Start your Los Angeles area historic theatre explorations by heading to one of these major sections: Downtown | North of Downtown + East L.A. | San Fernando Valley | Glendale | Pasadena | San Gabriel Valley, Pomona and Whittier | South, South Central and Southeast | Hollywood | Westside | Westwood and Brentwood | Along the Coast | Long Beach | [more] L.A. Movie Palaces |
To see what's recently been added to the mix visit the Theatres in Movies site and the Los Angeles Theatres Facebook page.

Cameo Theatre: history

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

More Cameo Theatre pages:  exterior views | interior views
The News: It has a new tenant for the lobby, a jewelry store. The remodel began in January 2023. It had been vacant since an electronics firm moved out in December 2020. They had been there since the early 1990s, using the lobby as a retail space and the auditorium for storage. They moved out due to a decline of retail business on Broadway.  

Opened: October 10, 1910 as Clune's Broadway. It got renamed the Cameo Theatre in 1924. The photo is a detail from a 1939 Dick Whittington Studio image in the USC Digital Library collection. At the time of the photo they were running "Trade Winds" and "Algiers," both 1938 releases. The theatre got a new marquee in 1941 after this one fell off the building.

Clune's neighbor to the south was the Pantages (now called the Arcade Theatre), which had opened several weeks earlier in 1910. The lot to the north was redeveloped in 1914 with the construction of the Superba Theatre. After a spell as a restaurant that building was demolished in 1931 for construction of the Roxie Theatre. 

Lease and filming inquiries: Downtown Management Co., 213-688-1100

Architect: Alfred F. Rosenheim, a leading Los Angeles architect who became the first president of the L.A. chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He had earlier done the Arrow Theatre on the fifth floor of Hamburger's Department Store at 8th & Broadway. 

Seating: 900 originally, without a balcony. Seating was down to 600 in later years. The July 10, 1915 Moving Picture World noted that 200 were loge seats at the back "raised well above the remainder of the house." They were amused by the idea that you could charge more for seats at the back of the house:

"There are several points about the Broadway that will interest the Easterner. In the first place, these loges command the top price of admission in spite of the fact that they are furthest from the screen -- and that price is 20 cents. In the second place, the minimum admission, 10 cents, admits to the front 15 rows. In the center section the price is 15 cents. In the loges are regular chairs, upholstered; and they are comfortable." 

The full article is on Internet Archive.

Proscenium size: 21 x 28 feet. The projection throw is about 110 feet.

The theatre was built on a lot owned by Eva Fenyes, a Pasadena resident with fingers in a number of theatrical interests, including once having D.W. Griffith shoot a film on her estate. A July 17, 1910 Los Angeles Sunday Times article described the merits of the proposed theatre:

"Handsome Picture Playhouse for South Broadway - Playhouse to Be Elaborate - Large Picture Theater for Broadway Site - Auditorium Will Seat Over Nine Hundred - Ornate Design and Lighting Scheme Features. A.F. Rosenheim, architect of Clune's new Broadway Theater, has awarded the general contract for the construction of that structure to John F. Jacobs & Son. The theater, which will be one of the most elaborate Playhouses of its kind in the country, will stand on the east side of Broadway, between Fifth and Sixth streets, at Nos. 526 to 530. It will cost, with its furnishings, about $50,000.

"The site is 60 x 160 feet in size, and will permit of a sixty-foot clear passageway at the rear, where two exits will open onto a twelve-foot alley. The structure will be ready for occupancy about October 1. The main lobby will be twenty-four feet in width and ornately treated in white marble and stucco. The ceiling will be vaulted. The entrance is to be protected by a marquee of steel and copper. Two eight-foot passages will flank the ticket office and a ladies' retiring room.

"The auditorium will be 57 x 100 feet in size and thirty feet high, with beams and paneled ceilings and a large skylight over the center. The seating capacity will be 900. The ventilation and heating facilities will be perfect. The proscenium opening, which will be 21 x 28 feet in dimensions, will permit the exhibition of pictures much larger than the ordinary. Musicians' rooms and drawing rooms will be under the stage. The lighting scheme is quite elaborate."

A facade illustration from the Times article. 

