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Million Dollar Theatre: vintage auditorium views

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

The Million Dollar Theatre pages:  history | vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | ticket lobbies | lobbies and lounges | vintage auditorium views | recent auditorium views | booth | stage | orchestra pit | basement areas |


The main reinforced concrete truss of the balcony being load tested in 1917. It's a photo from the Ed Kelsey collection that the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation provided to Curbed L.A. for "Touring Broadway's First Movie Palace, the Million Dollar," their story by Adrian Glick Kudler about the 2013 LAHTF "all-about" tour of the building. The article includes a lovely 31 item photo gallery of both current and vintage photos.



An early proscenium view appearing in the collection of the Los Angeles Public Library. It was also on view in a special Architectural Digest Southern California buildings survey published in 1922. It's on Google Books. Note the pit extending onstage. See the page on the orchestra pit for more about this peculiar layout.


 
The original stage and pit configuration. It's a photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. It's one that appeared in the August 1918 issue of The Architect, available on Internet Archive.



A proscenium detail from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.



A 1918 photo of the figure above the proscenium. It's Southwest Wind, Esquire, from the fairy tale "King of the Golden River or the Black Brothers: A Legend of Stiria" by John Ruskin. The figure is also known as "Tragedy Triumphant." The murals and much of the other decorative work in the theatre were designed by architect William Lee Wollett as illustrations of pieces of the story by Ruskin. It's a classic Victorian fairy tale he wrote in 1841 for twelve year old Effie Gray, who later became his wife. For more on Ruskin's epic saga see the Wikipedia article or explore the many items referenced on Google.

The photo appeared in an article by Jo Neely in The Graphic entitled "A Dream Come True." It was reprinted in the May 1918 issue of Architect and Engineer of California. Ms. Neely noted that "The children have been especially kept in mind [in the decorative scheme], as the beautiful little story of John Ruskin's "The King of the Golden River" is delightfully recalled to them by the symbol of the Golden Mug which belonged to little Gluck, whose wicked brothers forced him to place it in the fire, and from which sprung the weird figure of the West Wind, which is seen in the winged figure surmounting the proscenium arch. The pleasing countenance of Gluck, the little brother, the humorous unpleasant faces of the two wicked brothers, and even the little dog, are all to be found on the [organ] screen."



The house right organ grille. It's a photo on Internet Archive appearing in the August 1918 issue of The Architect. A version of the photo with slightly different cropping appeared in the May 1918 issue of Architect and Engineer of California. The caption there notes that the sculpture in the niche at center (now missing) is by sculptor Burt Johnson.



The first floor plan of the building. Source: The Architect - August 1918. Note the layout of the original orchestra pit and the columns onstage for the set framing the screen.



A 1918 look to house left. Michelle Gerdes calls your attention to the skulls on the front of the balcony -- now gone. The statue in front of the center of the organ grille is another casualty. It's a photo from the Tom B'hend and Preston Kaufmann Collection, part of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Margaret Herrick Library Digital Collection.

The photo appears on the L.A. Times website. It's also been seen on the LAHTF Facebook page and on the back cover of the Second Quarter 2002 issue of Marquee, the publication of the Theatre Historical Society.



The rear of the auditorium. It's a photo on Internet Archive appearing in the August 1918 issue of The Architect. Note the uplight from the front of the booth to illuminate the dome -- the chandelier didn't come along until 1929.



Another version of the photo from The Architect. Here we get a bit more of the center of the dome as well as what looks like a temporary orchestra pit rail. This version, from the THS / Terry Helgesen collection, appeared in the Second Quarter 2002 issue of Marquee, the publication of the Theatre Historical Society.



Another vintage view toward the rear of the auditorium. Thanks to theatre historian Ed Kelsey for sharing the image from the September 1919 issue of Popular Mechanics that's in his collection.

It appears we're looking back toward an open standee area at the rear of the main floor, later enclosed with a full height wall. The photo's caption reads: "Interior of Los Angeles' Million-Dollar Theatre as Seen from the Stage: There Are No Pillars under the Balcony to Obstruct the View of Persons Seated on the Main Floor. In the Center of the Picture may be Seen the Projecting Room. Visible at the Top Is the Gorgeous Jeweled Dome, Which Appears to Those Sitting under It to be Suspended in the Air."



Yet another 1918 look to the rear appears on page 25 of the terrific 2008 Arcadia Publishing book "Theatres in Los Angeles" by Suzanne Tarbell Cooper, Amy Ronnebeck Hall and Marc Wanamaker. Most of the rare photos in the book come from Mr. Wanamaker's Bison Archives. There's a preview of the book you can browse on Google Books. It looks like for this photo they've opened the side exit doors upstairs to get some light in the place.


Later views:


An undated photo in the Los Angeles Public Library collection. 



A nice view of the auditorium, perhaps from the 1970s, added by Bill Gabel to the Cinema Treasures page on the Million Dollar. Note that we get a bit of the asbestos curtain showing. At last look the site had 44 photos of the theatre to browse. It's uncredited on Cinema Treasures but the image comes from the Theatre Historical Society/Terry Helgesen collection and appeared in the Second Quarter 2002 issue of the organization's publication Marquee.



A c.1990 balcony view from Berger Conser Architectural Photography. It's from Anne Conser and Robert Berger's great book "The Last Remaining Seats: Movie Palaces of Tinseltown," available on Amazon. Sixteen photos from the book are on the Robert Berger Photography website in a portfolio from "The Last Remaining Seats."



The house right organ grille. Photo: Berger Conser Architectural Photography - c.1990. Thanks, Robert and Anne!

The Million Dollar Theatre pages:  history | vintage exterior views | recent exterior views | ticket lobbies | lobbies and lounges | back to top - vintage auditorium views | recent auditorium views | booth | stage | orchestra pit | basement areas |

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