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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 with Jason Rodriguez as General Manager. Photo: Bill Counter - 2018
Website: losangelestheatre.com | on Facebook
Although there was to be no new construction on the site for years, Fox held onto it. When the project finally did begin in 1930, he let independent exhibitor Herman Louis Gumbiner build the theatre and the William Fox Building behind it on Hill St. While glorious, it was far from being the biggest west of Chicago.
Gumbiner had moved from Chicago in the early 1920s after running a string of theatres in Illinois. By 1921 he had taken over the Garrick Theatre at 8th and Broadway. By 1926 he was operating the Cameo Theatre at 528 S. Broadway. In 1927 he built the Tower Theatre as classier replacement for the Garrick.
Architect: S. Charles Lee was selected to design this French Renaissance palace when the project actually went ahead. Earlier, he had designed the Tower for Gumbiner. The story is that the two of them were going to embark on a cross country trip to look at many theatres for inspiration. But when they got to San Francisco and went into the Fox, Gumbiner decided that style was what he wanted.
The reported cost of the Los Angeles was $1.5 million not including equipment or furnishings. 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. Note the lettering on the vertical calling it the Gumbiner Theatre. The drawing also appeared with Evelyn De Wolfe's page J25 article about theatre design in the June 21, 1981 L.A. Times.
Construction time was about six months. 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, although initially a lease, was later purchased 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.
In "Theatre Work Planned," an article in the May 4, 1930 L.A. Times discussing a number of projects on the horizon for the Fox and Warner circuits. Thanks to Mike Hume for locating the article. This project was mentioned:
"South Broadway theater for William Fox, which with store
building portion is to cost $1,500,000. Plans are being prepared by S.
Tilden Norton, S. Charles Lee and Frederick H. Wallis. Construction is
scheduled to start in June."
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 Architecture Facebook page.
An S. Charles Lee drawing of the treatment envisioned for one wall in the unbuilt basement music room. In the center is the "miniature screen" of the theatre's periscope system where patrons would have been able to watch the film unspooling upstairs. Thanks to Anthony Caldwell for sharing the drawing that's in the S.
Charles Lee Papers Collection at the UCLA Charles E. Young Research
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 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 (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 (1,301 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 August 23, 1963 during a concert by Ann Leaf. Thanks to Sean Ault for finding this photo. That week the theatre was running "Summer Magic" with Hayley Mills along with "Drums of Africa" starring Frankie Avalon and Mariette Hartley.
Hillsman Wright recounts the Broadway legend that when the theatre was closed for use as a location for "WC Fields and Me" in 1976, the organ mysteriously disappeared. If true, it wasn't announced or noticed for several years. An item in the June 1978 issue of the magazine Console reported that a team planning the 1979 ATOS convention went in to see what work it needed and were shocked, shocked, to find it totally gone except for a few pieces of windline. Console noted: "Theatre management, when asked about the Wurlitzer said it was not known if the place had ever had an organ."
From a December 1978 Console item about a visit to the theatre by several Theatre Historical Society members who were planning their July 1979 L.A. Conclave: "One of the group, who had known about the disappearance...asked an employee of the theatre if anything additional had been learned about the loss. It was reported the employee said, 'Hell, it wasn't lost, it was sold!' Pressed for more details...the employee could not give any names for either the seller or buyers, but he did remark that it was the same bunch that took pipes out of another theatre. This statement failed to identify any particular group since there have been several removals of pipework made in several of the downtown theatres in the past year...Owners of the building have declared they were not informed of its removal, sale or purchase, and have never received payment for it." A January 1979 item in Console noted that "the missing organ is still of concern to both Metropolitan circuit officials and the holder of the master lease on the structure...No leads have turned up to give an indication of what happened to the organ." Thanks to Mike Hume for the research.
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.
"City Lights" had been previewed a week earlier at the Tower. An item that Mike Hume found in the January 22 L.A. Times: "Chaplin Slips One Over - One of my scouts -- the most alert -- dropped into the Tower Theater Monday evening to catch another glimpse of 'Holiday.' Imagine his astonishment when a preview of Charles Chaplin's 'City Lights' was unfolded before his eyes. His report was 'good.'"