An interior drawing by the architect. Thanks to Sheryl Peters for finding the Times article. It's included in "Mrs. Feynes and the Movies: Los Angeles," the first of a four-part 2013 article on the Pasadena Museum of History site that has a fine discussion of the theatre as well as the other interests of Eva Feynes.

William H. (Billy) Clune  was a pioneer exhibitor and filmmaker. The Clune Studios in Hollywood at Melrose and Bronson still exists, known today as the Raleigh Studios. At various times Billy Clune also operated many other theatres. See the exhibition timeline lower on this page.

Other than this one opening day ad in the L.A. Times, the theatre didn't seem to do any advertising in the paper in its early days.  An article in the November 9, 1910 trade publication New York Dramatic Mirror located by Cezar Del Valle noted: 

"Clune's new picture house, Los Angeles, Cal., seating 900 people and costing over $50,000, was opened to the public at 10, 15, and 20 cent prices Oct. 10."

Other publications seemed confused about the opening date. Cezar also found a brief item from the trade publication New York Clipper of November 5, 1910 that suggested a late October opening date: 
"The opening of Clune's Broadway Theatre, last week, added a most attractive moving picture show house to the many now established in Los Angeles, CA. It has a seating capacity of nine hundred and is strictly up-to-date. Manager Wm. H. Clune is now operating three first class places in this city." An item in the November 12, 1910 Moving Picture World noted that Clune's "has been completed and will open within a day or two."

The February 11, 1911 Moving Picture World had an article headed "Clune's Theatre -- Los Angeles, Cal. - One of the Handsomest Theatres in the West" that featured three photos and gave an extensive description of the theatre:

"Clune's Broadway Theater, Los Angeles, situated between Fifth and Sixth streets, on Broadway, in the heart of the retail district, is claimed by the owner and manager, Mr. W. H. Clune to be, without exception, the finest and best equipped moving picture theater in the country. The theater is a two-story structure of brick and steel construction 70 x 140, and has a seating capacity of 900.

"The front of the theater is of tile construction, topping which is the most elaborate and largest moving picture electric sign in the world. The sign contains 2000 Tungsten lamps. The lights in the ellipse, and columns, are colored globes of different colors harmoniously arranged so as to give the sign the appearance of an immense jewel, whose many facets at night flash forth in a dazzling burst of light. Topping the columns are red globes arranged in the form of a torch. Entwining the two columns and outlined in colored lights are the words: 'Comedy;' 'History;' 'Zoology;' 'Aeronautics;' 'Drama;' 'Naval;' 'Military;' and 'Agriculture.'

"Within the ellipse the word 'Clune's' is slowly spelled in fire, and reaching the end of the word, 'Broadway' is flashed forth. The two words glow for a moment, then go dark only to repeat the process. Outlining the front of the building, and on the upper cornice, are several hundred small lights in frosted globes. Mr. H.D. Brown, with the Clune Company, is the designer and builder of the sign.

"The lobby [ i.e. the ticket lobby] is flanked by two store rooms, extending to the theater auditorium, and containing offices on the second floor. The lobby and the boxoffice is wainscoted in white marble to a height of ten feet. On the sides of the lobby are panel mirrors. The floor of the lobby is of colored tile, with a colored fleur-de-lis design inlaid. On the base of the wainscoting is a ten inch strip of black marble. The ceiling of the lobby is decorated with cream colored stucco, with white and gold trimming.

"The spacious auditorium seats 900. The chairs are of the best, being upholstered in leather, and of comfortable proportions. The ceiling is beamed in stucco and decorated in the general color scheme of white and gold. The ceiling skylight is a beautiful art glass. At the rear of the auditorium are six rows of loge seats. The woodwork of the auditorium is of stained oak with green burlap paneling. At the rear of the auditorium between the entrance and and exit lobbys is a ladies retiring room with a maid in attendance.

"The proscenium width of the stage is twenty four feet wide [other sources say 28] and flanking it on both side are singing booths. The orchestra is of eight pieces, including violin, piano, base, flute, cornet, drums, clarinet and cello. An orchestral feature is a $10,000 set of chimes. The operator's room is furnished with the latest apparatus, including three Edengraph projectoscopes, and two stereopticons. The theater is warmed in winter by a hot air system, and cooled in summer by a cold air system using the same apparatus.

