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Opened: January 30, 1931 with the premiere of Chaplin's "City Lights." Chaplin wasn't too happy when the film stopped in the middle so management could extol the virtues of the new theatre. The Los Angeles is owned and managed by Broadway Theatre Group -- Ed Baney, General Manager. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
Website: www.losangelestheatre.com | on Facebook
Phone: 213-629-2939 or 213-488-2009 Email: email@example.com
Architect: S. Charles Lee designed this French Renaissance palace for H.L Gumbiner at a reported cost of $1 million. The murals behind the lobby's crystal fountain and in the auditorium ceiling domes were executed by Heinsbergen studios and are attributed to Candelario Rivas. This was the last of the large opulent Los Angeles theaters to be built on Broadway. The only theatre opening later was the Roxie, rather spartan in comparison.
A drawing of the facade by S. Charles Lee from the Los Angeles Public Library collection.
Construction time was about six months. In 1927 Lee had designed the Tower Theatre at 8th and Broadway for Gumbiner. The associate architect was Samuel Tilden Norton, who was related to the Gumbiner family. Norton also designed the William Fox Building behind the theatre on Hill St. The property both the theatre and the Fox Building sat on was leased (and later owned) by William Fox. It had previously had been owned by the Norton family. Hillsman Wright, of the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, notes that when the theatre was sold to the Delijani family in 1987 the Fox estate still owned the property.
An article about the project appeared in the December 20, 1930 issue of Exhibitors Herald-World. Thanks to Bob Ristelhueber for finding it for a post on the SoCal Historic Atchitecture Facebook page.
A basement floorplan. Some areas, such as the music room, didn't get built out quite as shown. Money ran out during construction and a number of features were eliminated. Thanks to Wendell Benedetti for the photo appearing on the LAHTF Facebook page that he shot when the plans were on display during a LAHTF tour.
A north elevation -- that's Broadway to our left. Note the "X" over the 2nd and 3rd floor dressing rooms stage left -- they didn't get built. It's the same situation on the south elevation for the stage right dressing rooms. The only ones the theatre ended up with were in the basement. Also of interest on the drawing is the stage itself -- and the angled lower height "bustle" upstage. Thanks to Wendell Benedetti for the photo on the LAHTF Facebook page.
A closer look at the plan showing all the intended ornament one would see looking down St. Vincent Court from 6th St. -- and the way it actually got built. Thanks to Wendell Benedetti for both the shot of the plan and his recent alley photo appearing on the LAHTF Facebook page. Why all the fuss about this alley elevation? Well, it was quite visible if you were walking down 6th to go to the theatre's nearest competitor, the Metropolitan / Paramount -- not more than 100' away.
The south elevation. We're looking north from 7th with the Broadway facade on the far right. Again, many thanks to Wendell Benedetti for the photo of the plan on the LAHTF Facebook page.
Proscenium width: 60'. See the stage page for more backstage information.
Seating: Currently 1,937 according to the venue specs page of the theatre's website (1,305 main floor, 276 1st balcony, 356 2nd balcony). There's currently a large thrust stage way out beyond the theatre's orchestra pit line. And, in addition, there are three rows (about 96 seats) missing in front of the thrust.
The theatre's tech packet (presumably with older data) has seating charts and gives a current capacity of 1,978 (1,344 main floor, 276 1st balcony, 358 2nd balcony). That count excludes the three rows missing at the front of the main floor. Add back in the missing 3 rows in front and the capacity according to the tech packet is 1,440 on the main floor for a total of 2,074.
Originally the house had 1,949 according to the theatre's website (1301 main floor, 300 1st balcony, 348 2nd balcony). The main floor seating was initially in small sections no more than five seats across. Several of the aisles were later abandoned and more seats added. Also note the curious elevated loge sections along the sides of the main floor complicating matters. A peak seating number was 2,190 according to one source. This would perhaps be in the 40s after several main floor aisles were filled in with seats and perhaps the pit was covered with rows of seats added right up to the front of the stage.