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 Associated Press photo, appearing on website of The Atlantic. The "What's New in Science" column in the March 15, 1931 issue of the Times asserted that Einstein had visited the basement lounge and saw an image of the film being shown upstairs via the theatre's periscope system. The Times article is reproduced on the projection booth page.
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. At the time Gumbiner was also still running the Tower Theatre and the Cameo.
"Premiere Jams Broadway" was the headline of the January 31, 1931 article by the Times theatre critic Edwin Schallert. A sub-head noted: "New Los Angeles Theater Last Word in Modernity." Some of his comments:
"Broadway completely outdid Hollywood Boulevard last evening. The maddest and most glittering premiere of the year was held at the new Los Angeles Theater. Swirling crowds invaded the environs of the new house. They took possession of the streets in the vicinity virtually from sidewalk to sidewalk. Traffic became a mad melee, police charged the throng, cries, shouts and cheers added to the wild pandemonium. At times even the microphone through which arriving stars spoke was threatened with demolition. Some of the spotlights that were used for illumination actually were smashed.
"But despite all the storm and stress of the occasion it was a glamorous evening. A throng of stars and other first-nighters that had come to view the new playhouse and to see Charlie Chaplin's feature comedy, 'City Lights,' nearly three years in the filming, attested to that. Such a spacious, ornate and comfortable playhouse as the Los Angeles Theater has seldom, I venture to say, been unveiled anywhere. It is the ultra of ultras in its modernistic appointments and its conveniences, but more than anything, perhaps, does the amplitude of its great auditorium impress the onlooker...
"When Dr. and Mrs. Albert Einstein arrived in the foyer of the showhouse, accompanied by Chaplin and Georgia Hale, another screen celebrity, the crowd broke through the ropes and police officers to shatter plate glass windows in the lobby. The professor and Mrs. Einstein, as well as the noted comedian and Miss Hale, were caught in the jam and escaped only after their clothing had been disheveled as excited movie 'bugs' sought to grasp their hands and secure closeups of the foursome. Other prominent screen stars handled roughly by the mob included Conrad Nagel, Marian Nixon, Gloria Swanson, Constance Bennett and Roxanna Curtis..."
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, and neon tubing under glass for the main floor aisle lights. The neon evidently was still working into the 60s.
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. The two technical innovations of greatest interest were the periscope system so patrons in the basement lounge could see the movie being projected upstairs and an electronic preset dimming system.
Thanks to ace periscope investigator Anthony Caldwell for finding this February 7, 1931 article in the Times about a group of engineers coming to take a look. The periscope system, referred to in this article as a "dual projection device," was designed by Dr. Francis G. Pease, who was in charge of instrument
design at the Mount Wilson Observatory and Dr. Albert A. Michelson, a
Nobel physicist known for his work on measuring the speed of light. The system of
"miniature screens" was
envisioned to include locations in the main basement lounge, the music
room, the nursery, and outside on the sidewalk on the south side of the
entrance. As money ran out during construction this was scaled back with
only the main lounge branch of the project being completed. More details appear on the page about the projection booth.
The theatre's dimming system used miniaturized preset controls and vacuum tubes, rather than hand-operated resistance dimmer plates, to control the current to a type of dimmer termed a saturable reactor. The first such installation in the country was at the Lyric Opera House in Chicago in 1929. The equipment at the Los Angeles was the second. Later in 1931 a similar system was installed at the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium. In 1932 Radio City Music Hall would get a similar system. Recent photos of the backstage board (there is also one in the booth) are on the page about the stage. At the bottom of the page are several vintage equipment photos as well as an explanation of the system.
The end comes soon for Gumbiner: Gumbiner soon 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. By April the theatre was in receivership, although it continued to operate.