"The program consists of five full reels of first run Licensed pictures, two illustrated songs, and one song specialty, making a program lasting one hour and thirty minutes. The theater employs young lady ushers to seat their patroons. Shaded floor lights are placed at intervals about the auditorium. The prices of admission range from ten cents for the front section to the twenty-cent loge seats in the rear. The loge seats are of a special design of tufted leather bodies and backs, and of steel standards instead of wood. The loge seats are enclosed in brass rails, hung with draperies, and elevated several feet from the auditorium proper, the arrangement permitting of an unobstructed view of the auditorium and stage.

"A.F. Rosenheim, of Los Angeles, is the architect, and superintended the construction of the building. The theater employs twenty-five people. The daily performances run from 1:45 to 5 P.M. and from 6:45 to 11 P.M. excepting Saturdays and Sundays, when the run is continuous from 1:45 to 11 P.M. The theater opened November 10 [sic], and has played to excellent business ever since with frequent use of the 'S.R.O' sign at the night performances."

Also see a ticket lobby postcard from the from the Cezar Del Valle collection and an auditorium postcard from the Brian Michael McCray collection. Both were based on the photos with the Moving Picture World article.

A Clune's Broadway lantern slide. Thanks to Michelle Gerdes for spotting it on eBay.

The December 23, 1911 Moving Picture World had two photos and a discussion about the theatre's projection booth. It's on Internet Archive. See the page of interior views here on this site for more about the projection booth.

A 1912 ad for Clune's that was located by Sheryl Peters boasted: 

"When one speaks of low-priced theater attractions the name Clune comes first to the mind because it is an uncontested fact that the Clune Theaters in Los Angeles and Pasadena set the pace in these popular public attractions."

An article in the July 10, 1915 Moving Picture World headlined "One of the Popular Photoplay Houses of Los Angeles" noted: 
"...The Broadway has been doing business for over four years. An excellent orchestra of ten pieces accompanies the pictures. At each side of the screen is a small balcony for a singer...."

A photo of Clune's manager, Jas W. Anderson, from the July 1915 Moving Picture World Article. 

The roof sign got even more elaborate with the addition of a digital clock. An article in the July 15, 1916 Moving Picture World talked about the venue: 

"Clune's now considered one of the finest motion picture houses on the Pacific coast. This theatre also has a magnificent electric sign. It is 30 feet high and 50 feet wide and contains about 3,000 lamps controlled by a seven-story electric flasher. It announces 'Clune's Broadway - The Time and the Place.' The time is written every minute in three-foot electric figures simultaneously on the sign and in the house. This Clune's clock is a real feature and is remembered by people all over the country."

The 1921 New Years' Day ad for Clune's. Thanks to Dallas Movie Theaters for finding the photo as a contribution to the page about the Cameo on Cinema Treasures.  The film was a November 1920 release. 

"Satisfactory Prices." Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating this 1921 advertising card for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

A trade magazine photo showing a stunt with a stagecoach for promoting "Pioneer Trails," a November 1923 release. Cullen Davis, the film's star, is the driver with co-stars Bertram Grassby, Otis Harlan and Alice Calhoun along for the ride. It's another addition to the page about the Cameo on Cinema Treasures from their contributor Dallas Movie Theaters.

An ad for the world premiere of "Excitement," an April 1924 release. Thanks to Jerry Miles for locating this for a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

A new name and a new operator: Clune sold his theatres in 1924 with the Broadway then coming under the management of O.D. Cloakey. The July 4, 1924 edition of Southwest Builder and Contractor noted that A. Godfrey Bailey was the architect for the remodel for William Cutts that involved "removing toilets and enlarging foyer." Cutts was the contractor for the project. Nick Bradshaw did some research and located a July 20, 1924 article in the L.A. Times:

"'The best and most luxuriously appointed 'small' theater on Broadway when the renovations are completed. That’s the promise of O.D. Cloakey, manager of the Cameo Theater, the newly named film playhouse, which takes the place of the old Clune’s Broadway. A half-hundred carpenters, electricians, decorators and upholsterers are in possession of the place now. The auditorium is a chaos of wreckage, but out of this chaos William Cutts is devising a new orderliness from which will rise a new theater adequately equipped to take its place alongside Broadway’s best.