Pipe Organ: It was a 2/10 Wurlitzer that had originally been installed down the street at the Tower Theatre. It wasn't on a lift. The console can be seen in a detail taken from an auditorium photo in the USC Digital Library collection. Evidently it was last played publicly in the early 60s. Hillsman Wright asks: "True or False? One of the Broadway legends has it that when the theatre was closed for use as a location for 'WC Fields and Me' in 1976, the organ mysteriously disappeared. Any Los Angeles Theatre Organ Society or American Theatre Organ Society folks out there who can enlighten us as to its fate?"
Status: The Los Angeles stopped running movies on a regular basis in 1994. The theatre is currently closed except for film shoots, tours and special events.
An ad announcing the opening. In addition to the feature film there was a stage presentation inspired by Irving Berlin's song "The Little Things in Life" that featured the Los Angeles Theatre Ballet and the Los Angeles Theatre Symphony Orchestra. Thanks to Woody Wise for the ad. Check out his Brotherhood of the Popcorn Facebook page.
An ad the day before the opening listing various suppliers and contractors. Thanks to Floyd B. Bariscale for including it with the article on the Los Angeles Theatre for his blog Big Orange Landmarks.
"Einstein and Chaplin Attend a Premiere in 1931." Charlie and his buddy Albert at the opening of the theatre. There are stories that Chaplin advanced Gumbiner money to help him finish the construction. Thanks to Jonathan Raines for finding the photo, appearing on website of The Atlantic.
The manager at the time of the opening was Gumbiner’s brother, Robert. Harry M. Rosenbaum was the secretary-treasurer and Sam B. Cohn handled advertising. Gumbiner was also still running the Tower Theatre, which he built in 1927, and the former Clune's Broadway, a house he had acquired in 1924 and renamed the Cameo.
An opening week ad in the L.A. Times for "City Lights." Thanks to Floyd B. Bariscale for tracking it down.
Interesting design features: S. Charles Lee's innovative work here included cry rooms at the rear of the first balcony, exotic use of marble and colored restroom fixtures, a periscope so patrons in the basement lounge could see the movie upstairs, an electronic preset dimming system, and neon tubing under glass for main floor aisle lights. The neon aisle lights evidently were working into the 60's.
The unique act curtain depicts a scene involving French royalty complete with clothing sewn to the curtain and human hair wigs attached. The curtain, along with all the theatre's other draperies, was designed by the theatre supply company B.F. Shearer. The basement had a restaurant that was much later used as a screening room. There was also a nursery and a shoeshine stand.
William Fox takes over: Gumbiner ran out of money and the theatre was operating at a loss. The opulence of his theatre wasn't enough of a lure for studios to give him major product. It closed within eighteen months of the opening. When it reopened in 1932 Fox West Coast Theatres was managing with the theatre becoming a major showcase house for Fox product (including, evidently, a lot of B movies).
Later Metropolitan Theatres managed the house. They ended up with everything on Broadway as the major circuits and various independent operators left downtown. Metropolitan closed it in 1994.
The Delijani rescue: The building has been owned since 1987 by the Deljani family. Ezat and Michael Delijani of Delson Investment Co. bought the building to save it from demolition at the request of then mayor Tom Bradley. See the 2007 Kathryn Maese L.A. Downtown News article "Behind the Delijani Empire" for more about the family. The family's Broadway Theatre Group also owns the Palace, State and Tower theatres. Shahram Delijani is currently the member of the family most active in the business. Ezat, the patriarch of the family, died in 2011. See Ryan Villancourt's 2011 article about him in the L.A. Downtown News.
The family also owns the William Fox Building directly behind the theatre on Hill St. (and constructed at the same time). The Fox Building was proposed for a condo development in 2007. Curbed L.A. reported: "On the heels of that $40 million "Bringing Back Broadway" campaign, applications have been filed to create condominiums in two Broadway theater buildings...the office tower of the Palace Theatre and the Fox office tower of the Los Angeles Theater." Curbed also had a 2008 article on the "Bringing Back Broadway" initiative. Neither project was pursued.
