a dropped ceiling and other modernizations. The murals in the balcony lobby dome were spared in these 1946 renovations. They survived until the 90s when a church tenant got out a big bucket of white paint.
As a Spanish language house: Starting in 1950 the Million Dollar got sub-leased to Frank Fouce and began a long run as a Spanish language film house and Mexican vaudeville theatre. Fouce died in 1962 but the policy continued under his son Frank Fouce, Jr. In 1969 Fouce Jr. purchased the building from the Popkin interests for $2 million. He announced plans to spend $1 million to renovate the theatre, office space and store areas.
The Fouce family was also at various times involved with the California Theatre, the Mason Theatre, the Mayan Theatre and other venues. Frank Jr. died in 2013. The L.A. Times ran a story about his contributions the spread of Latino culture in Los Angeles. Metropolitan Theatres eventually came back as operator in 1974 and ran the theatre into the 90s with a policy of Spanish language films and Mexican vaudeville acts.
Redevelopment in the 90s: The theatre building had been sold in 1989 to Ira Yellin, who announced plans to turn the theatre building into (again) an upscale office building. The project eventually morphed into apartments in the former office spaces above the theatre as well as in the adjacent Grand Central Market building.
Closing and attempts at revitalization: The theatre closed as a film house in 1993 and became a church under a sub-lease from Metropolitan Theatres. When the church group moved to the State Theatre in 1998 there was another attempt at Mexican live shows and movies but that ended in 1999. A second church group was a tenant in 2000.
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 talk 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 a shear wall evident in the basement. The blog Franklin Avenue had a 2008 story "The Million-Dollat 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. 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 the owner 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. Thanks to the LAHTF and Broadway's preeminent theatre historian Ed Kelsey for much of the historical data here.
Status: See the news at the top of the page about the new owner and the new tenant. Until late 2017 the building was still owned by the Yellen Company, 213-621-0200. The company is now controlled by Adele Yellin, the widow of Ira. The L.A. Times ran a story on Ira Yellin when he died in 2002. The company also had the Grand Central Market and the parking garage at 3rd and Hill -- both connected to the theatre building. The Market Square apartments occupy the upper floors of both the Million Dollar and Grand Central Market buildings.
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 Tower and Los Angeles get an occasional concert or special event. The State is coming back to life after 20 years as a church.
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.
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 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 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 Theatres in Movies post for shots of the Tower and Orpheum as well as other information about the film.
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 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 Theatres in Movies post for shots of the State and Palace Theatres from the credit sequence.
We get several view of the top of the building housing the Million Dollar during the opening credits of Stephen Frears' "The Grifters" (Cineplex Odeon Films/Miramax, 1991). We also get a shot of the top of the vertical sign at the former Warner Hollywood/Hollywood Pacific. It's based on a Jim Thompson novel and stars John Cusak, Annette Bening and Anjelica Huston. A dark and bloody adventure.
We get a look at the exterior of the theatre in "Murder in the First" (Warner Bros., 1995). The film, directed by Marc Rocco, stars Christian Slater, Kevin Bacon and Gary Oldman.
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.
Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are outside the Million Dollar after seeing the film "Vagiant" ("part vampire - part giant") in Marc Webb's "(500) Days of Summer" (Fox Searchlight, 2009). See the Theatres in Movies post for two more views outside the theatre as well as a night shot of the Palace.
The theatre is nicely dressed up as the Montclair with a NYC cab in front for some TV production in 2013. At least there weren't any letters on the marquee saying "Million Dollar" that they needed to take down or disguise. Thanks to Larry Harnisch for his photo, appearing on his blog The Daily Mirror as a post titled "L.A. Becomes N.Y."
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: Sandi Hemmerlein's Avoiding Regret article details her adventures at the 2013 LAHTF "all-about" tour with many wonderful photos. 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.
The Cinespia website has interesting photo coverage of the March 2013 screening of "Blade Runner" at the Million Dollar. Curbed L.A. had a fine article with many photos pegged to the 2013 LAHTF tour. 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. Don't miss Mike Hume's page about the Million Dollar on his Historic Theatre Photography site.
L.A. Observed also had an article about the 2013 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 L.A. Times "A Million Dollar Dream."
A shot from the top of the balcony kicks off Star Foreman's fifty four item 2013 "Million Dollar Theatre Tour" on L.A. Weekly's website. The USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism's Neon Tommy website ran "L.A. Theater Brought Back to Life" Caroline Vandergriff's 2010 article accompanied by her photos. Wikipedia has an article on the Million Dollar.
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
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