"Its old seating capacity of 800 will be slightly increased by the new space arrangement. A larger orchestra pit is being made to make room for the sixteen players who will be directed by Theodore Henkel, newly appointed musical director. The projection-room will be widened. A suite of drawing and sitting-rooms is being fitted out in luxurious style on the second floor, where women patrons will find quiet, comfort and opportunity for rest."

An article from the July 31, 1924 Los Angeles Herald about the reopening. Thanks to Ken McIntyre for locating it for a comment to a post on the Photos of Los Angeles Facebook page.

The reopening was August 1 with the Wallace Beery feature "The Signal Tower."  A story on page A7 of the August 2 L.A. Times noted: 

"...the theater has been freshened up considerably inside and out, alterations have been made in the auditorium and the lobby has been entirely changed. It now stands forth as one of the most up-to-date small theaters in town."

An August 5, 1924 L.A. Times ad for the newly reopened theatre. In a small August 9 story on page A7 the L.A. Times commented on the efficacy of the theatre's new ice cooling plant. In early 1925 Charles E. Brady was running the theatre and they had installed some sort of air conditioning system.

Later operators: H.L. Gumbiner took over the operation sometime around 1926. He also had acquired the Garrick Theatre at 8th and Broadway. That house would be demolished for the construction of the Tower Theatre in 1927. Gumbiner would later go on to build the Los Angeles Theatre, opening in 1931. The extravagance of that project caused him to soon lose control of the theatre to Fox. But he was able to hang on to the Tower and Cameo.

In the early 30s, the Cameo was operated by Fox West Coast and then Metropolitan Theatres. 

The theatre's marquee fell off March 4, 1943. This was the story that appeared in the Times the next day. Also see the Times photo of the downed marquee that appeared with the article. 

In the 60s the Cameo was again family operated. Villis Gumbiner Randall, a daughter of H.L. Gumbiner, was running the house into the early 1970s. She also was running the Tower after its 1965 remodel. Later both houses were turned over to Pacific Theatres. Mrs. Randall died in 2003. The obituary the L.A. Times ran on March 17 is reproduced on the site Legacy.

In the 70s as a grind house: John Sittig, who worked decades for Pacific Theatres, was once their district manager for the territory that included the Cameo. Among his many stories about that operation: 

"The busiest day of the week was Sunday. We would sell out by noon. Then, since we were showing 4 features and not knowing how long the people in the theatre would be staying, we stopped selling tickets. We would start a ticket buying line on the sidewalk of Broadway. When one person left, we would sell one ticket and stop. If 20 people people left at the end of one show, we would sell 20 tickets and stop. This went on all day. Sometimes, we would not sell a ticket for 30-45 minutes.

"When we would close at 5:30 am, some of those left in the auditorium would just go outside and sit on the sidewalk until we reopened. We did a great snack bar business because like most theatres, you could not bring in outside food, so after 3, 4, 5 shows you got pretty hungry. 

"Every 4 feature program had 1. A Horror film, 2. A Martial Arts film, 3 and 4 could be anything the booker could get for a flat price rental. I remember one time, we had the horror and martial arts film with 'Yes, Giorgio' with Luciano Pavarotti and 'Zapped.' What a great combo for $1.25. We changed films on Monday and Thursdays, 4 features. On Monday we would start with the 4 old films and then play the four new films, so you got to see 8 movies for $1.25."

Thanks, John! The Cameo ended up being operated by Metropolitan Theatres (again) when Pacific left downtown.

Closing: It closed in 1991. For its last few decades it had been a quadruple feature grind house.

Later use: Starting in the early 1990s it was leased by an electronics firm that had a retail operation in the lobby and used the auditorium for storage.

The building (along with the Roxie Theatre, Arcade Theatre and the adjacent Arcade Building) has been owned since the early 90s by Mideb / Downtown Management, a firm with a number of other properties in the area that was founded by Australian real estate magnate Joseph Hellen. Ryan Vaillancourt had a nice 2010 story in LA Downtown News about Hellen: "The Survivor." Joe Hellen died in November 2019. The firm is now run by Hellen's son Michael with Greg Martin as VP. 