The Los Angeles has seen quite a bit of renovation by the Delijanis over the years but there had been no action toward reopening with regular programming. They had repeatedly tied their plans for a real renovation and reopening of the Los Angeles and the Palace to having the city build a nearby garage. In 2010, the city announced that due to the recession-induced budget crunch, they were suspending efforts to purchase property and build the garage. Yet, the family went ahead with a $1 million upgrade of the Palace in 2011. Both theatres remain available for rentals but bookings are infrequent.
In 2012 the Delijanis announced plans to revitalize all four theatres and secured liquor licenses and use permits that, for operational purposes, designated the four buildings as a single complex. In each of the buildings it was envisioned that there would be multiple spaces in addition to the theatre itself used as restaurants and bars. One condition of the license was the availability of kitchen facilities in each theatre. When those remodel plans were delayed the licenses had to be surrendered.
Richard Guzman had a 2012 story in L.A. Downtown News on the plans brewing for getting the theatres back into action. A September 2012 editorial, "Cautiously Optimistic" in the L.A. Downtown News had expressed concern about the booking difficulties for the venues and commented on past plans that had not come to fruition. Curbed L.A. also had a recap. In 2016 the theatre got a spectacular new carpet installation, a reproduction of S. Charles Lee's original design. It was created using one remaining piece of 1931 carpet and a study of the many vintage photos.
Current action: In addition to various rentals for filming and the occasional concert there are sometimes film screenings sponsored by the L.A. Conservancy (as part of their Last Remaining Seats series) and other groups such as Cinespia. The Broadway District walking tours offered by the Conservancy also visit the Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Theatre in the Movies: The opulent lobby, auditorium, and basement lounge are favorites with filmmakers who have used it as hotel lobbies and palaces many, many times.
The Los Angeles makes an appearance in "Alex in Wonderland" (MGM, 1970). See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for several views of the production shooting on Hollywood Blvd.
The Los Angeles is filling in for a tryout theatre in some unnamed city on the road in Herbert Ross's "Funny Lady" (Columbia, 1975). Here Fanny Brice (Barbra Streisand) and Billy Rose (James Caan) are seen during a photo shoot on the grand lobby stair landing. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for three more Los Angeles Theatre views from the film. We also go to the Orpheum and the Pan Pacific Auditorium.
The Los Angeles appears in Arthur Hiller's "W.C. Fields and Me" (Universal, 1976). We also see the exterior of the Arcade and the Cameo theatres. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for two screenshots of those two theatres.
The theatre is featured in a scene from Martin Scorsese's "New York, New York" (United Artists, 1977). Robert De Niro is checking into a New York hotel, whose lobby is actually the main basement lounge of the Los Angeles Theatre. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for two more shots from the scene.
Robert Stack knows all the lines for the cartoon he's watching at the Los Angeles in Steven Spielberg's "1941" (Universal, 1979). He's gone to see a showing of "Dumbo." The exterior of the theatre (the "Hollywood State") was done on the Universal backlot. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for two shots from a scene filmed in the projection booth at the Los Angeles.
The lobby areas of the Los Angeles are something called "The Playroom" in Stewart Raffill's "The Ice Pirates" (MGM, 1984), a "comic science fiction film," starring Robert Urich, Anjelica Huston, Ron Perlman and John Carradine. Thanks to Eitan Alexander for the spotting the theatre in this overlooked masterpiece. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a few more murky screenshots.
In Richard Attenborough's "Chaplin" (Carolco, 1993) we go to the Los Angeles for two Chaplin premieres that didn't happen and get no mention of the one that opened the theatre in 1931, "City Lights." Here Chaplin (Robert Downey, Jr.) and his wife Oona O'Neil (Moira Kelly) enter the lobby for "Limelight" (1952). See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for six more shots of the theatre from the film.