In 1939 it was leased to Metropolitan Theatres, a firm that had Fox West Coast principals as investors in 1933 when they had taken over the operation of the Orpheum. In 1944 Fox took the house back and revived it as a first-run venue with lots of MGM product including runs of "The White Cliffs of Dover" and "National Velvet." Metropolitan got it back in 1962. They ended up with everything on Broadway as the major circuits and various independent operators left downtown. In the 60s Metropolitan was leasing the house from an entity called All-Continent Corp.
Closing: Metropolitan closed the theatre 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." Neither project was pursued. Curbed also had a 2008 article on the "Bringing Back Broadway" initiative.
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. Kitchens were later added in the basements of the Palace and the Los Angeles.
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.
We get the reflection of the theatre's marquee in a store window in this shot from Kent MacKenzie's "The Exiles." The film, about 24 hours in the life of a
group of Native Americans in downtown Los Angeles, was shot in 1958-59
and released in 1961. Thanks to Sean Ault for the screenshot. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots of Broadway theatres from the film.
Anjanette Comer takes a rapid run down Broadway in a sequence beginning 1:47 into Tony Richardson's
"The Loved One" (MGM, 1965). The Los Angeles, reflected in a store window, was running "Roustabout" with Elvis Presley. The film also features Robert Morse, Jonathan
Winters, Rod Steiger, Dana Andrews, Milton
Berle, James Coburn, John Gielgud and Tab Hunter. Haskell Wexler was the
cinematographer. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for some Hollywood shots as well as a view of the Palace Theatre. Thanks to Sean Ault for the screenshot.
We get a look north in 1972 at the Palace and the Los Angeles in footage added for the European theatrical release of Steven Spielberg's 1971 TV movie "Duel." Thanks to Jonathan Raines for spotting the theatres and getting the screenshot. "Buck and the Preacher" is playing at the Los Angeles. See the Theatres in Movies post for a closer view a moment later.
George C. Scott, Stacy Keach and Jane Alexander star in Richard
Fleischer's film adaptation of the Joseph Wambaugh novel "The New
Centurions" (Columbia, 1972). The cinematography was by Ralph Woolsey. In
this shot we see the theatre in the
middle of a wild ride through various neighborhoods with Stacy hanging
on to the outside of a car while the angry woman driving tries
everything she can do to shake him off. On the marquee: "The Telephone
Book" (1971) and "Baby Love" (1969).
Journalist Lee Remick and hooker Jill Clayburgh are in a cab in midtown
Manhattan in "Hustling"
(Lillian Gallo/Filmways, 1975). But out the window we get a shot of the Los Angeles. Also starring are Alex Rocco, Burt Young and Paul Benedict. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for another shot of the theatre as well as views of the Tower, State and Palace. Thanks to Sean Ault for spotting the theatres in the film.
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 lobby appears in "The Last Tycoon" (Paramount, 1976). Elia Kazan directed this version of the unfinished F. Scott Fitzgerald novel starring Robert DeNiro, Tony Curtis, Robert Mitchum, Jeanne Moreau, Jack Nicholson, Theresa Russell and many others. Thanks to Jonathan Raines for spotting the theatre in the film. See the Historic Theatres in Movies post for a closer shot with Robert Mitchum and Jeanne Moreau on the stairs.
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.
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 basement ladies cosmetics room is used for a robbery at the Jewelry Exchange in "Batman Forever" (Warner Bros., 1995). The film, directed by Joel Schumacher, stars Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey and Nicole Kidman. Thanks to Mike Hume for the screenshot. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots of this scene as well as two of the basement lounge as the Excelsior Grand Casino and views of the Pantages lobby as the Ritz Gotham Hotel.
Kurt Russell comes looking for a guy in John Carpenter's "Escape From L.A." (Paramount, 1996). L.A. has sheared off from the mainland in a big quake and is now a colony for undesirables. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a shot of Grauman's Chinese, the side of the State Theatre, and half a dozen more lobby shots at the Los Angeles from the film.
We get this shot of one of the north exits in "The Crow: City of Angels" (Dimension Films, 1996). Vincent Perez (back from the dead) is hunting down the men who killed him and his young son. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots of scenes at the United Artists as well as a visit to the Linda Lea on Main St.