Status: In December 2020 the electronics firm that had been a long-term tenant vacated the space. It remained empty until January 2023 when remodeling began in the lobby for a new tenant, a jewelry store. The 1910 decor in the auditorium is still pretty much intact. The seats have been removed but the floor is still sloped and the sidewalls and ceiling are untouched. There's even a tattered screen still in place.
The lot behind the theatre: Over the years Mr. Hellen had floated various proposals to build a parking garage and hi-rise housing complex behind the Roxie, Cameo and Arcade. It's a move that could limit the future usefulness of the three theatres by restricting access to the rear of the buildings. After several designs that were rejected by the city, the word as of February 2016 was that there would be no new project behind the theatres. At least for now. The latest incarnation unveiled in March 2015 involved a 40 story tower. There were disagreements with the city over the lack of a historic feel to the proposed building. As for the theatres? The future for them depends on whether any viable tenants emerge.

Billy Clune's exhibition timeline:

255 S. Main - The Nickel Theatre is opened by C.M. Bockoven in 1906. Clune soon joins him as a partner and in 1907 their firm is incorporated as Southwest Amusement Co. The venue later was known as the Union, the New York and the Western Theatre.

S. of Pier Ave. at Ocean Front Promenade, Ocean Park - The La Petite, seen in some listings as the La Petite No. 1, opens in 1906 in the Ocean Park Auditorium Building. Later, under other owners, it moves across Ocean Front Promenade to a new theatre. See the page on the Ocean Park La Petite locations for more data and images.

349 N. Main - The Playo Theatre opens in late 1906 as the second storefront theatre of Southwest Amusement Co. It was initially also called the Nickel Theatre and was later known as the Plaza. 

508 S. Broadway - In 1907 Southwest Amusement Co. opens the La Petite Theatre as their third house. Many more theatres follow including other locations for the La Petite brand in Riverside, Santa Barbara and San Bernardino. There was also a mystery one listed as 514 Main, Los Angeles. See the bottom of the Broadway La Petite page for a discussion.

N. of Pier Ave. at Ocean Front Promenade, Ocean Park - Southwest Amusement is operating the Family Theatre in the Ocean Park Casino Building in the 1907-1908 period.

Long Beach venues for Southwest in 1907 and 1908 were the La Petite on Pine Ave. and the Palace of Pictures on The Pike.

3rd St., Santa Monica - Southwest is running a La Petite Theatre in downtown Santa Monica c.1907-1908. Under other owners it is later known as the Dreamland and the Lyric.

522 S. Spring St. - Southwest was running the Scenic Theatre at this address in 1907 but evidently it didn't stick around long. In the 1907 city directory this address is listed as the Odeon Theatre.

262 S. Main - Southwest is operating the Lyric Theatre, the former Tally's Electric c.1908.  

1908 - Southwest Amusement Co. is dissolved and the partners go their separate ways. Most of the firm's theatres are sold off to other operators and in many cases renamed.

5th & Main - In 1909 Clune's Theatre opened on the NW corner. It was razed for the Rosslyn Hotel building which opened in 1915.

729 S. Main - This was offices for Clune's various enterprises as well as a shop. He had it around 1909 to 1911 at least.

730 S. Grand - Sometime around 1910 Clune was operating the Grand Theatre as Clune's Grand Street Theatre. By 1912 it was under different management as the Mozart Threatre.

528 S. Broadway - In 1910 Clune's Broadway opens. After 1924 it was known as the Cameo Theatre. It closed in 1991 and has since had retail in the lobby with the auditorium used as a warehouse.

Ocean Park - In December, 1910 the trade magazine Nickelodeon reported that "A large theatre will be erected on Fraser's Million Dollar Pier for W. H. Clune and Associates, who have secured exclusive rights to the vaudeville and moving picture privileges. The auditorium will have a seating capacity of 1,000 persons." This was the Starland Theatre. The theatre had two other operators before burning in a 1912 pier fire.

Pasadena - In 1911 Clune's Pasadena opens. The venue was later operated by Fox West Coast and then remodeled for retail use.

110 S. Main St. - In 1912 Clune was running the Grand Opera House as Clune's Grand Theatre. It's unknown how long he stuck around. 