The theatre shows up as the Gotham City Excelsior Grand Casino in "Batman Forever" (Warner Bros., 1995). The film, directed by Joel Schumacher, stars Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey and Nicole Kidman. The lobby of the theatre gets a part in John Carpenter's "Escape from L.A." (Paramount, 1996). The "Escape" scene is on YouTube.
Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman go to a nightclub set in the lobby of the Los Angeles Theatre for two scenes in Andrew Niccol's otherwise futuristic looking "Gattaca" (Jersey Films/Columbia Pictures, 1997). See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for four additional shots from the scenes at the Los Angeles.
The lobby areas and auditorium get extensive use in the direct-to-video epic "Richie Rich's Christmas Wish" (Saban/Warner Home Video, 1998). Thanks to Eitan Alexander (who watches all the good movies) for the screenshot.
We're in the 5th floor loft space at the Palace as the apartment of Maude Lebowski (Julianne Moore) in Joel and Ethan Coen's "The Big Lebowski" (Polygram, 1998). The view out the windows is of the Los Angeles Theatre. The dude (Jeff Bridges) has come to visit. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for two more shots from the scene in the office spaces at the Palace.
We get some action in the lobby of the Los Angeles in Michael Bay's "Armageddon," (Touchstone, 1998) with Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton and Ben Affleck. It has a brief scene as a rather opulent strip club. Thanks to Eitan Alexander for spotting this one and providing the screenshot. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a shot near the crystal fountain. The Shrine Auditorium is also seen in the film.
The Los Angeles appears in Milos Forman's "Man on the Moon" (Universal, 1999). We get a brief glimpse of the back of the auditorium from onstage in "Being John Malkovich" (USA Films, 1999). The interior of the Belasco Theatre is also seen. The film, directed by Spike Jonze, stars Malkovich along with Katherine Keener, Cameron Diaz and John Cusak.
In David Fincher's "Fight Club" (20th Century Fox, 1999) Edward Norton is in the Los Angeles booth telling us that Brad Pitt (doing a changeover behind) doesn't like his "shit job" as a projectionist so he amuses himself by splicing frames of porno into the family films he's showing. Thanks to Los Angeles Theatre projectionist Mark Wojan for pointing out where this scene was filmed. The film also gives us exterior views of the Tower and Olympic. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for shots of those theatres as well as three additional booth views.
The Los Angeles makes an appearance as the Vatican Palace when we go to see the Pope in the Peter Hyams film "End Of Days" (Universal, 1999) with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gabriel Byrne. Here we have the Swiss guards in the main lobby. Later we see the basement lounge as the Pope's inner sanctum. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for for more screenshots from the film including views of the Tower, Rialto and Belasco theatres.
We're supposed to be in New York City in David McNally's "Coyote Ugly" (Touchstone Pictures, 2000) with Piper Perabo and Adam Garcia but here we are in the alley off 6th just north of the theatre. The signage has been tweaked to say "East Broadway Theatre" on top but if you look closely in the middle it says "Su Teatro Los Angeles." The side exit is being used as the entrance for the Fiji Mermaid Club. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for an additional alley view as well as shots of the inside of the Tower Theatre that we see later in the film.
The Los Angeles appears in "Charlie's Angels" (Columbia, 2000). Sal Gomez found a nice clip from the film on YouTube showing Cameron Diaz dancing in the lobby. Also featured in the film are Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu. McG directed. We also see the theatre in McG's "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" (Columbia, 2003). Shane Black's "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (Warner Bros., 2005) also shows off the Los Angeles. It's a comedy murder mystery starring Robert Downey Jr., Michelle Monaghan and Val Kilmer.
In Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige" (Touchstone/Warner Bros, 2006) with Hugh Jackman and Michael Caine we get lots of views of the interior of the Los Angeles Theatre including this shot of the grand lobby's staircase. The film also spends lots of time in the Belasco, Tower and Palace theatres. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for more screenshots from the film.
Near the top of Episode 9 in Season 1 of "Mad Men" (2007) we have a lengthy scene lovingly showing off the the crystal fountain on the lobby landing. The theatre is doubling for a New York Broadway theatre during the intermission of the musical "Fiorello."