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 film also has an extremely brief look at the exterior of the Shrine Auditorium.
The Los Angeles appears in Milos Forman's "Man on the Moon" (Universal, 1999).
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.
Part of the scene from "Fight Club" appears in Mariska Graveland's "Do Not Pay Attention to That Man Behind The Curtain," a delightful assemblage of booth scenes that have appeared in movies. It's on Vimeo. Thanks to Jonathan Raines for spotting it.
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 have a lot of fun downtown in Dominic Sena's "Swordfish" (Warner Bros., 2001) including this pre-crash view of a restaurant built up against the south side of the Los Angeles Theatre. The restaurant gets demolished, of course. The counter-terrorist thriller stars John Travolta, Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for brief view of the Warner Downtown as well as many views of a sequence shot in the Belasco.
We also see the theatre in McG's "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" (Columbia, 2003).
"Happy Holidays." We have a scene in the alley north of the theatre in Shane Black's comedy/murder mystery "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (Warner Bros., 2005), based on Brett Halliday's novel "Bodies Are Where You Find Them." The cinematography was by Michael Barrett. Robert Downey, Jr. is walking over to Michelle Monaghan to explain why he was kissing Val Kilmer. The guys have a body in the trunk and it was to distract some cops so they didn't stop to investigate.
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 Knight 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.
The Los Angeles is one of a half dozen theatres to get a marquee shot included in the title sequence of "Entourage" (Warner Bros., 2015). On the marquee is a tribute to Jose Huizar in happier days. The film, directed by Doug Ellin, stars Kevin Dillon, Jeremy Piven, Adrian Grenier and Kevin Connolly plus many others doing cameos. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more screenshots.
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.
Dakota Fanning, a girl with developmental issues, makes her way from San Francisco to L.A. in Ben Lewin's "Please Stand By" (Magnolia Pictures, 2017). She's a "Star Trek" fan and has written a script she wants to enter in a contest. On her search for Paramount Studios she strolls by the Los Angeles. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a shot of Disney Hall also seen in the film.
The theatre is seen inside and out in Damien Chazelle's "Babylon" (Paramount, 2022). It's a story set in Hollywood c.1926-1930 as the silent era would soon end and the studios began transitioning to sound features. Stars
include Samara Weaving, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Olivia Wilde, Tobey
Maguire and Meryl Streep. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more photos of the exterior portion of the shoot at the Los Angeles. Other theatres used in the production include the United Artists/Theatre at Ace, the Orpheum and the Warner Grand in San Pedro.
IMDb has a page listing more titles that have used the Los Angeles Theatre as a location.
The theatre is nicely utilized in the music video "Hallelujah" (2019) featuring the sister group Haim. It was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Thanks to big PTA fan Donavan S. Moye for spotting it on YouTube. There's also a story about the shoot on the site The Spaces.
Occulus has some great images on Facebook in a one minute video shot in the auditorium during a 2019 VR simulation. Tech@Facebook has a story about the presentation along with additional video footage. Thanks to Mike Hume for spotting the story.
The auditorium and lobby areas are spectacularly used in the BTS K-pop music video "Black Swan" (2020). Thanks to our K-pop scout Mike Hume for spotting it on YouTube.
The theatre is used for the 1972 premiere of "The Godfather" in the TV series "The Offer" (Paramount, 2022), based on the memoirs of producer Albert S. Ruddy. See several shots on a Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post.
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
Architectural photographer J. Howard Mott was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on September 27, 1888. His studio was first in Pasadena, but by the mid-20s he had moved downtown. He died trying to save his son who had fallen in Brush Creek in Tulare County in June, 1937. Bernard Merge bought the business from his widow.
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.
Other theatres called the Los Angeles: The first Los Angeles Theatre opened in 1888 at 227 S. Spring St. Later it was known as the Orpheum and ended up as the Lyceum. Demolition was in 1941. The other Los Angeles was at 338 S. Spring St., opening in 1903 as the Casino. It ended up being called the Capitol Theatre and met its demise about 1930.
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