547 S . Broadway - This house, earlier known as the Shell Theatre, was by 1914 called Clune's Exclusive and showing films suitable for women and families. Later it was called just Clune's as well as Clune's Comedy Theatre. The building, which also housed his offices, still stands. Well, part of it. It used to be four stories but its now down to two. Retail is on the ground floor.

5th & Olive - From 1914 until 1920 Clune operated the Auditorium as Clune's Auditorium, also known as Clune's Theatre Beautiful. After he left, the Philharmonic moved in and renamed it Philharmonic Auditorium.

Santa Ana - Clune operated a theatre there according to a 1916 article in Moving Picture World. The issue is on Google Books.

More about Billy Clune:

A 1920 photo of Clune (on the right) with a bear. It comes from the Boise State University collection.

This brief biography of Mr. Clune appears on a page about the Polar Palace, an ice rink at 613 N. Van Ness (between Melrose and Clinton) where numerous shows were staged.:

"...Clune was born in Hannibal, Missouri, in 1862. He came to Los Angeles in 1887 and began with a pushcart on Main Street. He eventually built one of the first Los Angeles nickelodeons. His success and faith in director D.W. Griffith got him involved in 'Birth of a Nation,' which held its world premiere at his Clune's Auditorium (later the Philharmonic Auditorium on Olive and 5th Street, home for years of the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra and the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera). Clune also had motion picture palaces on Broadway between 5th and 6th, in Pasadena, Santa Ana and San Diego.

"Clune built one of the first soundstages in Los Angeles and produced a film of the play about California, 'Ramona,' and it was the first motion picture to bear the legend, 'Made in Los Angeles.' The forty-acre property was later occupied by United Artists, followed by Columbia Pictures, Inspiration Pictures, Lillian & Dorothy Gish Productions, among others, as well as, of course, Polar Palace. There were rumors around the rink in the 1950s that Polar's ice surface was built for Sonja Henie, and was originally part of the adjoining motion picture lot, but it wasn't true. Fox built Sonja her own rink on its home lot on Pico Boulevard.

"William Clune died in his apartment at the Los Angeles Athletic Club on October 21, 1927 at the age of 65. The Los Angeles Times reported that Clune left his considerable fortune to his son J. W. Clune. He was also survived by a sister, Mary. Presumably, this fortune formed the basis of the Clune Memorial Trust, which still owned the land when Polar Palace burned in 1963. Because of permafrost, which extended 40 feet into the ground (Polar Palace never melted down its ice in the summer, as the Palais de Glace and most eastern rinks did), the site was unbuildable for many years and held Walter Allen Plant Rentals, a greens service for the Hollywood studios. It now houses Raleigh Studios."
For additional data see Allen Ellenberger's Hollywoodland article "Unsung film pioneer: William H. Clune: theater and film producer." Clune gets a fine chapter titled "William H. Clune -- From the Nickel to the Auditorium" beginning on page 123 of Jan Olsson's 2008 book "Los Angeles Before Hollywood - Journalism and American Film Culture, 1905-1915." The book is available as a pdf from the National Library of Sweden

The Cameo in the Movies:

A look south on Broadway at the Roxie, Cameo and Arcade theatres from Kent MacKenzie's "The Exiles" (1961). It's a film about a group of Native Americans trying to survive in downtown L.A. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for more shots from the film.

We're supposedly in New York but find ourselves on Broadway about 80 minutes into "Candy" (Cinerama Releasing, 1968). Buck Henry wrote the screenplay based on the novel by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg. Starring are Ewa Aulin, Richard Burton, Charles Aznavour, Marlon Brando, James Coburn, John Huston, Walter Matthau, Ringo Starr, Elsa Martinelli and Anita Pallenberg. Christian Marquand directed. The cinematography was by Giuseppe Rotunno. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for shots of the Palace and Broadway theatres. 

In Arthur Hiller's "W.C. Fields & Me" (Universal, 1976) we see a number of downtown theatres including the Los Angeles, the Cameo and the Arcade. The film stars Rod Steiger and Vallerie Perrine. Thanks to the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation executive director Escott O. Norton for the screenshot. See the Historic L.A. Theatres In Movies post for another shot from the film.
"Jaws" is at the top of the four-feature program at the Cameo as Richard Dreyfuss drives by in Paul Mazursky's "Down and Out in Beverly Hills" (Touchstone, 1986). Thanks to Sean Ault for spotting the  theatres of the 500 block in the film. It also features Nick Nolte, Bette Midler, Little Richard, Tracy Nelson, Elizabeth Peña, Evan Richards, Donald F. Muhich, Valerie Curtin and Mike the Dog. The cinematography was by Donald McAlpine. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for five more shots from the scene.  