In "Nancy Drew" (Warner Bros., 2007), Nancy (Emma Roberts) wakes up in the booth on a pile of marquee letters after a kidnapping. She then crawls out a porthole onto scaffolding in the balcony. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for seven more shots from the sequence.
In "Rush Hour 3" (New Line Cinema, 2007) we find Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker going into a Parisian doorway to a gambling club. The club turns out to be the downstairs lounge of the Los Angeles.
In David Fincher's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" (Warner Bros., 2008) the auditorium doubles as that of the Paris Opera House both onstage and in a view of a lobby staircase. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for another shot from onstage as well as several at the Orpheum. It's standing in for the Majestic in New York. The film stars Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt and Tilda Swinton.
Kermit gives a moving speech from the lobby stairs in "The Muppets" (Disney, 2011). See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a look at the Roxie terrazzo and a run-down look at the El Capitan. The Muppets fixed it up, of course. A studio set was utilized for all the El Capitan auditorium scenes.
Andrew Nicoll's "In Time" (20th Century Fox, 2011) uses the grand lobby as a futuristic gambling casino visited by Justin Timberlake.
Along with many other L.A. locations (including the Bradbury Building and the Orpheum) the Los Angeles makes a stunning black and white appearance in Michel Hazanavicius' "The Artist" (The Weinstein Co., 2011) starring Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for two shots of the Orpheum from the film.
Our lead character Deb Dorfman (Sara Rue) is both appalled and charmed by what she finds in the gentrifying downtown after a life in the Valley in "Dorfman in Love" (Brainstorm Media, 2011). On one of her first visits we get a look at the Los Angeles Theatre marquee and, as seen here, the sidewalk terrazzo. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a look up at the marquee from the film.
The Los Angeles never actually appeared in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Night Rises" (Warner Bros., 2012) but here we get a shot by Pasha Hanover of filming taking place in front of the theatre. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a shot of the Palace Theatre seen in the film.
In Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" (Weinstein Co., 2012) we get a scene in the 2nd balcony when the manager, Joaquin Phoenix, is awakened by an usher bringing him a telephone. It's the Master calling. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots of other scenes done in front of the theatre and near the crystal fountain.
Brian Dennehy and Christian Bale are all over the Palace Theatre in Terrence Malick's "Knight of Cups" (Broad Green Pictures, 2015). In one early shot we get a look over the edge of the roof toward a deserted Broadway and the Los Angeles Theatre. The film also has momentary views of the State, the Warner Downtown and the Wiltern. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for more shots from the film.
The lobby and auditorium of the Los Angeles are used for a premiere of a western in the Coen Brothers' "Hail, Caesar!" (Universal, 2016). The film features George Clooney, Josh Brolin and many others. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots using the Los Angeles as well as looks at the Warner Hollywood, Music Box/Fonda and Palladium from the film.
For a movie about a cat, we see quite a few theatres in Peter Atencio's "Keanu" (Warner/New Line, 2016). After escaping from a drug-related shootout in Boyle Heights our eponymous cat checks out the L.A. River, walks across one of the bridges and is seen here strolling on Broadway. We also get views of the Palace Theatre, the Vine Theatre and the Cinerama Dome. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for more shots from the film.
Elle Fanning and three others in the L.A. modeling business use the restroom at a party in Nicholas Winding Refn's "The Neon Demon" (Broad Green Pictures, 2016). The party's actually in the lobby of the Orpheum. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for a couple shots there. And also one from a second floor storefront space at the Los Angeles that begins the film.
We get a quick shot up the street toward the Los Angeles near the end of Dan Gilroy's "Roman J. Israel, Esq." (Columbia/Sony, 2017). The film features Denzel Washington, Colin Farrell and Carmen Ejogo in a story of a brilliant, idealistic lawyer who makes a serious misstep. We also get glimpses of the Warner Downtown, Orpheum and Rialto. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots from the sequence.
IMDb has a page listing more titles that have used the Los Angeles Theatre as a location.