We get this fine view of the Cameo in Ken Russell's "Whore" (Trimark, 1991). The film stars Teresa Russell, Benjamin Mouton, Antonio Fargas and Elizabeth Morehead. Amir Mokri was the cinematographer. This was supposedly his answer to the glamorous life portrayed in "Pretty Woman." On this side of the marquee Ken has "Lair of the White Worm," his 1988 film. Thanks to Eric Schaefer for the screenshot. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for another Cameo shot as well as views of the Arcade, Million Dollar and Century Plaza theatres from the film.

The Cameo is one of seventeen theatres we see in Alex Holdridge's "In Search of a Midnight Kiss" (IFC First Take, 2008). Scoot McNairy and Sara Simmonds meet via a Craigslist ad and are wandering the city on New Year's Eve. Also featured are Brian McGuire, Kathleen Luong, Robert Murphy, Twink Caplan, Bret Roberts and Stephanie Feury. The cinematography was by Robert Murphy. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for thirty-two more shots of the theatres appearing in the film. 

The Roxie, Cameo and Arcade theatres got dressed up as Gotham City in the 1980s for a scene in "Joker: Folie à Deux" (Warner Bros., 2024). Todd Phillips directs a cast including Joaquin Phoenix, Lady Gaga, Zazie Beetz, Brendan Gleeson and Catherine Keener. The cinematography is by Lawrence Sher. See the Historic L.A. Theatres in Movies post for a dozen more shots.  

More information on the Cameo: The Cinema Treasures page on the Cameo has lots of photos and interesting facts related to this historic theatre. Cinema Tour has a few exterior photos.

The Cameo Theatre pages:  back to top - history | exterior views | interior views

| Downtown: theatre district overview | Hill St. and farther west | Broadway theatres | Spring St. theatres | Main St. and farther east | downtown theatres by address | downtown theatres alphabetical list

| Westside | Hollywood | Westwood and Brentwood | Along the Coast | [more] Los Angeles movie palaces | the main alphabetical list | theatre history resources | film and theatre tech resources | theatres in movies | LA Theatres on facebook | contact info | welcome and site navigation guide |   


  1. I walked by the Cameo Theater yesterday and all I can say is, what a shame.

    1. Yes. No argument there. All three of the theatres need a deep pocketed tenant. Until then, it appears that the owner won't be doing anything to fix them up. Except, we must add, he put new roofs on all three this year.

  2. I worked at the Cameo just out of high school. That was from 1968-71. Actually also worked at the Tower Theatre at 8th and Broadway. Both theatres at that time were owned by Mrs. Randall. Unfortunately I can not remember her first name. I was the 2pm-10pm shift manager at the Cameo. I was in charge of changing the Marquees at both the Cameo and Tower. I also would usher at the Tower on my days off from the Cameo. Mrs. Randall liked me and knew I needed the hours as I moved out of my parents home and got a 1 room apartment just west of downtown. The Cameo back then would show movies that were being re released. They would show 3 movies for $.65 and were open from 9 am-5am. Several homeless people would spend the night in the Cameo. Sounds gross but they were never a problem. A cleaning crew would come in and clean the theater at closing and it was up back and running at 9 am. The Tower back then showed first run movies. I loved my time working for Mrs. Randall. And I’m so happy that Apple purchased the Tower theatre. But also sad about what happened to the Roxie, Arcade and Cameo. Of the three the Cameo was the nicest. Those were the days.

    1. Thanks for your comment! A note on the Tower: Apple didn't buy it -- they're just in there on a long-term lease. I don't know Mrs. Randall's first name either -- but I do know she was the daughter of H.L. Gumbiner, who built the Tower and Los Angeles theatres. He had taken over the Cameo from other operators in the mid-1920s.

    2. P.S. Mrs. Randall's first name was Villis.

    3. What a nice remembrance.