The Los Angeles on Video: See the brief "Downstairs at the Los Angeles" on YouTube for a fun 32 second walk through of the downstairs lounge areas.
More Information on the Los Angeles: One of the best photo surveys is on the Los Angeles Theatre's website. Head to the gallery page to begin the tour for over 100 great views of the building. Visit Mike Hume's terrific page about the theatre on his Historic Theatre Photography website for many fine photos, tech information, and more.
The Cinema Treasures Los Angeles Theatre page has many interesting tidbits of history about the theatre. Their 2004 story about the Los Angeles and Palace marquee relighting has good photos. The Cinema Tour page on the Los Angeles Theatre has a bit of history and some photos, mostly exteriors.
Don't miss Floyd Bariscale's terrific Big Orange Landmarks article on the Los Angeles and his 93 item Los Angeles Theatre photo album on Flickr. Check out the 68 item 2007 Los Angeles Theatre set on Flickr by Will Campbell as well as his blog post about the Los Angeles. The Cinespia website has a number of photos taken at the screenings of "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (2015) and "The Godfather" (2015).
Curbed LA ran a nice February 2013 story by Adrian Glick Kudler "Touring Broadway's last Great Movie Palace.." that included many fine photos of the theatre by Elizabeth Daniels. Check out the 72 photos on Flickr that Michelle Gerdes took in 2007.
See Sandi Hemmerlein's Avoiding Regret photo essay on the Los Angeles from her visit to the 2013 LAHTF/Cinespia screening of "Romeo + Juliet." Anders Hjemdall's 72 photo "Night on Broadway" set from 2015 on the Bringing Back Broadway Facebook page has many photos of the Los Angeles.
Eric Lynxwiler has many interesting views of the theatre in his 400+ photo Los Angeles Theatres album on Flickr. Start at his first lobby photo to page through his Los Angeles Theatre views. Magnetic Lobster has an interesting take on the lobby and auditorium in his 2011 photos on Flickr.
The Museum of Neon Art has 3 views on their Facebook page of the 2000 restoration work on the vertical sign. The '06 Last Remaining Seats at the Los Angeles set by Pleasure Palate on Flickr has 24 views. Pete Wilson's 17 item Los Angeles Theatre set on Flickr has some great shots from 2007.
California State Library photos: The Library has over 125 photos of the theatre taken by Mott Studios in 1931. They're haphazardly cataloged in twelve sets, with lots of overlap, alternate takes, and different printings:
set # 001387262 - 18 views of lobby and lounge areas
set # 001387263 - 16 exterior, lobby and lounge views
set # 001387264 - 18 lounge, lobby, auditorium views
set # 001387265 - 11 facade, entrance, lobby views
set # 001387266 - 12 auditorium and lobby views
set # 001387267 - 16 views - mostly lobbies and lounges
set # 001387268 - 18 auditorium views
set # 001387269 - 18 views of auditorium and lobbies
set # 001387270 - 2 boxoffice views
set # 001454717 - 7 views, mostly lobby/lounge areas
set # 001454721 - 11 views - lobby and lounges, 1 auditorium shot
set # 001454734 - 1 photo - house left organ grille
More Information on S. Charles Lee: The best source of information on Mr. Lee's work is the S. Charles Lee Papers Collection at UCLA. Over 600 photos are on Calisphere as well as on the UCLA Library site. However there are no photos of the Los Angeles Theatre. What has been digitized and is online is just the pip of the iceberg. There are truckloads of plans (including those for the Los Angeles) and other materials that can be viewed UCLA's Charles E. Young Research Library with an advance request. A good place to begin is the Finding Aid to the collection on the Online Archive of California site.
Check out "The Show Starts on the Sidewalk" (Yale Press, 1996) by Maggie Valentine, a professor of architecture and interior design at the University of Texas, San Antonio. It offers a nice history of the movie palace with lots of references to S. Charles Lee and various historic Los Angeles theatres. It's available on Amazon and there's a preview on Google Books.
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